Of all the applications and achievements of the world’s space programs, satellite communications has probably had more effect than any other space technology on the average Australian. Satellite communications is also the leading commercial application of space technology. It generates more than $US80Bn in worldwide revenues annually in sales of products and services.
As early as 1945, Sir Arthur C. Clarke proposed the concept of geostationary orbit satellites to provide global television broadcasting. Geostationary satellites rotate in a fixed height orbit at the same speed as the Earth’s rotation and are thus always located at the same point above the Earth’s surface. They can therefore provide continuous coverage of a given region. The first ever satellite, Sputnik 1 in 1957, had a telecommunications payload and most of the early satellites which followed were for telecommunications.
The advent of operational telecommunications satellites in the early 1960’s transformed global communications and helped bring about the information revolution that continues today. There are now more than 200 geostationary satellites dedicated to communications, owned and operated by dozens of countries, including Australia.
Australia has a long, proud history in satellite communications. We are recognised as one of the most sophisticated operators and users of satellite communications in the Asia-Pacific region and the world. Australia is well known worldwide as a ground station operator and hosts many major facilities for international networks. We are also a competent provider and innovator for a wide range of satellite communications products. Optus operates its fleet of satellites from its satellite Earth station in Belrose, Sydney.
There are no fewer than 14 satellite operators that provide satellite communications to, from and within Australia. These systems provide all major satellite services including:
- Direct to Home television;
- TV broadcasting and content acquisition/distribution;
- satellite news gathering;
- trunk telephone traffic (providing services to multiple clients by sharing a set of lines of frequencies instead of using individual ones);
- satellite and mobile phones;
- private data networks;
- consumer broadband services, including mobile.
The main Australian Government agencies that deal with satellite communications are: