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Satellite sector expects boost from UK
|28 мая 2009|
Britain’s satellite industry looks likely to expand considerably under government plans to offer a universal broadband internet service.
People close to the consultation on the Digital Britain report, due out next month, expect Lord Carter, the communications minister, to say that access to high-speed internet connections in rural areas will have to be partly provided by satellite links.
Lord Carter is also expected to call for UK satellite capacity to be increased to meet this new demand.
The Digital Britain report, aimed at boosting the UK’s high-tech and creative industries, will be influential in setting future telecommunications policy.
One UK-based satellite company, Avanti Communications, says it will press the government to underwrite the big investment necessary to implement its broadband-for-all plan, which envisages universal access at a minimum of two mega-bits per second by 2012.
David Williams, Avanti’s chief executive, said it might cost an initial £500m to launch two satellites to provide rural broadband coverage. But such investment might be in jeopardy unless a public-private partnership was created, with the government underwriting a capital markets fundraising.
Together with EADS Astrium, the European space company, Avanti is also proposing to open a factory in the UK to manufacture the modems that users would need to receive satellite broadband signals.
Mr Williams said: “This solution should appeal to the government because it would solve their problem of providing universal broadband without having to invest any money. It would also bring high-tech jobs.”
Currently, only about 85 per cent of the UK can access high-speed broadband. Expanding fixed-line telephone and mobile networks will go some way towards improving the situation, but there will be many areas where these technologies will be uneconomical. About 1.5m homes are likely to remain in problem areas.
Satellite technology used to be too slow and expensive to offer broadband for the mass market, but developments have made it possible to offer speeds of up to 10 megabits per second at prices similar to those for fixed-line broadband. Prices for a 2mbps service start at about £20 a month.
Several companies will be lining up to offer consumers connections, including Eutelsat of France, SES Astra of Luxembourg and Avanti Communications.
Eutelsat and SES Astra have recently launched 2mbps satellite broadband services in several European countries, while Avanti is planning to launch a broadband satellite at the end of the year.
“The issue of providing universal broadband is creating a new market for satellite companies across Europe,” said Pacome Revillon, managing director of the consultancy Euroconsult.
Satellite broadband could still remain a relatively niche sector, say analysts. Connections can suffer from delays, making it difficult to play online games or make internet phone calls, for example. Services can also experience interference from wind and rain.
A third way for faster connections
Telecoms experts had originally predicted that a combination of extended fixed-line networks and mobile phone connections would be used to provide universal broadband. However, these technologies may prove too expensive to extend to all areas.
Estimates for extending high-speed fibre-optic cable to every home in the UK range from £15bn and £50bn. Mobile base stations, meanwhile, cost between £30,000 and £250,000 to set up, and mobile operators such as 3 estimate that networks, currently consisting of about 13,000 base stations, would have to increase to around 20,000 to offer truly high-speed connections. Analysts say about 10 per cent of the population is too widely dispersed to make the installation of new mobile masts economically worthwhile.
Satellite operators, however, have made great strides in using a new band of spectrum, the Ka-band, which allows satellite beams to be highly concentrated on relatively small areas of about 200km, allowing faster communications speeds.
Источник: Financial Times