Satellite broadband rollout for all in US: But Europe just doesn't get it
Why don't Brits trust companies selling dishes?
Dish, the US satellite provider, has switched on its home domestic broadband service, but while Americans embrace satellite Europeans don't seem interested in talking to their birds.
dishNET is offering 5Mb/s down, 1Mb/s up, for $40 to anywhere in the USA, via the Jupiter-1 bird. That will compete with HughesNet, which has already got 700,000 connections in America, and ViaSat, some of whose 500,000 customers are signed up through Dish's existing broadband offering (which resells capacity on ViaSat-1 and Hughes Satellite).
But while Americans are lapping up satellite broadband, here in Europe it's perceived as a stop-gap at best - certainly not for the long term despite the fact that just about every UK lottery ticket is authorised over satellite and there's enough capacity to supply broadband to the remotest regions of the British isles.
Chris Britton, MD of Hughes Network Systems Europe, is pretty clear why that is: historical prejudice and lack of government investment, combined with protectionist telcos more worried about squeezing their copper than providing connectivity to the boondocks.
The arguments against satellite broadband are twofold: the inevitable latency involved in bouncing a signal up to geostationary orbit, and the inherent inefficiency in broadcasting the downstream signal to the whole footprint. The latency is still there, but these days satellites use the same beam-forming tech which makes wi-fi so much better, enabling directional spot beams at frequencies high enough to permit simultaneous connections without interference.
The higher frequencies (Ka, starting at 26GHz) also mean a smaller dish. HYLAS-2, the Avanti bird which went into orbit last month and should complete testing in the next few weeks, can use a dish less than 70cm across - a shade bigger than the 50cm Sky Minidish, but with similar requirements for fitting, which should make it an easy sell to residential customers if only the channel existed to do that.
Avanti has, we're told, been talking to the telcos about reselling HYLAS connections. HYLAS-1, the operational bird which does TV as well as broadband, is filling up at an acceptable rate, but ordinary customers are often put off by the necessity of dealing with unknown resellers operating out of light industrial units: filling HYLAS-2 will require a better route to market.
Enterprise users are better served - Hughes likes to highlight the UK's National Lottery, which uses more than thirty thousand satellite connections to authorise every ticket sold. DSL is used for a few sites, but the vast majority use a dedicated satellite connection for the reliability and independence it offers - justifications that are repeated at other deployments.
Another good satellite customer is out-of-town shops, which don't want to be beholden to the developer's connectivity. But for European end users satellite is still perceived as expensive: a temporary solution at best.
Britton would like to see more government subsidy for satellite installations - some of that £150m broadband pot - but the EU has already stumped up half the cost of developing the first HYLAS bird and if the UK government were to start subsidising ground stations then BT would want equivalent funding for putting wires and fibres in the ground.
And it's hard not to see their point - fibre, ultimately, provides greater capacity and lower latency, and an investment which will never be redundant. Your correspondent has two satellite earth stations, both capable of connecting to services which went bankrupt years ago. HYLAS-2 should be good for 15 years, but buying connectivity that way requires a trust which doesn't exist in Europe just yet, and won't until our version of Dish or similar gets behind the idea. ®
A few points for you all.....
Ok hands up... I used to work in satellite comms - and no i dont work for any comms companies anymore so no vested interests here. To clear a few matters up, Sky dont own the satellites, they simply rent space of SES ASTRA - who also sell space segment to a whole host of other companies. TV is braodcast on KU band and works because its a single broadcast to many via satellites large scale footprint - so a scaleable sales proposition of one production to many users. Satellite broadband requires one set of transponders for the "broadband" uplink, (KA band), and one set of transponders for dowload, (KU Band). The Ka band transponders have a finite bandwidth onboard (as any satellites does) and you can only switch on a certain amount of simultaneous use connections, so without detailing very particular industry data, its clear to see that contention ratios will apply to bandwidth usage. Any latency times incurred are because the signals get uplinked and downloaded 2 times totalling about 78,000 km in comms distance so even at the speed of light you can see there will be latency issues in the system which are unavoidable. Mind you if your terrestrial broadband connnection had to travel 78,000 km you'd have a latency issue too.
Anyone who can get a terrestrial broadband connection, even slow one, will get a cheaper/better service than anything they can get via satellite. Satellite works where you cant get terrestrial comms, hence why the numbers are greater in the US etc. Highlands and isalnd communities will always benefit from satellite comms but will require Govt subsidisng in some fashion to make it affordable for its consumers.
Im not knocking satellite here - I loved its applications as it has as very specfic market which cannot be met by any other means.... but its simply not a scaleable cost effective method of delivering broadband comms.... unless as I said its remote areas/highlands and islands etc. Oh and the satellite dish set up for satellite "broadband" comms is a completely different type of dish/LNB than a sat TV style "mini dish". Its installation accuracy needs to be very exact otherwise your uplink data misses the KA band transponder beam spots which are not as wide an area as std KU band trasnmission coverage footprints - so dont judge sky dish installers with proper KA band dish installations - they are completely different. Ahhhhh it al comes flooding back!!!
This is not Twitter.
#stop #using #hash #tags
Satellite internet makes sense when the US population is so sparsely scattered. In Europe population densities are higher and terrestrial solutions more practical as well as actually faster.
Not to mention the weather. I used to work on ships and our C-band internet feeds were often interrupted by rain at one end or the other. (My domestic Sky TV sometimes goes off in heavy rain).
And Europe has more aesthetic control over building use: the planning laws would go do-lally over so many dishes, whereas in the US people have large back yards to lose them in.
Oh, and it is expensive.