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SES declare satellite broadband suitable for final 5% superfast broadband roll-out
Tuesday 27 October 2015 18:44:19 by Andrew Ferguson

SES has announced that its superfast broadband pilot in the UK is showing positive results and reports good take-up in the trial areas.

"The solution was initially installed in Luxborough – where 61.5 percent of people participating in a free one-month trial have chosen to sign up to a one-year contract. It was subsequently rolled out to Simonsbath, where free trials are ongoing, and Priddy, which is currently in the community engagement phase. Both Luxborough and Simonsbath have a population of about 100 households and are located in Exmoor National Park, Somerset, while Priddy with more than 200 homes is in the county’s Rodney Stoke Nature Reserve. "

SES on initial superfast trials

The pilots are looking at two methods of deployment, a larger central dish with 5 GHz distribution to premises close enough to pick up a good 5 GHz signal and then more traditional individual dishes for those further away from the central hub. Interestingly a lot is made of the fact that the satellite service can provide an up to 25 Mbps service which is being called superfast, this is very different to the standard used on the much hated Openreach roll-out where a line only counts as superfast if it connects at 25 Mbps or faster with a good number managing to connect between 40 and 80 Mbps. We understand that the shared community system will have access to a faster satellite based connection to try and avoid the situation where one user can hog the system.

For those wanting to find out more there is a YouTube clip that goes into more detail on what the service is delivering.

Broadband Speed Test result over a SES Satellite Connection
Broadband Speed Test on Satellite Broadband (large image)

The above speed test was from someone in Cornwall so we presume not on the superfast service, but shows what can be achieved, the one to two second delay at the start is down to the latency of the connection but reasonable speeds seem to be achieved once data has started flowing. Not everyone with a satellite connection gets these speeds though and one user who tested near Luxborough recorded 3.7 Mbps download and 0.1 Mbps upload, this is better than the results from an ADSL connection in the area but while the ADSL is slower the test is actually better and would support low bandwidth interactive activity better.

Satellite broadband has a part to play and the speed with which it can be deployed is very attractive, but if it is to be used for more than just a small number in the final 5% of the UK we would like there to be undertakings over a timescale for improved terrestrial services, e.g. replacing the satellite central hub with a fixed wireless system or maybe a path towards other options such as FTTH.

The pricing for the trials where satellite broadband is being deployed as a USC solution in West Yorkshire and Suffolk highlight the achilies heel of this as a solution for 100,000's of premises i.e. the price and cost of additional bandwidth where a 10GB monthly allowance is £33.33 per month and if you want a 40GB allowance the price rises to £65.65 or an eye watering £98 for a 100GB allowance. We hope that the SES system in the superfast pilots is more generous on the usage allowances, but our prediction is that while people will welcome the improvements as soon as something better arrives they will snap it up.


Posted by ahockings 12 months ago
It's bloody awful plain and simple.
Went to do a computer job last Wednesday near to here in a new build where they hadn't got round to asking BT about putting a new line in (there are no lines near as it's remote from other houses) so they had Satellite installed.
Download speed was quite often 25 meg but the latency was just awful (800ms) and waiting for a heavy website to load was painful. Way slower than my 1.7Mbps ADSL.
I'm afraid this should only be for really remote last resort situations.
Last 1% - 2% I would say.
Posted by ksec 12 months ago
This is something I have in my mind for a long time, how feasible, technically speaking, or i should say scientifically speaking, are broadband from Satellite?

I say scientifically because we are fundamentally limited by the laws of physics. Sending wavelength signals ins and outs to Space. Can we get below 100ms and 1Gbps?

I say 1 Gbps because it is likely the signal is then shared out to a larger number of people.

If not, why cant we just lay out the god damn fibre cables.
Posted by mpellatt 12 months ago
ksec - It's the latency that's got a hard limit with a geosynchronous satellite. With an LEO (low earth orbit) system with a constellation of satellites (a la Iridium) it's much improved, as they're a lot closer to the earth.
But if you think SES's prices are eye-watering, look at Iridium's.
Tethered balloon is probably a better overall solution.....
Posted by mpellatt 12 months ago
I should have pointed out that Iridium's market is data comms to mobile terminals, not fixed ones. And that a tethered balloon is a fixed terminal solution.
But again, as you say, best answer is just get the goddam fibre out there.
Posted by MobiusPizza 12 months ago
Bandwidth is only one side of the equation, you can see a 898ms latency, that's nearly 1 second. Imagine clicking every link on a website and having to wait 1 second every time for it to load.
Posted by AndrueC 12 months ago
Geosync satellites sit just under 36Mm above the surface. The laws of physics mean that round trip time is 240ms (damn near quarter of a second). That delay is unavoidable in at least one direction (the downstream).

