Satellite broadband “being ignored”

Broadband officials in the UK are not giving enough consideration to satellite as an option for rural broadband, a satellite provider claims.

Satellite broadband

With the UK trying to meet Government targets that all homes should have access to at least 2Mbits/sec, service providers and local authorities are struggling to stretch the £530 million budget.

The Government has suggested that 4G services might fill the shortfall, but concerns over data costs and availability mean other technologies may be required to fill gaps where fibre projects are not deemed financially viable.

Yet, satellite providers say the technology has been largely ignored despite virtually universal provision – and providers fear they are being left behind as public projects focus on big rollouts from major tech companies.

Ofcom said in August that 14% of UK homes couldn’t get access at 2Mbits/sec and I find that frustrating when we can offer 100% coverage

“I was at a forum in Westminster just before Christmas and it was interesting listening to the heads of big companies like BT and Fujitsu talking about the rollout and the problems,” said Chris O’Dell a vice president of satellite equipment provider Hughes Network Systems.

“Ofcom said in August that 14% of UK homes couldn’t get access at 2Mbits/sec and I find that frustrating when, if you look, we can already offer 100% coverage using satellite.”

According to O’Dell, Ka band satellite services can deliver 10Mbits/sec downloads and 2Mbits/sec uploads with “no disturbance and no fibre rollout – all you need is line of sight of the sky”.

Price concerns

However, satellite services are more expensive that ADSL offerings, and are often heavily throttled, depending on usage.

“The packages depend on the service providers and virtual network operators, but they are around £20 for the lower ones, and you can get a 10Mbits/sec download for just over £40,” O’Dell said.

“Is it in the same price point as fixed-line services? No. But the reality is that those people will never be able to get access to those speeds with a fixed-line service provider.”

Although in mainland Europe several countries offer funding for satellite installations, subsidies are less widespread in the UK, with projects limited to Wales, Kent and Cornwall.

“In Europe, people recognise that satellite is a complimentary technology for rural areas and notspots,” O’Dell said. “Things are happening, but obviously we’d like to see that opened up more in the UK.”

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