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30Mbps BDUK Satellite Broadband Pilot Begins in N.Ireland and Scotland

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015 (11:10 am) - Score 2,476

The latest Broadband Delivery UK Market Testing Pilot (MTP) to go live is Avanti’s scheme, which is using their Ka-band HYLAS 1 and HYLAS 2 Satellite spacecraft to deliver broadband speeds of up to 30Mbps to potentially 13,000 premises across parts of Northern Ireland and Scotland (e.g. Antrim, Aberdeenshire, Dumfries, Galloway, The Borders).

The pilot, which is being supported by £885,640 of public funding from the Government (here), is also offering to install and connect the new service “absolutely free of charge for up to 1,000 qualifying customers” (we assume that means the first 1,000 to sign-up).

As with the other pilots it will also be focused on areas in the final 5% of the UK that have been identified as rural broadband “not spots“, where expanding the reach of traditional fixed line connectivity might otherwise be hugely expensive.

The press release states that the new top 30Mbps service, which is known as Rural Max, offers “download speeds of up to 30Mbps, with a 40GB monthly data limit. No phone line is required to receive the service. Package prices start at £24.99 per month.”

However it should be noted that the £24.99 option actually gives you downloads of 10Mbps (2Mbps upload) with a usage allowance of just 20GB and if you want the 30Mbps option (6Mbps uploads) with a 40GB allowance then that actually costs a hefty £49.99 per month. The pilot is supported by several Satellite providers, primary Avonline Broadband and Europasat.

Mark Wynn, MD of Avonline Broadband, said:

Using the Broadband Delivery UK Market Testing Pilot (MTP) funding, Dumfries & Galloway has been selected as one of only five UK counties in which to pilot this new superfast satellite broadband service, capable of delivering up to 30Mbps service to those in the final five per cent of the population unable to benefit from fixed line superfast broadband service because of their rural location.

For many homes and businesses in rural Dumfries & Galloway satellite broadband is their only realistic solution of a better broadband connection over the next few years. With only 1,000 free connections available and such a great service on offer, we believe that the scheme will be very successful so those who are interested will need to act fast.

Avonline has also announced that it is scrapping all upfront costs including installation and activation charges. The result is superfast broadband which is in line with terrestrial broadband pricing, and – importantly – available to rural households and businesses that would be otherwise excluded.”

Admittedly Satellite solutions have quite a steep hill to climb since their excellent coverage is often countered by the technology’s capacity restrictions (this can result in very slow speeds, especially at peak times), high latency and other connectivity gremlins (examples). Even BDUK recognises that reversing apathetic consumer opinion towards Satellite may be a key challenge.

But at the same time BDUK are also involved in an EU project that’s working to aggregate fixed line ADSL broadband with 4G and Satellite solutions in order to extract the best from each platform and remove the worst. This is called BATS (Broadband Access via integrated Terrestrial & Satellite systems) and progress is good, although there’s still a question mark over the cost of having both a fixed line and Satellite to deliver faster broadband.

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Mark Jackson
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.
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6 Responses
  1. Avatar MikeW says:

    I wondered about the location of the trial. It looks like Scotland and Ireland are served by one of the eight spot-beams on Hylas 1, separate from the beam that supplies England.

    It is harder to find information on the beams for the more-capable Hylas 2, but it looks to be focussed more on East Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

    I wonder if reports of congestion can be narrowed down to particular satellites or individual beams?

    1. Avatar Craski says:

      Lets be honest though, its not just congestion that is the problem with satellite is it. Even if they could guarantee you would receive 30Mbps at all times, the latency is an issue for some and the data allowances are very restrictive. I’d pay £49 / Month for internet access, but not for a measly 40GB monthly allowance, our family of four would burst that in no time.

      I think the feedback from the test will also be heavily biased and flawed as only people with absolutely no other way to access the internet are going to be signed up for it. Going from no internet to even satellite access is going to feel fantastic to them and if the trial is only a few months long, these people will feed back positively on the technology. Give them time to live with the cost and its other issues and a proper comparison of what connectivity the majority of the country are benefitting from and they would not be positive is my bet and where does it leave them in future when fixed lines and fixed wireless speeds improve yet further … even further behind thats where. This particular trial is a waste of money for me.

  2. Avatar Phil Coates says:

    Or simply overselling each beam?

  3. Avatar Chris Conder says:

    Why act surprised? I remember Avanti becoming partners with BT years ago, this has all been planned.
    BT had no intention of network upgrades to serve the population. yet they won’t say where the final 5% is so altnets can get funding to go where they won’t go.

    It proves the superfarce rolls on. Satellite is a brilliant quick fix for emergencies, but it isn’t the future. It is unaffordable for many families and small businesses. We had 12 families here on satellites, and they dug their socks off to bring the fibre to their homes, over many kilometres. They now have superb real fibre broadband for a fraction of the price. So why waste nearly a million pounds on another silly trial? Why?

    1. Avatar MikeW says:

      You know, I’m pretty sure it works the other way around…

      The altnet tells the council where it plans to go, and the council removes the area from their list of NGA white zones. Result: No competition from BT.

      This was true back in 2012 when the first round of consultation went on. Those altnets who failed to pay attention may have had a nasty surprise.

      However, if they started paying attention, then they’ve been given a second chance. The projects have been consulting again, with the same possibilities. Result: No competition from BT, or Gigaclear, or Cotswold, or whoever else wins the phase 2 contracts.

      Surely these altnets didn’t make the same mistake again, did they?

  4. Avatar Chris says:

    The similar BDUK satellite pilot in Devon and Somerset appears to be progressing slowly. In the biggest of the deployment areas, Priddy, the interest in the service was low. It appeared that most people would rather stick with a ~3Mbps ADSL service with unlimited cap rather than a heavily capped and expensive satellite service with all of the issues satellite brings. To date the Priddy deployment has not gone ahead. Some people suspect that it might have been shelved due to low demand in the market. Most people in Priddy have some level of ADSL service so this may account for the low take up. If your only choice is satellite then take up is likely to be higher I would think. From a personal perspective my 3Mbps Sky ADSL service is far more attractive than the satellite 30Mbps service when all factors are taken into account. The combination of high latency, low cap and high cost made the service look very unattractive to me.

    I do hope that this sends a message back to the decision makers that satellite can only have a minimal role in reaching the last 5% of properties, it should not be seen as a primary technology as it simply does not deliver a service that meets the needs of the average household.

    Chris

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