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Increasing signs that 2 Mbps USC will be via satellite based services
Friday 09 November 2012 09:13:12 by Andrew Ferguson

Satellite broadband has a chequered history but in the last year speeds have improved, though feedback suggests that issues like congestion and latency are still major issues. Thus it is with some concern that we see Northumberland considering satellite broadband as key to getting faster broadband to rural areas.

The Morpeth Herald has a feature covering the topic, and this suggests that the bulk of the BDUK and council money will be spent on hitting the superfast broadband target leaving rural areas fighting over what may be a very small pot of money.

We do not doubt the ability of satellite broadband to deliver a service that would allow the use of the Internet, and for businesses that need to collect and send email and just submit official forms it is perfectly fine. Even video conferencing and VoIP will work, but with extra delay compared to terrestrial services, the issues are generally around how much of this people can do for a reasonable price.

Any residential user who makes use of catch-up TV services will find their usage allowance vanish quickly, and when a 2 Mbps service with 2GB allowance costs £19.99 a month, or 16GB running at 12 Mbps is £39.99 then while you can meet the USC any household where people do more than just check email, update facebook status may be facing large bills. Did we mention that on some services once you have used up half your allowance you shift to a lower priority queue at peak times, potentially slowing your connection down. 16GB may see a high level of usage, but when a year old figure for the average broadband usage per month is 17GB and rising it looks inadequate.

We would urge that local authorities try to keep the use of satellite broadband as a last resort, and explore options such as fixed wireless or 4G for areas where the cost of any cable improvements would be too large. Additionally projects should be managed so that the 2 Mbps USC is not seen as a sticking plaster operation that will survive on loose change.

While it seemed unlikely that the original 2012 deadline for the USC would have even been met from the previous Labour government, by having a deadline five years in advance of their superfast target of 2017 it would have allowed projects to maintain a clearer focus.


Posted by Dixinormous over 4 years ago
What a shocker.
Posted by Bob_s2 over 4 years ago
Wireless should be a cost effective way to get HS broadbnd to many of the very rural areas of the UK. It will particlrly suite East Anglia & the Fens as the flat nature iof the terain means it can be covered ith relatively few tranmitters.
Posted by 21again over 4 years ago
The government of the day are only concerned that people have a BB connection that is suitable for receiving and transmitting the data for/from form filling - - - end of :p
Posted by Kr1s69 over 4 years ago
If 90% of the county can get fast broadband following the BDUK project then that will be brilliant. I think people forget that Northumberland is a huge place with a low population density. Even then the population is concentrated in the south east of the county.

The town i live in (Ashington) has a population of about 30,000 so thats about 10% of the total county, and lets say covers an area of about 2x2 miles (4 square miles)

After BDUK there'll be a similar number of people (30,000 or 10%) but spread over 1000 square miles. I don't see how the odd wifi mast is going to sort that out.
Posted by BB4FABS over 4 years ago
Anyone know if the availability of 4G mobile in an area is considered to satisfy the BDUK "standard broadband" requirement of 2MB (i.e. the USC)?
Posted by mikejp over 4 years ago
Of course, the great attraction for HMG/L Authorities is that a satellite solution costs .................nothing.

Satellite is up there, punter pays for dish. Job done, tick box, stand for re-election. Simples!

'Affordable' will be the only problem.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 4 years ago
A town like Ashington doesn't need public subsidy. The final 10% does. It mustn't be wasted on satellite. They are too expensive to use if you have a business or a family. They are a good stop gap in emergencies. Do the job once and do it right, it will save money in the long term. The answer for the future is fibre, and altnets can provide it far cheaper than incumbents. Fund them, and competition will take care of the rest.
Posted by Gadget over 4 years ago
@CD - look what has happend to one unfortunate altnet that was awarded £50k for Selling village, they spent that and more and then declared it unviable?
Posted by herdwick over 4 years ago
Catchup TV ? Really ? - they can get a PVR and learn some planning skills. Seriously. There comes a point where you can't tax the majority to provide a whimsical luxury to a few.
Posted by fibrebunny over 4 years ago
Catchup TV does seem something of a waste on such a restricted service. Sharing media with family or utilising media rich websites would surely be of greater importance to home users. Software purchases or indeed updates would also need to be carefully considered. I wouldn't care to budget on such a paltry allowance but in some circumstances needs must.
Posted by rjohnloader over 4 years ago
In the hilly bits what if you are on the North facing South side of the valley - no satellite in sight. Wireless is so right an answer with possibly small microwave dishes for linking. Relatively cheap
Posted by cyberdoyle over 4 years ago
Its not just catch up TV fibrebunny and herdwick, in the future all content will come through the internet, and masts won't be kept up in many areas. Guess which areas will fail first? clue: it won't be cities. not that I care, I don't watch TV, but it is a great comfort to many, especially the housebound.
Posted by chrysalis over 4 years ago
did anyone expect otherwise? with the USC been so low was clear for a reason for such a low amount and it kept the door open for wireless.
Posted by WWWombat over 4 years ago
The recent story on 10Gbps in Cornwall backs this theory up. The V3 article has this quote:

"During the visit to the county to oversee BT's work hooking up the county with superfast broadband, Scarbrough confirmed that at present, the firm has shelved plans to use LTE services to meet its coverage targets.
He explained this was because as various fibre rollouts made the percentage of premises that would need LTE smaller and smaller, it became harder to see an economic case to need 4G capabilities, and the firm would use technologies like satellite to fill in any remaining gaps."
Posted by michaels_perry over 4 years ago
Satellite has its problems and is not really a viable solution. Almost 98% of home are able to receive signals from the Astra satellites (e.g. Sky TV, etc.) The hill 'problem' mentioned does not exist in most areas, but where there are high mountains very close and south-east of a property it could be, they are the 2% not covered by Astra. (Just calculate the azimuth and elevation needed and check that against the local topology - I trained many system installers when Astra was launched so have some knowledge.)
Posted by michaels_perry over 4 years ago
T%he real issue is whether satellite internet is any use? My experience at work is that it is not in most cases unless it is the ONLY way of getting access. We had speeds slower than copper wires could provide. Coupling two feeds in a balanced configuration was much faster than anything the satellite could offer - and considerably cheaper too!
The 10% who are being left out are mostly fed with overhead telephone wires, so fibre can be strung on existing poles cheaply, proved in Berkshire. So no one should be left out unless the 'profit driven' pen-pushers are told where to get off.
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