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New Zealand military joins int'l satellite communications partnership

(Xinhua)

09:12, January 19, 2012

WELLINGTON, Jan. 18 (Xinhua) -- The New Zealand Defence Force ( NZDF) is to join an international partnership that will guarantee its satellite communications for the next 20 years, the government announced Wednesday.

Defence Minister Dr. Jonathan Coleman said the partnership would give a significant boost to NZDF capacity at home and abroad.

"It will increase our access to satellite broadband more than 20-fold, with guaranteed access and at a fixed price, ensuring better value for money," said Coleman in a statement.

New Zealand forces deployed around the world used satellites to communicate with New Zealand, said the statement.

The NZDF currently purchased bandwidth on commercial satellites at spot prices, which could involve a premium of up to 100 percent depending on demand, and could also limit availability of bandwidth.

The Wideband Global Satellite (WGS) program was a network of nine military satellites built by U.S. firm Boeing and operated by the U.S. Department of Defence.

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

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

The NZDF would invest 83.2 million NZ dollars (66.75 million U. S. dollars) over 20 years in the WGS.

Current annual spending on satellite communications was 4.3 million NZ dollars, growing at some 10 percent per year, said the statement.

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