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Europe Claims 100% Basic Broadband Target Won via Satellite

Friday, October 18th, 2013 (8:07 am) - Score 1,216

Sooner or later a politician was bound to play the quick-fix card. The European Commission has declared that the race to achieve 100% coverage of basic broadband services has been achieved thanks to the help of pan-EU Satellite availability. Concerns over capacity, performance and price appear to have been left at the door.

The Digital Agenda strategy set out by Europe aimed to achieve a number of things including 100% coverage of basic broadband services (0.5-4Mbps) by the end of 2013 and 100% availability of superfast broadband (30Mbps+) by the end of 2020 (plus 50% of homes to be within reach of an ultra-fast 100Mbps+ connection).

According to the latest update fixed line broadband services (ADSL, fibre optic, cable etc.) can now reach 96.1% of EU households, Mobile Broadband (3G, 4G) covers 99.4% and Satellite is suddenly able to achieve 100% even though this isn’t particularly new news.

Neelie Kroes, VP of the European Commission, said:

My motto is Every European Digital – now every European genuinely has the opportunity. We have more to do to improve networks and equalise the opportunity, but the opportunity is there.

Thanks to the extra coverage provided by satellite broadband, we have achieved our 2013 target of broadband for all. That’s a great result for European citizens.

The EU is technology neutral, but for those in the most isolated areas, satellite is a good option to stay connected; and it’s likely to remain so.”

It’s an interesting statement given that Satellite has traditionally played second fiddle to fixed line, mobile and fixed wireless services and is usually only regarded as a stop-gap measure until something better comes along. On the other hand the technology has indeed made some significant improvements over the past 2-3 years.

Firstly there’s a lot more of them and indeed Kroes states that 148 satellites are now providing services to Europeans, which perhaps ignores the fact that the vast majority of those do not deliver consumer affordable broadband services; only a small fraction would fall into that category (e.g. Eutelsat’s KA-SAT, Avanti’s HYLAS and SES’s Astra spacecraft / fleet etc.).

Never the less the latest generation of spacecraft can often deliver speeds of up to 20Mbps (faster on some super-expensive business options) and come alongside monthly rental fees that can start as low as around £15 inc. VAT per month for a basic 1-4Mbps style connection.

But the technology is far from perfect and one issue is the lack of capacity, which makes is extremely difficult to deliver the promised speeds without making often liberal use of traffic throttling measures. As a result some services will grind down to almost dialup speeds during periods of heavy use. Similarly satellite hardware is a lot cheaper these days but at around £250 to £500 it’s still quite pricey (note: some packages allow you to pay for this over time via a higher rental).

Then there’s the age old bugbear of high latency that often makes fast-paced multiplayer gaming unusable (Skype, VPN and some other real-time services can also suffer), issues over how some satellite ISPs fail to provide a geographic IP address (good luck watching iPlayer), tiny usage allowances (there are some “unlimited” options but expect slower speeds) and vague traffic management policies.

On top of all that there can also be issues around gaining planning permission for the dish (hardware) and some people will live in locations where securing a clear line-of-sight to the Satellite would be difficult. But at least Kroes is still able to look beyond this technology.

Neelie Kroes added:

Europe needs lightning-speed connectivity. We cannot leave some companies and citizens behind. Now we have basic broadband achieved, we have to immediately focus on investing in new fast networks.”

Access to reliable and affordable higher broadband speeds of 30Mbps and 50 Mbps are essential for Europe’s economic development and for the next generation of digital products and services like Connected Television, eHealth, Cloud Computing and Connected Cars.”

Satellite is indeed a very useful technology, especially for remote rural areas, but we perhaps shouldn’t be taking a ‘job-done’ approach while the services inherent limitations remain such a significant stumbling block.

The fear is that other European states, such as the United Kingdom, might now follow Kroes lead and thus take their focus off the need to achieve a decent quality of universal broadband coverage via more capable fixed-line, mobile and or fixed wireless solutions.

Leave a Comment
17 Responses
  1. Avatar gerarda

    Another case of politicians spinning the statistics. The EU definition of basic broadband used in the BDUK stage guidelines was a minimum 2mb with installation cost of less that £100 and monthly rental but the digital agenda uses 144K, with no cost consideration. In terms of capacity in the UK they are using a 99.8% ADSL availability figure instead of the actual 97- 98% so understating the need by several hundred percent

  2. Avatar dragoneast

    “Europe needs lightning-speed connectivity [for everyone] . . .for the next generation of digital products and services like Connected Television, eHealth, Cloud Computing and Connected Cars.”

    Says it all really. Is she a comedienne?

  3. Avatar DTMark

    There never really was a plan to deliver “2Mbps for all”. An “aim”, perhaps, or a “goal”. But no plan.

  4. None of the big suppliers touch it but if bandwidth increased drastically and the cost wholesale went down… it’d be super interesting.

