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By: MarkJ - 5 May, 2009 (12:00 AM)
Avanti Communications, a UK satellite operator, has hinted that its new satellite (HYLAS), which is due to launch later this year, could help to solve the country's rural broadband problems by delivering a universal 2Mbps service for just £15 per month. The news follows last month's signing by Avanti of four major new supply deals to help distribute its future services (original news).

The move is similar to one made by Eutelsat last week, a rival EU satellite operator. Eutelsat pledged to deliver a 2Mbps service (2Mbps download / 256Kbps upload) for just £29.99 per month (original news) and even promised future speeds of up to 10Mbps. Both Avanti and Eutelsat are campaigning to meet the government’s hopes of a 2Mbps minimum UK broadband speed (USO).

Unfortunately the DailyMail article, which revealed Avanti's £15 price point target, doesn't specify whether the service will be two-way (download and upload) or one-way (download only). There's also no mention of installation costs, usage allowances or restrictions.

The DailyMail's Joanne Hart said: "Avanti had some teething problems early on as Williams [AVANTI's CEO] sought to persuade sceptics that satellite broadband was effective, useful and cheap enough to be acceptable to consumers. Now the case has been proven. Avanti can provide swift access for about £15 a month and demand for the service is expected to be strong."

Certainly broadband satellite services have a place, though it seems somewhat premature to call the case for them "proven", in a USO sense, until we have all the details. Not to mention that inherent problems with satellite, such as high latency (rubbish multiplayer etc.), poor usage allowances and high hardware costs, remain key stumbling blocks.

Eutelsat's recent example is a good case in point, it offered an "affordable" 2Mbps two-way service (incredibly cheap for satellite) for only £29.99 per month. But under the hood you had a puny 1.2GB monthly usage allowance and MASSIVE installation costs of around £400+. That's hardly affordable for rural areas and in no way comparable to land-line or even Mobile Broadband counterparts.

Satellite can certainly be very useful and some services are clearly going to be better than others, but to use it as a USO solution seems an awful lot like cheating. We shouldn't just be trying to fob the public off with an inferior service; it needs to do more than merely deliver something capable of 2Mbps.

The service has to at least offer a workable usage allowance (15GB?), maintain its performance over long periods of use and be truly affordable (no huge hardware/installation costs). Naturally we hope that whatever Avanti can come up with is enough to put our fears at rest, though the sceptic inside continues to doubt.
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