Satellite broadband has come a long way in the last few years and it appears the European Commission has put its weight behind this as a solution, especially as they are now stating "100% basic broadband coverage achieved across Europe – EU target achieved ahead of schedule. Next stop is fast broadband for all.".
For many the EU Digital Agenda and its goals were seen as transcending the mess of our own political and commercial battles with broadband, but the reality is that things are not very different. Or to put it another way, talk is cheap and action is difficult achieve, the bubble burst for the Digital Agenda when the Connecting Europe facility saw its budget shrink from €9bn to €1bn and when countries like Poland still only have coverage of xDSL, cable, FTTP or fixed wireless to 69% of the population the UK is not likely to see too much of this money.
Adopting satellite broadband can be understood in some areas, as in theory the number of KA and KU band services give plenty of choice, but satellite services are still often the measure of last resort. UK pricing for a basic 20 Meg down/6 Meg up service is £29.99 inc VAT but this only buys you a 10GB usage allowance. Average fixed line broadband usage was 23GB per month two years ago, so an average home really needs to consider the £49.99 or £74.99 packages. We saw earlier in 2013 lots of complaints over the scale of the speed drops at peak times, and while things have improved we still see people reporting peak time speed drops well beyond what fixed line solutions offer. So while services like Skype and video streaming will work, you might find for home evening use that performance will be very variable.
As part of the EU push to show people what services are available a central clearing house for satellite broadband services across Europe has been launched, BroadbandForAll.
We guess the question now is with the 30 Mbps for everyone Digital Agenda target in 2020, all we need is for a few more satellites to be launched and the providers to boost speeds a fraction more.
It was expected that the UK Universal Service Commitment would involve some satellite services for the most remote properties, but while we still have lots of uncertainty about what the final few percent of the UK will get to improve broadband speeds there is still a small hope the UK will not follow the European wave of a hand approach. Technically there are lots of solutions available, the problem arises from how much to spend to connect the hardest to reach places and with value for money being a key factor it is very likely the best solutions may be skipped to hit shorter term goals and silence the increasing volume of cries for we want better solutions now, oh and we don't want to pay more than £20 per month.