You can avoid it on the upstream by using a landline in that direction which may be acceptable in a lot of applications.

If all communication is via satellite then you're looking at an absolute minimum of nearly half a second ping times.
Posted by AndrueC 12 months ago
In practice satellite comms are encrypted and I believe compressed. Both of these add a bit more ltency to the connection which (I assume) is why typical latencies are around 750ms.

Contention is the other bugbear. The satellites have only so much bandwidth and it has to be shared between everyone. In practice modern satellites use beam technology to reduce the contention in the downstream but it's still a problem. In the upstream you can't avoid it so they rely on TDM but with large numbers of people that probably adds to the latency.
Posted by craski 12 months ago
IMHO public money should not be wasted on providing Geostationary satellite broadband connections, its a technology with known limitation and is effectively obsolescent. 4G can offer better connectivity with less latency. Invest the money in that instead and kill two birds with one stone!
Posted by rorrocks 12 months ago
Maybe these pilot trials are why other SES users have been seeing such hopeless performance in the last few months. The service is already hopelessly congested and if they increase data usage allowances to entice new customers then they will just end up with another situation like the Tooway debacle from a couple of years ago.
Posted by chilting 12 months ago
I am not sure how SES can claim that this trial is a success.
We must assume that everyone who took part in the trial actually wanted to improve their very meager ADSL speeds. But the fact less than two thirds actually signed up is not particularly impressive and is probably a reflection of dissatisfaction.
Posted by chilting 12 months ago
Following on from my previous comment -
It would be a very brave politician who inflicts satellite broadband on the final 5% with such a low satisfaction rating.
Posted by gerarda 12 months ago
Although the BDUK site refers to Suffolk piloting this, the Better Broadband for Suffolk scheme has no mention. I understand an announcement scheduled for this month has been put back to November. Given that Suffolk's original proposal was for a wireless overlay that got killed off by BDUK and the EU I suspect they are trying to minimise the numbers being fobbed off with a service they know is sub-standard
Posted by craski 12 months ago
We all know stats can be manipulated to look better than they actually are. If Luxborough only has approximately 100 households then how can 61.5% of those have taken up the offer because the nearest whole fraction giving 61.5% uptake is 123/200.
Posted by fastman 12 months ago
don't believe everything you read on this as an success
Posted by gerarda 12 months ago
@craski I read somewhere that only a handful of people in Luxborough had signed up to the pilot, so the 61.5% could be 8 out of 13.
Posted by 21again 12 months ago
I may be wrong but Sat BB is way too expensive for a great many people in rural areas on low wages especially when compared to FTTC deals, it might be taken up by businesses who are willing to pay the extra for it.
Posted by craski 12 months ago
@gerada that sounds much more likely!
The stats are clearly presented in such a way so as not to lie but be economical with the truth (as they so often are manipulated to do). With so few people in the trial, unless they release hard numbers detailing number of premises offered the trial, number of premises that participated and of those that participated, how many signed up the service, these percentage stats dont tell us much at all.
Posted by craski 12 months ago
As far as I can tell there are no truly unlimited data tariffs on sat broadband. There are sat tariffs with around 100GB data usage but these are typically around £80 to £100 per month so about 4x the price of a typical "unlimited" data tariff from an FTTC/VDSL provider.
Posted by WWWombat 12 months ago
Congestion: remember that usage is shared - but sharing isn't just across the entire spot beam. Each ISP/service will have their own sub-quota, so congestion on a BDUK service could be less congested than Tooway, or more congested.
Posted by silverdove 12 months ago
This is just wrong on so many levels...price, capacity, monthly limits and with so many government forms only being available online it is just a joke. It doesn't take account of pensioners and low earners in the farming community where many areas are black-spots - no way can we afford to pay the sort of prices being talked about.
I live 3 miles from a large town in Cornwall, where SuperFast is available. My current D/L speed averages 1.8Mb/s and upload 0.3Mb/s - but at least I have got something!
Posted by kijoma 12 months ago
Wow, so they have completely side stepped fixed wireless and gone for the east tick box option. Just as openreach was the first easy tick box option. So many ex satellite customers now use Fixed wireless.. this has to mean something surely? oh well..
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