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By: MarkJ - 10 January, 2011 (12:10 AM)
The following article is an exclusive Guest Editorial, which has been written for ISPreview.co.uk by the Managing Director of Hughes Europe, Chris Britton. This article does not necessarily reflect the views of ISPr and is being allowed to help provide a unique opinion and insight into satellite broadband within the UK.

hylas1 broadband satellite ukhughes europe satelliteToday there is much debate on the availability of high speed broadband. Look at the official 'Not Spot' figures for the UK and then talk to those individuals and small businesses around the country unable to get consistent broadband delivery and two very different pictures emerge. Latest broadband research shows that parts of the Midlands and the South East, for example, are just as likely to suffer from so-called sub-2Mbps 'Slow Spots' or 'Black Spots' as the more obvious, remoter geographies.

More broadly across Europe, it is generally accepted there are at least 30 million locations lacking broadband access – defined as connection to the internet at download speeds exceeding 512kb/s - with the European Commission targeting 100 per cent broadband across the EU by 2013, two years ahead of the revised UK target.

And arguably the potential is even greater than this: individual countries such as Germany and the UK are now defining broadband in terms of higher download speeds of 2mbp/s, taking the number of underserved households to 55 million - representing a huge, untapped market opportunity.

However, though the start point in terms of current coverage may in some areas be disputed, there is no such disagreement as to the end goal. Put simply, rural consumers and commercial enterprises want a communications environment in which they are no longer at a disadvantage to their urban neighbours and ‘not spots’ are firmly consigned to history.

What is equally clear is that, in some parts of Europe, as elsewhere in the world, satellite has an essential role to play in reaching geographies that other technologies cannot effectively reach.

In the past, satellite has not always been seen as delivering a fully competitive alternative in providing robust, cost-effective communications. Yet, more recently, there have been a number of technology developments which have significantly narrowed the gap.

And most recently, the launch in November 2010 of Avanti UK's HYLAS 1 satellite - Europe’s first dedicated Ka-band satellite - is set to revolutionise the availability of high-speed broadband services to the consumer market in the UK and Europe.

A satellite revolution

Building on the recent positive experience of consumer broadband in the US - where there are already more than one million subscribers – domestic users will have affordable high-speed broadband for the first time, thanks to HYLAS 1.

A further series of HYLAS satellite launches, planned over the next few years, will expand the geography covered by Ka-band services, providing high-performance broadcast and data communications to a wide range of markets, including rural and remote areas poorly served by terrestrial networks.

Importantly, these services are available from experienced and well-respected satellite service providers, substantially reducing the overall operating costs of satellite services, both in terms of bandwidth utilisation and systems hardware. The result is that users will benefit from reliable high-speed always-on satellite Internet access backed by market-leading service and technical support quality - at a price end-users can afford.

Consistent broadband

As a result, Ka-band end users will be able to experience exactly the same high level and consistent quality broadband, irrespective of whether they are. There will be no waiting for land-lines to be connected and guaranteed 100 per cent coverage, with no ‘not spots’.

Satellite communications have traditionally used C-band frequencies (between 4 and 8 GHz) and Ku-band (between 12 and 18Ghz), whereas the latest Ka-band uses between 26.5 and 40Ghz to communicate with the satellite. This offers the advantage of more bits per second – more than twice the capacity of the earlier satellite technology.

At the same time, other issues that have historically impaired satellite performance, such as rain fade, have been directly addressed by a number of new related technologies designed to ensure that the connection stays alive and minimises latency.

With such a hugely-underserved market, it is no surprise that the latest NSR research predicts a CAGR of more than 30 per cent for European satellite broadband over the next five years, from just 80,000 subscribers in 2009 to more than 650,000 in 2015.

The availability of Ka-band provides a unique opportunity to fill the gap between the promise of universal broadband and the current rather more earthbound reality.
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