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Eutelsat to Launch Unlimited 20Mbps Satellite Broadband Service for the UK

Thursday, January 31st, 2013 (12:01 am) - Score 8,277

Competition in the UK and EU markets for Satellite based internet access, which can help to serve remote rural areas, is heating up and as a result Eutelsat (Tooway) will today announce a series of new packages for their KA-SAT spacecraft at 9° East. Faster speeds of up to 20Mbps and unlimited data allowances are two of several enhancements.

The KA-SAT spacecraft was first launched into orbit at the end of December 2010. It has a total capacity of 90Gbps (Gigabits/sec) and initially aimed to serve more than a million people. Customers require a 77cm satellite dish and modem, which is connected to a computer via an Ethernet connection, to access the service and this usually attracts a cost of several hundred pounds (around £300-£400 for the hardware, activation and installation).

At launch KA-SAT based ISPs, such as AVOnline, Tooway Direct and Bentley Walker (view a full list of UK satellite ISPs here), offered top download speeds of up to 10Mbps and 4Mbps uploads. Since then the maximum download rate has been lifted to 18Mbps (6Mbps uploads) and usage allowances now go up to 50GB (GigaBytes) but the best allowances do not come cheap.

A standard KA-SAT based broadband package (Tooway 8) will currently set you back around £25 per month and offer download speeds of up to 8Mbps (2Mbps uploads) alongside a usage allowance of 8GB (note: a slower 2Mbps option also exists but isn’t always offered). It might not seem like much, especially given the high setup and monthly rental, but it can be a lifesaver for those in remote rural areas.

Now, under threat from similar advancements being made by rivals SES (example) and Avanti, Eutelsat will today boost their top download speeds up to 20Mbps (the max upload speed of 6Mbps will remain unchanged) and launch a new type of “true unlimited data service” for the top package.

eutelsat tooway uk 20mbps satellite broadband packages

The new packages appear to maintain a similar level of pricing to Eutelsat’s existing service, albeit with even faster top speeds, and in addition it’s now possible to defer the heavy initial cost of new equipment (hardware) through a monthly rental plan.

One downside though is that the new “unlimitedTooway Absolute package is only being made available to the “first 20,000 customers” across Europe (sadly satellites have limited data capacity) but then it isn’t exactly cheap so we wouldn’t worry too much about that. Customers subscribing to the new L and XL service will also be entitled to uncapped data usage overnight.

Jean-François Fenech, GM of Eutelsats Broadband Unit, said:

These new Tooway™ packages are another huge step forward in making universal high speed broadband an immediate reality for Europe. The fastest speeds and most generous data packages at the best competitive rates can be delivered in a matter of days, regardless of location. The outlook for consumers in Europe’s most digitally deprived areas just got much brighter.”

Satellite data remains expensive and as a result the speeds on KA-SAT’s current packages can end up being heavily throttled. It will therefore be interesting to see how the throttling is handled on their new options (this article gives a rough idea of what to expect); specifics can be hard to find. It’s worth pointing out that SES (ASTRA) based satellite ISPs also offer an unlimited option (e.g. BeyonDSL’s packages).

The new packages, which should be available to buy from some ISPs on 1st February 2013, will not solve all of the inherent problems with satellite technology, such as high latency, but by making them faster, more flexible and more affordable they are at least providing some people with a choice that they never had before.

Satellite might not be a long-term solution to the United Kingdom’s broadband woes but it can help some areas until better infrastructure arrives.

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