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Satellite deal brings broadband to rural Ireland

22 апреля 2009

Homes in rural Ireland will be able to get high speed internet services through satellite connections following a deal announced on Monday between Avanti Communications, the UK satellite company, and Hutchison 3G Ireland, the mobile phone operator.

The deal underlines how satellite technologies could play an important role in providing broadband connections in European countries that are hoping to ensure all their citizens have access to high speed internet services.

In the UK, the government wants all homes to have broadband by 2012, and some are likely to get internet access through satellite connections.

In Ireland, the government last year awarded a contract to Hutchison 3G Ireland to supply broadband to the 10 per cent of the population that currently cannot get it.

The 220,000 Irish homes without broadband are located in rural areas, and most are likely to get internet access via mobile connections, starting later this month. It is too expensive to provide fixed line connections.

However, Hutchison 3G Ireland could supply internet access to up to 6,000 Irish homes through satellite connections.

The initial connections will come through Avanti’s wholesale satellite arrangements. The deal with Hutchison 3G Ireland is worth £4.6m to Avanti over three years.

The Irish deal underlines that mobile operators cannot provide broadband coverage to the most far flung rural areas. It can be too expensive for them to build large numbers of towers and base stations to send wireless signals to a remote hamlet with only a handful of homes.

Satellite connections have in the past been too expensive and slow to provide broadband for the mass market. The services have also been prone to interference from wind and rain.

However, new technology is changing this. Satellite operators such as Avanti are using a new band of spectrum, known as the Ka band, which allows powerful spot beams to be focused on small areas. In the US, Wildblue Communications offers internet connections to rural areas using this kind of technology.

David Williams, Avanti’s chief executive, said broadband services over satellite should cost around £20 per month, bringing them into line with prices for fixed-line and mobile connections.

“It is now becoming axiomatic that if you want universal broadband provision you have to use satellites for part of it,” he added.

Avanti is negotiating similar deals with other mobile operators around Europe. Countries like Spain and Poland, with large land areas and widely spread populations could see greater use of satellite for broadband connections than the relatively densely populated UK and Ireland.

Avanti currently supplies satellite broadband services to telecoms companies by renting capacity off satellite operators. It plans to launch its first satellite this year.

Источник: Financial Times

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