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Satellite broadband touted as digital divide clincher

06 августа 2010

A satellite being launched in November could close the digital divide in the UK by helping citizens and companies currently underserved by the cable broadband market to get online with vastly improved services.

The KA-SAT satellite, developed by Eutelsat, will provide broadband to regions where services such as cable and DSL have failed to penetrate, the firm claimed.

"This will be the most powerful satellite in space. It offers 35 times more throughput than traditional KU-band satellites, and can fulfil a crucial role in meeting the broadband needs of some 30 million underserved EU citizens," said Guillaume Benoit, project manager at KA-SAT, at an event in Toulouse Thursday.

"Using spot beam technology we will be able to provide dedicated coverage in 80 set areas across the EU, the Middle East and Africa, delivering speeds of 10Mbit/s download and 2Mbit/s upload to users in current broadband not-spots."

The satellite communicates with 10 ground satellites, with two set aside as backup, that sit on a fibre-optic ring connected to the internet, through which a user's request is transmitted via the KA-SAT.

The satellite will orbit on a longitude of nine degrees east, which the firm said should ensure that it is always visible to a customer's ground satellite, and will offer overall throughout put of 70Gbit/s, a huge increase on industry norms of around 20Gbit/s.

Jean-Francois Fremaux, director of business development at Tooway, the firm that will offer the service to resellers, gave some more details on the types of services that could come to market.

"We expect basic packages that would cover emailing, browsing and some uploading, to retail at around 30 (£25), going up from here to higher level packages leading to services for business users and firms," he said.

Fremaux expects the service to be of particular benefit to small companies with up to 10 employees, but did not detail any pricing structures.

Tooway is keen to enter into partnerships with train and boat companies that could use the ubiquitous nature of a certain spot beam to provide broadband on the move.

The satellite has been developed in Toulouse by Astrium, a division of EADS. Gerard Berger, marketing manager for communication satellites at Astrium, explained more about the development.

"We have now completed key tests including the thermal vacuum test to ensure it can withstand conditions in space, and final integrations are now underway including preparation for moving the satellite to the launch site," he said.

The satellite will be sent into orbit by launch company Proton in November in Kazakhstan, owing to its proximity to the equator, and its services should become commercially available in the first quarter of 2011 once tests have been carried out.

Christopher Baugh, head of satellite broadband at analyst firm Northern Sky Research, believes that the High Throughput Satellite technology used in KA-SAT will revolutionise the market.

"This new satellite is a game changer for the broadband industry. Previously, satellites have been viewed as inadequate for numerous reasons, such as speed or quality of service, but the new satellites now being launched are changing this, " he said.

"Furthermore, firms hoping to offer cable and DSL will find it prohibitively expensive and logistically almost impossible to get their services to those in rural areas, and this is where the new era of satellite technology will prove vital."

However, Baugh warned that many governments remain unwilling to embrace the technology, or are unaware of its capabilities.

"There is a lot of resistance from those we speak to in government about the potential of satellites to meet their broadband initiatives, but we expect the launch of KA-SAT to bring more awareness to what the technology can deliver," he said.

Baugh also noted that the price of satellite broadband is falling as resellers offer improved subsidies on the cost of hardware, which should persuade governments to consider funding access to the technology.

"By offering subsidies to citizens to help them purchase the hardware for access to satellite broadband, governments could get their populations online, as we are seeing in Australia," he said.

Источник: FierceWireless:Europe

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