    If someone line Sky looked at this (it’d fit the name 😉 but be rather a big step for a lot of longer suffering people in rural and remote regions. It’d involve changes to the dishes and CPE (Sky have dish install engineers), but for all those suffering on ‘offnet’ products on ISP’s where they have to go through BT Wholesale. Would be interesting…

  5. Avatar Roberto

    Congrats to at least a single EU member on reaching your objective, even though that aimed objective was already available before you had an aim in mind. All the funding of fixed line services now makes sense when you had a satellite there already which met your ambition…… IDIOT! I wonder how long it will be before one of our idiots in parliament claim the same thing.

  6. Avatar gerarda

    Next month marks the 10th Anniversary of the first commitment to universal broadband by both the Government (12 November) and BT (17 November) I shall be sending “now you are 10” birthday cards to mark the failure of this commitment to Maria Miller MP, Department for Culture, Media & Sport, 100 Parliament Street,London SW1A 2BQ and to Gavin Patterson, CEO, BT Group plc, BT Centre,81 Newgate Street,London EC1A 7AJ.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      ‘ failure of this commitment ‘ Link please for details.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      How many properties do not have ADSL access? Plus satellite gives 100%. Nellie says so.

    • Avatar gerarda

      http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/3276621.stm
      http://www.theregister.co.uk/2003/11/13/uk_govt_calls/

      BT will not release the number without ADSL access but estimates from Ofcom and others put it between 300-800,000 premises

    • Avatar Pete

      Oh that BBC link is a gem and shows nicely the complete fantasy BT announcements they have a habit of making

    • Avatar Gadget

      links only 10 years old and relating to first generation ADSL……I’d suggest things have moved on since then. Still if we are talking about first generation ADSL with speeds to 8Mbps then there is a very wide coverage, not to say that ambitions have moved on since then to aim at “superfast” (whatever definition you care to choose).
      Of course we should be aim for more now, but the fundamental on very many of the threads on this forum is, to paraphrase “we know where we would like to be, but getting there commercially requires considerable money, which other countries such as Australia are also finding difficult to support”. Of course if you do not have state aid rules or private companies it is a different discussion in a “command” economy.

    • Avatar Roberto

      “links only 10 years old and relating to first generation ADSL……I’d suggest things have moved on since then.”

      Yep so much so 100% of the country still is not and never will be covered.

  7. Avatar dragoneast

    I’d suggest the problem isn’t so much BT, regulation, public v. private sector, government or EU (all of which have their own problems), but (as always) demand. On this (and other forums) it’s always the same old names with the same old comments. Why? Because most of the country gets by OK with what they’ve got, as in the rest of life, and have better things to worry about. And there’s the rub. Those people suffering (or who think they are) – desperate, or even with a vague interest – are very much in the minority and spread out unevenly. So very difficult to satisfy. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. And it’s the reason why we won’t spend more on broadband – either on subscription charges or through taxes. And I happen to think the majority are right: look at the article above to see the “compelling” case for superfast: e-health, connected cars, TV and the Cloud. It doesn’t turn the masses on. It’s certainly not what my neighbours chat about over the garden fence, in fact I’ve not heard anyone mention it anywhere, outside forums. So we try to get a gallon out of a pint pot, and if the politicians, Mark, Andrew and the other commentators and the fanatics are trying to sell it, then you’re not making a very good job. Talking to ourselves, that’s a different matter.

    • Avatar gerarda

      I agree with you in terms of “super”fast broadband – but believe me if you live in an area with poor or non existent broadband it is a topic of conversation. The concentration should have been on getting a service to all not improving those who already get a service. If the Government believes it can save billions by getting people on line then it should have spent something to ensure that happens.

  8. Avatar dragoneast

    G: I agree with you; but both commerce and democracy don’t bother too much with minorities, their joint imperative is to satisfy as many as they can as cheaply as they can. And sorting out non-spots and nearly-not spots isn’t usually quick or simple. (The only hope is that the private sector can do more with less than Government can). And as for the economic benefits, I think it’s more hope than expectation, since there’s nothing much else the politicians can offer to rescue a tanked economy. Hence why like desperate gamblers they fling their meagre cash around at a range of things in the hope something comes up trumps.

  9. Avatar dragoneast

    add/ I think the problem is that they need the income from the populous and easy-to-do-areas, to fund the roll-out in the (usually) less populated and more difficult-to-do areas. It doesn’t work the other way around because the profits are less (costs + delay). And unless we want to go back to the levels of taxation seen in the 1970s, that’s the way things have to happen. Fairness doesn’t come into it. It’s why the utilities were privatised – to become more efficient which is the numbers game, and it’s been successful. Unfortunately at the expense of the state of the infrastructure, and the only way to remedy that is for the consumer to pay more. And we know what a furore that causes.

    • Avatar gerarda

      The savings I mentioned are in the Government running costs not benefits to the economy, so it doesn’t require spurious HS2 economics to make the case and would be self funding

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