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Ofcom reports says satellite broadband ok for web browsing
Wednesday 07 March 2012 09:49:58 by Andrew Ferguson

Ofcom has published a report that should be required reading for local authorities taking part in the BDUK process, Understanding Satellite Broadband, though at 95 pages long, and 69 pages of appendixes it is not a quick read.

The report used volunteers to assess how good a Ku Band service was, i.e. what was available prior to July 2011 when the data for the report was being compiled.

Satellite services were compared to an ADSL service in four areas:

  1. Web browsing/streaming video
  2. Remote Desktop/VPN
  3. VoIP
  4. Online gaming

Now many would assume that people would prefer the ADSL service over satellite on all of these, but web browsing was actually scored as the better service. The extensive use of caching and pre-fetching by satellite services can explain some of this (HTTPS - secure pages are not cached of course), but the report did add the caveats that web browsing is increasingly featuring more interactivity and AJAX technology allows parts of a webpage to update outside the normal page load cycle.

Including streaming video in the web browsing category is odd, while many people launch video playback from a browser link, the actual playback is largely in a Flash control. Only short 2 to 3 minute news clips were used for the video testing, which given the usage limits many satellite services have may reflect the sort of usage people are limited to.

"Understanding the trend in Internet usage patterns for those in rural communities appears to be essential. The results of this trial indicated that QoE is highly dependent on application and so must be thought about in that context. A better definition of what are basic Internet services and what are luxury services would help guide future studies and understanding of what is ―good enough."

Extract from Understanding Satellite Report

While the report focused on Ku band services, Ka band will have the same latency component but support higher speeds, though a warning is given that Ka band services may be more affected by weather conditions.

For those where satellite service is the only solution, services like Skype do work, but you often have higher contention to work with, resulting in latency and contention reducing video quality. For a small rural business that limits itself to sending/receiving email satellite is perfectly good, but if updating an online shop the web based applications can prove very frustrating, and the caching can result in you not seeing changes update. Video conferencing is adequate, though even a slow 300 Kbps ADSL service would generally offer a better quality two way stream. These comments come from experience, helping a rural broadband satellite service user who runs a small business from home.


Posted by PhilCoates over 5 years ago
This is interesting but worrying. I am in a not-spot (BT cannot provide BB over copper)relying on a sub 2Mbps 3G connection via a roof aerial and likely to benefit from BDUK funding.

If satellite is offered as an 'upgrade' I will be offered faster download speed but tighter download limits at a higher price.

Headline speed is useful, but the download limits are restrictive. My current 15Gig/month is shepherded because if I don't do this, i will have no internet connection until the rollover date...
....and NO, moving to an urban area is not an option and NO this isn't a second home.
Posted by Borisvon over 5 years ago
Upgrading to satellite is a downgrade really, increase in speed but decrease in usability plus cost is out of this world (pun not intended!)
Posted by martin9325 over 5 years ago
I am also in a not-spot and was eligible for a grant to pay to put in satellite, The monthly cost of £25 was less than I currently pay for BT Business Broadband and so was not a problem. Luckily I discovered the limitations which neither the Welsh Assembly (giving the grant) nor the satellite provider had mentioned and so I pulled out. I am beginning to think that moving house is the only real answer as all the politicians do is talk and the service providers aren't that interested in rural service. I still don't have a mobile 'phone signal either!
Posted by peterscott9881 over 5 years ago
It depends on what you want to do. I have been using tooway for nearly a year. I don't game so the latency doesn't matter and I don't want to stream video so the download limit is not a problem. Skype works fine with some lack of lip sync in video. Secure sites such as my bank take a bit longer to start but compared with the diabolical service from my BT line it's heaven. Cost is less, as I've junked my useless landline. Sad to lose Zen though. A lot more detail of my experience is on the tooway page on my website
Posted by Goodsshed over 5 years ago
I've been on Tooway Ka band for nearly 3 months. Much nicer than my Talk Talk land line service although it is as they say reassuringly expensive. The upload is good as I have big documents to share, the download is good once you get used to the latency.
Posted by Goodsshed over 5 years ago
Cont'd Ican browse much more comfortably, occasional problems with some sites (not unique when you are on a rural system), video steaming is okay - occasional load delays but MUCH better than TT, I haven't tried skype (put my kit in the loft when we moved here) and I have absolutely no interest in gaming. I had a problem when my off site back up supplier changed system and I had to reload my back up files in large chunks as this invoked the go-slow clause. But now that's done (and I was allowed extra Gb at night) all is well.
Posted by Goodsshed over 5 years ago
Cont'd I am still watching and hoping we'll get a better land line system but despite a fibre going right past our front gate it doesn't seem likely and I wouldn't give up Tooway for a 2Mb download.
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