Is the unlimited party on satellite broadband about to end?
Satellite broadband has played a role in getting broadband to other parts of the UK where commercial operators have found it uneconomic to deliver a service, and there has been lobbying for it to be more widely adopted now that the headline speeds for packages is 20 Mbps - ten times faster than the Universal Service Commitment target.
Alas this bubble has started to slowly pop as users of the services have been complaining of slow speeds on at least some of the packages that are available, delivering 0.5 Mbps to 1 Mbps at peak times and then suddenly speeding up shortly after midnight. Interestingly the speed probe technology used by the providers was still giving customers good speeds, but anything linking to the public Internet would run slow.
The reason for this news item is that resellers have started to drop the unlimited package (generally sold for £75 per month) from their listings and it is being replaced by a 50GB usage limit (with unlimited usage 11pm to 7am).
It is interesting to look at the tooway.co.uk website, where the core packages are listed, which is currently indicating that the unlimited service is actually limited to just 20,000 subscriptions and the overnight removal of metering only applies to traffic that is for private, family and personal use.
The KA satellites carry many transponders, but these are usually spread out to cover the whole of Europe meaning that for any particular satellite there may only be 3 or 4 transponder beams for the whole UK, and as a transponder has a throughput limit of 475 Mbps this could prove a bottleneck. Oddly the fact that the speed probe tests gave good results, suggests the issue may not be satellite capacity but rather the purchased amount of capacity from the ground station to the Internet at large.