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EU Satellite Operator SES Launches ASTRA 2G Broadband Spacecraft

Monday, December 29th, 2014 (8:35 am) - Score 2,015

Satellite operator SES has proudly reported that the last from a new batch of spacecraft, ASTRA 2G (all 6.6 tons of it – based on the Eurostar E3000 platform), has been successfully launched into space by a Russian-made ILS Proton Breeze M rocket from Kazakhstan (i.e. more broadband Internet capacity for Europe, the Middle East and Africa).

The satellite, which will be deployed at the 28.2/28.5 degrees (East) orbital arc around planet Earth, was first announced back in 2010/11 (here) as part of several new spacecraft (including ASTRA 2F and ASTRA 2E, which have already launched) that could better harness the Ka-band (26.5-40GHz) and Ku-band (12-18GHz) radio spectrum to deliver TV/media services and faster broadband speeds into remote locations.

Apparently ASTRA 2G, which will have a total wingspan of 40 meters once its solar arrays are deployed in orbit (generating 13kW of power), carries 62 Ku-band and 4 Ka-band transponders. It is expected to stay in service for around 15 years and by then there will be a new range of even faster and more capable Satellite’s to replace it.

Martin Halliwell, CTO of SES, said:

We would like to congratulate ‘Airbus Defence and Space’ and ILS for the successful ASTRA 2G mission, a launch that marks the 24th SES satellite to be launched by ILS Proton, and the ninth Eurostar satellite in the SES fleet. The ASTRA 2G satellite completes our significant replacement investments at a strategic orbital neighbourhood over Europe and provides 10 incremental transponders for expansion while cementing our unique co-positioning satellite back-up-scheme.

The spacecraft furthermore includes the capability to connect West Africa to Europe via Ka-band. In combination with ASTRA 2E and ASTRA 2F which were launched in September 2012 and 2013 respectively, ASTRA 2G is the culmination of our fleet renewal programme at the 28.2/28.5 degrees orbital arc. The new state-of-the-art SES satellites provide more focused and higher power to our broadcast customers, while the Ka-band on board supports the delivery of next-generation satellite broadband services as well as intercontinental connectivity between Africa and Europe.”

Several UK ISPs make use of the SES Astra Satellites’ (e.g. Apogee, EuropaSat and Satellite Internet) to deliver Internet download speeds of up to around 20Mbps and the new spacecraft should add some extra capacity, redundancy and more coverage into the mix.

Prices for related services tend to start at around £10 per month for a slower connection (4Mbps) with a tiny usage allowance, while a top “unlimited” (Fair Usage Policy) service at speeds of 20Mbps will set you back closer to £70 and then there are the huge hardware and installation fees to consider (expect to pay around £400+ for both – unless you DIY it, which can be quite tricky).

Meanwhile Eutelsat and Avanti supply rival broadband satellite platforms to the UK and Europe, which feature similar capabilities. Sadly satellite data usage allowances tend to be very poor for the money and all such space-based platforms will invariably suffer from painfully slow latency times, which make them useless for fast paced multiplayer gaming and some other online tasks.

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11 Responses
  1. Avatar pergamino says:

    Does this mean it would be possible to get broadband through a normal sky dish since it is at 28.2/28.5 E? Or is a special LNB required?

    1. Avatar Onephat says:

      I imagine it will require a 60cm dish so slightly larger than a zone 1 sky dish but that way the dish will hold more than one LNB. You will need a special LNB though.

    2. Avatar NGA for all says:

      Separate LNB required. Integration of LNB’s could be triggered by a consistent approach to supporting the final 1% getting connected. Probably needs to be Europe wide.

      Currently BT is collecting and sitting on premiums for USC, estimated at 8-10% of the £1.2bn so far contracted. This includes allowances for satellite. North Yorks reports points to their USC premium including subsidies for up to 5k satellite connections. Ideally these monies should be retrieved so those specialising in Satellite can meet the need directly.

    3. Avatar MikeW says:

      North Yorks reports show nothing of the kind.

    4. Avatar NGA for all says:

      @Mike w I will find you the reference to 12k premises in phase 1 left for USC, where 5k could be met by satellite.
      The milestone payments which are running at £200 per prem passed include the premium for USC. The premiums have been paid, that’s clear.
      There was a referenance made at the EFRA select committee on Dec 10th by BDUK to BT doing this work.

    5. Avatar MikeW says:

      You are the only one to make reference to milestone payments, and the term “USC premium”. Without definition, the terms are otherwise meaningless, and I’d love to know what details lie behind the terms you use. If you can pass on a link of the definition as applied to BDUK and particularly North Yorks, I’d be happy to look.

      In any event, North Yorks reports include neither term – they only reference two things: the total budget, within phase 1, allocated to USC work (£5m); and the reduced total budget allocated to USC work after phase 2 (not SEP) is included (down to £3m). The manner in which the budget is actually handed over is relatively irrelevant.

      Your numbers of 12,000 and 5,000 are interesting. In the most recent report to the council executive (Nov 2014), the number of premises left below 2Mbps at the end of phase 1 would indeed be 12,000. However, an earlier report indicate that the contract term is for a maximum of 3,800 properties that can be left to satellite. There has been no report of a change to this figure, though they were investigating the impact of a change.

