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Broadband not-spots may benefit from pre-election Budget
Tuesday 17 March 2015 12:57:19 by Andrew Ferguson

If you are one of those who have missed out on the superfast roll-outs and your broadband is distinctly sub 2 Mbps then it may be worth not drinking too much on St Patricks Day and set some of the supplies aside to celebrate an announcement on broadband spending.

The rumour machine is suggesting that the Universal Service Commitment may receive a funding boost, exactly what this means is unknown and given the few lines broadband usually gets in the budget we may not know much more detail immediately after the Chancellor's speech. It has been talked about for some time and as such is not really new news but a mention in the budget that the SuperConnected Cities voucher scheme is to be extended to cover the whole UK would help to boost a lot of businesses in both towns and rural area. For the critics of the main superfast BDUK scheme, the fact that the vouchers can be used with any of the numerous providers and technologies means smaller alt-net providers are keen to chase for new business.

What is new in the last day or so has been a couple of people talking about an expected announcement that satellite broadband will become the adopted champion for the USC. Politically it has the advantage of being very quick to install and would tick a serious box allowing farmers to submit their paperwork online, although in the past it has been suggested that the submission portals have problems with the high latency of satellite connections, which if true is very poor system specification when the web based system was created.

The satellite transponders covering the UK do not have the capacity to handle a million plus connections suddenly appearing, but for business use it will help cover the period until we have 95% superfast coverage in 2017 and with other improvements from 2017 to 2020, it may help to avoid the need to relocate a business.

If there is a wad of money to be thrown at the USC problem, which itself has periodic rumours of vanishing, or being delayed then we hope it is not targeted at a single technology, but will be used to promote the range of options available. The problem all along with the USC has been it has played second fiddle to the preferred superfast broadband targets and with budgets limited, both BT and the local authorities appear keen to push the superfast targets to avoid spending twice on the same properties.

Update 8:30am The rumour machine is going into overdrive, BBC Radio 1 News just mentioned budget may introduce ultra-fast broadband across the UK and The Independent is saying To introduce ultra-fast broadband around the UK. While this sounds like potentially a massive change in the BDUK focus, since ultra-fast is usually 100 Mbps and faster speeds, we suspect it is the financial journalists take on an expansion of the super-connected cities scheme that itself was original touted as creating ultra-fast islands in UK cities. It would be nice to wrong, and for the Chancellor to announce investment of a few billion in a long term FTTH future.


Posted by BlackAle over 2 years ago
not-spots I presume?
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 2 years ago
Well with poor broadband they will have a lack of bots too probably :-)

Fingers have been re-aligned to keyboard spacing now.
Posted by johnmiles101 over 2 years ago
Perhaps someone who understands Satellites better than me can explain the economics of this.

But this my estimate:
I believe it costs about £2m pa to lease a 36 MHz transponder in Europe.
Assuming fairly efficient modulation gives you about 80 Mbit/s bandwidth.
Per user average for poor Broadband is 80 kb (this is low, most DSL line usage is much higher).
So that allows 1000 users per transponder, or cost £2000 pa per user.
How can this cost be recovered for domestic broadband ?
Or have I got something very wrong ?

Posted by chilting over 2 years ago
I like the bit about the voucher scheme being extended but satellite, no!
Satellite is only the answer in very rural areas and should be used very sparingly.
Posted by WWWombat over 2 years ago
I think you are using the wrong type of satellite transponder. Eutelsat's KaSat has 90Gbps split over 82 spots, each of 240MHz. They say it can support 1 million users, which equates to 90Kbps average per user. That matches the BSG scenario for lowest usage.

There are 4 spot beams pointing at the UK, which would make for 50,000 users in the UK - which is about 0.2% of UK properties.
Posted by WWWombat over 2 years ago
You might find more detailed economics in the BSG study from 2010.

You can get more background from Ofcom's document
Posted by johnmiles101 over 2 years ago
@WWWombat. Thanks for the info. Looked at the Ka band multi-beam satellites, and as you say, they appear to be significantly cheaper per kbit; about an order of magnitude cheaper than the Ku band ones I originally found.
If the prices I saw are correct they give 100kbit for a few hundred pounds pa. which is OK if you have nothing better and latency is not an issue ( Note current UK DSL subs average data requirement is around 250kb - 500kb per sub for mixed usage)
Posted by RuralWire over 2 years ago
The rumours could be directly related to the proposed USC satellite broadband scheme, which BDUK were working on late last year, with a view to having something in place by the end of this year. Chris Townsend and Andrew Field of BDUK talked about the proposal when giving evidence to the EFRA Committee last December.
Posted by gerarda over 2 years ago
Satelite vouchers would be a real kick in the teeth for rural communities that have seen their council tax money spent upgrading people with a comparatively decent service only to be fobbed off years later with a fourth rate technology
Posted by gah789 over 2 years ago
Daily use patterns for our very rural system show that usage is concentrated into 8 hours per day. For more urban systems it extends over 12 hours. Either way the practical requirement is 0.2 to 0.3 Mbps per user. That means that the Eutelsat beams pointed at the UK can support 15,000-20,000 users.

In Scotland alone the latest consultation states that there are 51,000 premises that can't get the USC speed. There isn't any way that promising to meet 2 Mbps for all primarily by satellite can be delivered. At best it is a marginal contribution.
Posted by chilting over 2 years ago
Offering Satellite vouchers would just be another way of saying that BDUK has failed the rural community beyond the reach of FTTC.
Posted by ahockings over 2 years ago
Satellite is a waste of ******* time quite frankly.
It's what's going to happen though. Why?
Because politicians are in charge and they have not a clue about how to wipe their own **** let alone anything about broadband.
If they had one ounce of sense they would call off the whole train thing and divert the cash to FTTP for all.
Job done.... for decades to come!!
It's not rocket science. My 7 year old could work it out.
Posted by RuralWire over 2 years ago

BT made their intentions clear late last year by stating that 'satellite broadband providers offer services across the UK at a range of speeds and prices. This means 2Mbps broadband is essentially available to all premises by a variety of means.' For communities in the final 5%, the current batch of wireless broadband technology trials might. just might, offer an alternative way forward.
Posted by MCM999 over 2 years ago
@ahockings "It's not rocket science. My 7 year old could work it out." 7 year olds aren't particularly good at economics. How much are you prepared to contribute towards the billions required or are you expecting someone else to pick up the bill?
Posted by Michael_Chare over 2 years ago
@MCM999. The cost of my hopefully soon to be installed FTTP connection won't be much different from what I am paying for a copper sub 2mb connection now.
Posted by WWWombat over 2 years ago
The cost to *you* isn't much different per month, but that's the problem for a telco ... They won't get their costs back for 20 years.

The risk is that you swap service to some new tech in 5 years.
Posted by fastman over 2 years ago
michael The cost of my hopefully soon to be installed FTTP connection won't be much different from what I am paying for a copper sub 2mb connection now - that woud be the FTTP connection you have no choice of service provider have to fund the VOIP and surt out all the other stuff - assum you did the sef dig accross your ground (or paid the £200
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