Satellite broadband for the last 5%?

The UK National Audit Office report into the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) rural broadband programme highlights a 2 year delay which could have been addressed by greater use of satellite connections.

The original DCMS BDUK programme consisted of two equally important parts: 1) the Universal Service Commitment (USC) aiming to deliver a minimum of 2Mbps to everywhere in the UK as well as 2) the superfast target of 90 per cent coverage.

This minimum of 2Mbps is being delivered by satellite at a reasonable cost on equipment which can also deliver 20Mbps on the same installation. Effective use of satellite technology such as the SES Broadband Services (SBBS) service available from us would have met the USC target nationwide by the deadline of 2015 and provided competition in the marketplace.

As part of the consortium that submitted the third tender, we made our ability to hit this target throughout UK and provide an effective solution to “all premises” having access to the minimum of 2Mbps a key part of the proposal.

Schemes using satellite to deliver broadband into rural areas have been in place in Scotland, Wales and on the continent since 2008/9.

The original budget for the rural broadband programme of some £530 million could have provided 1.7 million satellite installations capable of receiving 20Mbps in advance of the 2015 deadline. This technology does not require extra phone line rental unlike terrestrial methods.

It’s true that satellite is a high latency solution and does not (yet) give true superfast speeds but in view of the report’s conclusion that only 9 out of the 44 projects will hit 90 per cent coverage by May 2015, would the UK’s rural users prefer to have a solution today which while not perfect, works, or carry on waiting for the promised land? And if they’re not in the favoured 90 per cent, they’re not even on that list.

Satellite solutions such as the SES Broadband Service available from Satellite Internet are available now and being installed all over the UK.

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