European access to high speed broadband increases thanks to new specialist satellites


Two commercially-owned space satellites have begun offering dedicated high speed broadband access to areas of Europe generally considered unreachable by conventional broadband cable networks, such as some remote parts of Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The Eutelsat-owned Ka-Sat satellite and the Hylas-1 craft run by Avanti carry ultra-high frequencies known as ‘Ka band’ frequencies; and it is these Ka-band frequencies which facilitate the fast data transmission required for broadband-quality communications.

Download speeds available on Ka-Sat, for example, are believed to be up to six Mbps, with maximum upload speeds of up to one Mbps.

In addition, the satellite’s service managers have successfully introduced well-established compensatory technical adjustments to overcome the delays in voice signals – or ‘latency’, so often associated with satellite communications; thus enabling services such as business VoIP (voice over internet protocol) to be carried over the satellite broadband facility. This was recently borne out by tests undertaken by Ka-Sat showing variations between transmission and reception of only 900 milliseconds.

The European Commission estimates that five per cent of Europeans do not currently have any opportunity to obtain access to a broadband facility. The Ka-Sat and Hylas-1 satellites therefore represent a potential answer to European Commission vice-president, Neelie Kroes’ recent call for Europe to ‘get creative about the technology solutions we use’ to help overcome the problem of what have become known in the industry as ‘not-spots’.

The two specialist satellites are not only useful in providing broadband access to outlying geographical areas; they could in future also be used to allow such access to users who happen to be in transit; on planes or in trains, for example. Business VoIP extensions, for example, could therefore become even more flexible, allowing users to make lower cost calls or data transmissions even when in mid-air.