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People using satellite broadband

The government’s suggestions that satellite broadband could be used to achieve universal broadband are ill-conceived, with the technology yet to prove itself a viable alternative to more established methods, it has been claimed.

Earlier this week, Lord Carter, who is heading the Digital Britain report, said that satellite broadband is being seriously considered by the report authors as a means of ensuring universal broadband by 2012, with a minimum connection speed of 2Mb. Lord Carter added that communications company Avanti Communications, which is poised to launch its first satellite into orbit this year, would be one of the firms that he would discussing the matter with.

In an interview with the Telegraph, the communications minister said: “There are a number of these newer business models for alternative forms of broadband distribution.”

However, the viability of this approach has been questioned by Jessica McArdle, marketing manager at Top 10 Broadband. Ms McArdle noted that although satellite broadband has been touted as a fix-all for a range of quandaries, such as ensuring rural access to broadband and tackling notspots in urban areas, it has yet to deliver on its potential.

She explained: “The government’s plan to offer satellite broadband to the masses comes as a surprise to Top 10 Broadband, as satellite broadband has never excelled as a means to deliver broadband in the same way as proven methods like ADSL, cable and mobile broadband have.

“The elephant in the room is the question of what satellite broadband actually is and whether it could work and until this has been answered it is unlikely that satellite broadband represents a viable solution to the nation’s broadband problems.”

Problems associated with satellite broadband include high latency relative to more established delivery systems. Meanwhile, critics of the system have also noted that satellite broadband can be unreliable, especially during times of sunspot activity and adverse weather conditions.

Despite these concerns, rival satellite broadband companies Eurosat and SES ASTRA this month to form a new company called BeyonDSLin in a bid to make a significant impact on the UK consumer broadband market. In statements issued by the companies it was claimed that satellite broadband could effectively tackle the problem of broadband notspots in rural and urban locations.

Meanwhile, Avanti has been named by the Northern Ireland government as the company who will be delivering a universal broadband service throughout the country. The company has already been awarded similar deals for areas of Scotland and the west Midlands.

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