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Tiscali to launch European broadband service in Autumn

Mass market satellite service not pie in the sky

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Tiscali is to offer hi-speed Internet services in Europe via satellite from the autumn in a move that could help ease the broadband bottleneck in parts of Europe.

Trials are currently underway in Italy, Germany and the UK and a full service in all three countries and France is expected to be launched within a couple of months.

The service - based on a two-way satellite broadband Internet service from Gilat Satellite Networks Ltd - will be rolled out to other European coverage by 2002.

TsicaliSat is targeted at home and SOHO users throughout Europe and is believed to be the first pan-European deal of its kind.

Gilat will serve as the wholesale provider of Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) satellite communications equipment. It will also provide operations support for the service.

The service could act as a lifeline for millions of people who live outside cable franchise areas and DSL-enabled regions.

In the UK alone 40 per cent of households fall outside DSL-enabled areas.

Unimpressed with the current state of broadband provision in Europe, Mario Mariani, Tiscali's senior VP of its International Business to Consumer Division, said: "Satellite access will give us independence from incumbent telecommunications operators in Europe and will enable us to develop products and services of higher value and competitive price."

Tiscali has yet to set a price for its satellite service and would not be drawn on the matter. However, Gilat already operates as similar service in the US under the Starband brand - a joint venture with Microsoft and EchoStar communications.

The equipment costs $499.99 (£350) and the monthly subscription is $69.99 (£49).

Since the service's launch in November Starband has signed up 40,000 customers.

Barry Spielman, director of corporate marketing at Gilat, told The Register that the satellite provider was looking for deals with other providers in Europe.

Last month Gilat signed an interim agreement with an unnamed "entertainment, communications and information services division of a very large, multinational company" to provide a broadband satellite service in an European country.

Details of the deal are still under wraps but it's thought the service could be available by Q3 this year. ®

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