      The 12,000 is now an obsolete figure, as it has been reduced to 9,000 as part of the agreement for phase 2 (which the Nov 2014 report shows has now been signed); remember NY’s phase 2 isn’t SEP (a fact which leads to confusion in the DEFRA committee, where the chair generally relates to phase 2 within North Yorks, while the BDUK people generally use “phase 2” to mean SEP)

      Presumably, if BT meet their target of getting USC to 100%, bar the 3,800 allowed to be left to satellite, there would be no monies to be retrieved – whatever method was used for invoicing & payment. The £3m would be spent on getting USC coverage to (min 5,200 and max 9,000) properties – so BT would have met their end of the contract, right?

      I’m not sure what you mean in EFRA to “BT doing this work” – what is “this work”? There was a reference in the DEFRA committee related to the central BDUK group putting together a plan for subsidised satellite installation, for USC provision (so presumably a basic package speed-wise), though they hadn’t worked out the details as yet. I don’t recall them mentioning BT in relation to this part, though.

      It is interesting that the latest report doesn’t explicitly talk about satellite coverage being currently available, and being subsidised soon, whereas it is a big thing within the DEFRA committee.

  2. Avatar NGA for all says:

    @MikeW March 18th 2014 SFNY report – Page 5 para 4.2.6 If SFNY choose to stop, no further payment is made to BT under the Phase 2 change request, and all other contractual obligations with respect to Phase 1 remain in place (including the USC obligation for properties with < 2mbs and the use of satellite technology being limited to 3895 premises)
    3,896 not 5,000 sorry and the original premium was £5m for USC with BT releasing £2m with phase 2 extension agreed. BT is sitting on £3m premiums just for this aspect.
    The same doc references a further £3.5m potential clawback and this is before the substanctial Phase 1 savings referred to at the EFRA select committee on Dec 10th. All on a contract of £26.4m

    1. Avatar MikeW says:

      Mostly answered above.

      Yes – £3m for 5,200-9,000 properties … at what could be £300-£500 per premise.

      The clawback looked interesting, certainly. Little mention in the most recent report, but they were reporting take-up of 25% on cabinets older than 15 months, an overall average of 20%, and a projection of 30% by May. IIRC, it was 30% that triggered the £3.5m clawback, so that is looking pretty feasible.

      I wonder what it would be if takeup hits 50%…

    2. Avatar NGA for all says:

      @MikeW – My only concern is the monies are spent where intended. No USC funding should sit in BT group accounts – currently £3m and replicated proportionally in every project.
      Clawback – some £3.5m – replicable and proportional across all LA and DA contacts.
      Significant Efficiency savings referenced on DEc 10th.
      Added together this will exceed more than 30% of the contract value.
      Now BT is reporting it has no resource or solutions to complete the work, hence referencs of 2020 at the EFRA select committee meeting.
      Milestone payments = payments per premise past – which as the above analysis shoes bear little relation to the underlying costs of provisioning cabinets.
      The continued risk to BT shareholders is the careless abuse of state aid by a small number in BT Group who should know better.

    3. Avatar MikeW says:

      So a milestone payment is one based solely on “per premises passed”, but you have no link to evidence of this?

      Everything I have seen (especially in answers to gov committees) says that BT can only invoice based on actual spend … which is a principle that is the exact opposite of claiming payments on a milestone basis, or on just a number “per premises passed”.

      To also claim that USC money is “sitting in BT accounts”, you must further show that the “per premises passed” milestone payment includes money from the USC budget as well as money from the NGA budget, when BT claims payment based solely on “per NGA premises passed.” I haven’t seen this either; the logical assumption from “actual spend” is that BT cannot claim for USC coverage until it is actually engaged in the USC phase of the project(s).

      Is there any evidence *anywhere* that payments are made on a milestone basis rather than an actual spend basis? Further, is there any evidence anywhere that shows BT are being paid USC funds within the milestone payments, after only reporting NGA “premises passed” figures?

      It is hard to believe anything you say about milestone payments or USC payments when there isn’t just a lack of evidence, but evidence that points in the opposite direction.

    4. Avatar NGA for all says:

      @MikeW simple – see the £177 per premise passed in North Yorks. They never reference actuals, neither have Surrey, Rutland, Suffolk. None have checked underlying invoices to any degree as yet, claiming BDUK achieved VFM via the milestone payment process. LA are too busy competing to keep the available BT resource on their patch.
      The milestone payment is a catch all, which lost any relationship to the underlying cost – a deliberate strategy by BT Group imposed 1 month before the Olympics. Milestone payments absorbs the money available.
      See the answer to q.195 BDUK gave at the recent EFRA select committee. Significant savings now being identfied – but no report of how much. There should be -as average subsides per cabinet before BDUK were circa £15k, the NAO identified £46k for BDUK but this includes USC.
      BT is presenting the milestone payments as a proxy for the actuals.
      It is very crude and very easy to spot and only BT’s exercising its monopoly in the presence of a 1 term political objective could stand a chance of getting away it. They may still do so.

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