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Ofcom UK Report Claims Satellite Broadband is Bad for VPN, VoIP and Gaming

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012 (1:11 am) - Score 5,882

The communications regulator, Ofcom UK, has quitely published a new “small-scale report” that investigated the quality of experience and user satisfaction when using broadband Satellite ISP services for applications such as online video gaming (multiplayer), Virtual Private Networks (VPN), video/audio streaming and Voice-over-IP (VoIP).

It will come as little surprise to those familiar with the technology that Satellite came out “better than a standard ADSL link” for basic website browsing but was rated “significantly worse than a terrestrial broadband system” for remote desktop/VPN, VoIP and online gaming. Surprisingly it did better than expected for video streaming applications, although those would still be hindered by low usage allowances and throttling.

Extract from the Report’s Conclusion

In the majority of these cases, the emulated satellite and the actual satellite link were not considered of an acceptable standard to be adopted for use and were generally considered to provide a worse service than the participants‘ current ISP. By contrast, the standard ADSL link was mainly rated as similar or slightly better compared to their current ISP.

Although three out of four applications indicated that terrestrial broadband was superior to satellite broadband, it is important to bear in mind that the one application (web browsing), where the satellite service outperformed the terrestrial service, is likely to be the most fundamental online activity. It is beyond the scope of this study to indicate what services rural users are most interested in; however, such an analysis would allow the results of the four applications to be combined together into a weighted sum.

The important thing to stress, however, is that QoE [Quality of Experience] is application dependent, and so tightly defining the importance of the various applications to rural community users will in large part dictate the attractiveness of satellite broadband.

As expected the caching methods and inherently high latency problems of Satellite links make the service ineffective for use in multiplayer gaming and other real time applications. This has been known about for years.

One interesting recommendation to come out of the report is that Ofcomshould encourage” more websites to offer lo-fi or mobile versions of their content for people whom are forced to connect from “any low bandwidth or high latency link” (mobile or not). That’s a good idea but it sort of admits defeat when the object should be to improve broadband connectivity for all and not merely accept the status quo.

Understanding Satellite Broadband Quality of Experience Report (PDF)
http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/binaries/research/technology-research/2011/Understanding_Satellite.pdf

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
3 Responses
  1. DTMark says:

    When I worked for Tesco.com we had the chance to see the Korean version of the website in development.

    While the UK version had to cater for ADSL speeds, and thus was basically HTML only, the Korean one was very “flash” – literally and metaphorically, because the country had a broadband network.

    That was nearly ten years ago, and almost nothing has changed here since.

  2. NewSat says:

    This is quite interesting. I mean, I’ve met a lot of people who not having used satellite broadband before, always assumed that it’s “bad” because of latency (lag) and of course, cost. I think people should really read more into satellite broadband as a good, and reliable alternative in ADSL

  3. Mark Jackson says:

    It’s a good alternative to not having a good ADSL connection, provided you don’t plan to stream lots of videos / download a lot of content (terrible usage allowances), play multiplayer games and in some cases a number of Satellite platforms fail to provide a UK IP address or deliver good enough latency for proper VPN/VoIP. A few don’t even work with VPN.

    Some of the latest services also still seem to use heavy throttling. I’ve seen Eutelsat platforms pushed down to dialup levels. So they’re a good quick fix for some but, given modern demands (especially for video content), they still fall well short of a good fixed line connection.

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