Improved satellite communications for NZDF

  • Jonathan Coleman

The NZ Defence Force is joining an international partnership to give it guaranteed satellite communications for the next 20 years, Defence Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman announced today.

“This gives a significant boost to our forces’ capacity both at home and overseas,” said Dr Coleman.

“It will increase our access to satellite broadband more than twenty-fold, with guaranteed access and at a fixed price, ensuring better value for money.”

Deployed New Zealand forces around the world use satellites to communicate with New Zealand. The NZDF currently purchases bandwidth on commercial satellites at spot prices, which can involve a premium of up to 100 percent depending on demand, and which can also limit availability of bandwidth.

The Wideband Global Satellite (WGS) programme is a network of nine military satellites built by Boeing and operated by the US Department of Defence.

New Zealand joins Canada, Denmark, Luxembourg and the Netherlands in a joint agreement for access to the network in return for partially funding the ninth satellite. Australia has been involved in a similar agreement since 2007.

“The Government is delivering on the priorities outlined in the 2010 Defence White Paper, which identified improving offshore communications as a priority to ensure deployed personnel are better supported,” said Dr Coleman.

Any unused capacity can be made available to other government agencies.

The NZDF will invest $83.2 million over 20 years in WGS, which comes from baseline funding already allocated in the Defence Capital Plan. Current annual spending on satellite communications is $NZ 4.3m, growing at some 10 percent per year.