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Short term fix of satellite broadband for USC is go
Sunday 06 December 2015 11:45:10 by Andrew Ferguson

It appears the Universal Service Commitment Satellite Broadband scheme is to form part of a Christmas giveaway to ensure that the coverage at 2 Mbps and faster USC commitment by the end of 2015 goal is met. A subsidy of £350 is to be made available to homes and businesses who get under 2 Mbps now, the scheme we believe will be ran by local authorities with them in control of who does and does not get a voucher.

The up to £350 is only to cover the broadband hardware and installation of the satellite dish, and while monthly plans for satellite broadband do start at around £20 to £25 per month these are usually only for around 10GB of data usage. For the basic tasks of online banking, sending and receiving email and official paperwork satellite is fine, and while people do manage VoIP, video streaming and Skype across satellite connections the data usage can climb rapidly meaning people are hit by fair usage policies or having to buy a more expensive package.

If local authorities are left in charge of the vouchers it is likely that we may see some people having trouble getting vouchers i.e. we have heard some councils say that fixed wireless covers an area and that is why the superfast projects are not going there when in reality someone has tried to order a fixed wireless service buy geography (e.g. hills, trees, buildings) may mean a usable signal is possible.

While the BDUK gap funding and commercial roll-outs may be considered a failure by those who have missed out so far, things are a lot better than a few years ago, and as things stand on 5th December 2015 the 30 worst constituencies in terms of premises below the 2 Mbps USC limit can be seen below.

Universal Service Commitment 30 worst served areas of the UK
30 areas of the UK with the worst 2 Mbps broadband coverage

There is a bit of a political battle raging and while Labour had its USC target of 2 Mbps for all by 2012, given the timescale of under 18 months they had if they had won the 2010 General Election the only solution would have been a much larger satellite subsidy scheme.

Across the UK the number who might be chasing the subsidy is around 250,000 to 350,000 (our tracking states 0.8%) and the continuing superfast roll-outs should reduce this further and though we can foresee more complaints from people who feel they should not have to pay the full fibre premium price to end up with something in the 2 to 10 Mbps region, which while a lot better than their existing intermittent sub 1 Mbps ADSL connection.

Once some official detail on the scheme from DCMS is available we will take a look and provide the appropriate links. The big question now is how soon will the scheme be able to scale up, and how much installation capacity do the satellite operators have.


Posted by cyberdoyle 11 months ago
What a superfarce. Wasting all this money on a second stop gap solution. You really couldn't make it up. When is government gonna get some moral fibre and do the job properly? A fast train for a few should not take priority over digital access for all with a fit for purpose connection.
Posted by generallee94 11 months ago
Wouldn't it be wiser for investment in the existing infrastructure by perhaps READSL... surely posting 0.5Mb/s to 2Mb/s would be far better than making people switch infrastructures and costing both parties more cash.
Posted by generallee94 11 months ago
actually.. scratch that, I just did a quick search and found reasons not to use READSL
Posted by TheEulerID 11 months ago
The clue is "short term". There is simply no other way of covering large numbers of remote properties quickly as, even with unlimited money, there isn't the resource or logistics to do it.
It's a bit like solving the housing crisis. You can't magic a large, trained, workforce out of thin air.
Posted by craski 11 months ago
The really sad thing is that they obviously fully intend to use satellite to meet the 10 Mbps USC too. What a waste of money. Good news for WISPs though, demand should be high in all these areas ignored by BDUK.
Posted by cyberdoyle 11 months ago
If the BDUK funding had been used for the rural areas via altnets then we'd be part way there by now. Instead it has gone into cherrypicking a few semi urban areas so they can go a bit faster. We are still stuck with an obsolete phone network and aren't even at the start line yet. Satellites were always going to be BTs version of 'let them eat cake'. That is why they partnered with AVANTI way back when...
Posted by Llety 11 months ago
We had a Sat. system for just over a year. Did not work when it rained, did not work with certain types of cloud cover, did not work evenings or most of the weekend. For a fair part of the week 0.5mb BT ADSL outperformed 78mb Sat. Unless Sat. has got a *LOT* better in the last 18 months, it will remain a waste of money and a waste of potential of people are forced to use it.
Posted by Llety 11 months ago
sorry, I noticed a typo, 78mb -> 8mb. If it really was 78mb, I might have had a different view on the technology.
Posted by TheEulerID 11 months ago
Altnets wouldn't have delivered either. They don't have the capacity or resources to cover this number of properties. With hundreds of projects to manage there would inevitably be a large number of Fibre Garden type failures.

Gigaclear, Hyperoptic can (and are) handling some, but they are no way equipped for national level projects.
Posted by craski 11 months ago
I hope that one or two people taking a satellite subsidy in a postcode doesn't scupper the rest of a community working with organisations like Community Broadband Scotland to get funding for a proper solution.
Posted by cyberdoyle 11 months ago
TheEulerID from your two comments on this post is it fair to assume that instead of building new homes you would be happy putting tents up for families? because that is the equivalent of FTTC. Gigaclear and Hyperoptic are the equivalent of modern homes. We need more of them, many more. Not more copper shanties. And fibre garden didn't fail, BDUK processes failed it. And a lesson learnt is not a fail. we wouldn't have lightbulbs if a fail was fatal.
Posted by TheEulerID 11 months ago

After the war, when there was a housing crisis, the government put up prefabs as it was more important to put roofs over people's heads than worry about the limited lifespan.
In even more extreme circumstances (like refugees), tents are indeed used for speed.
The key point here is speed. Grand plans can take decades.
Posted by gerarda 11 months ago
Speed has hardly featured in these plans. 15 years since adsl rollout and still no universal coverage. 6 years since 2Mbps was promised and now we get a "solution" that cannot deliver even that if all 350,000 took it up
Posted by bobatbanktop 11 months ago
I have been on Avanti satellite for a year now as my fixed line was unreliable and about 1Mps. I have found it to be very reliable. Rain has to be almost biblical to cut it off and this is usually only for a few minutes. Latency of 0.7secs is a pain but you can live with it. Speed is around 10Mps. Cost is £50 per month for 30G including £5 rental on the equipment - ouch!! My neighbour is using 4G, we live in a remote part of the Peak District, surely this has to be a way forward using signal enhancing aerials.
Posted by Blackmamba 11 months ago
Hi broadband Watchers.
By the time the LA,s have processed the customers that are under 2 meg the 350k will have dropped due to the opening of the FTTC which also has a few months time lag involved before the % results are produced. There is a very high % that are not interested. I feel that many customers will not take the queens shilling due to running costs.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 11 months ago
@blackmamba there is only a lag of a week or so on showing changes in the coverage figures for superfast/USC/USO

You may be once again mixing and matching your availability (% coverage) and take-up data (the evidence from people doing speed tests).
Posted by Blackmamba 11 months ago
Hi Andrews Staff.
I checked Milland Exchange Cab1 Hants and found it open today not on Sam Knows or where and When I will wait and see who long it takes to see some speed test on Thinkbroadband Maps.
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