The European Union’s Digital Agenda calls for every citizen and business to have access to broadband that provides at least 2 megabits per second by 2013. Today that’s largely possible. In fact more than 99 per cent of the population of the EU can get ten times that.
“Now that twenty megabit bandwidths are commonly on offer and some tariffs offer customers unlimited data the case for satellite broadband has, in our view, reached a tipping point,” says Oliver Johnson, Chief Executive at Point Topic.
Despite the satellite industry at last having a story to tell and changing the perceptions of satellite for some, the market is not moving as quickly as it should. In the words of one distributor, “There are a lot of people who still do not have a clue about satellite”.
This has been changing, gradually, since the launch of Ka satellites around the world. The step change in bandwidth and costs made possible by the updated technology has meant an acceleration in take-up but satellite subscribers still make up less than half of one per cent of the total broadband market.
There are downsides, but overall satellite is now a more attractive package Satellite operators have addressed many of the issues that affected earlier deployments making the current offering considerably more attractive to consumers.
According to the FCC satellite in the US is the best technology for ‘promised’ bandwidth as on average you get 130 per cent plus of what you pay for, at least in North America. A study for Ofcom, the UK regulator, found that users ranked satellite as the best browsing experience in a blind test.
“There remains the latency issue. It just takes time for your data to make the journey to space and back. O3b, backed by Google amongst others, actually puts their satellites in a lower orbit to reduce the time lags. This isn’t something we’re likely to see in Europe this decade though,” says Johnson.
Despite the downsides, which in data terms primarily affects gamers or those trying to run remote desktops, Ka band satellite provides a realistic alternative for anyone who wants internet access.
According to Point Topic’s latest work for the European Commission there are more than 20 million people in Europe with no access to fixed broadband and more than 200 million who cannot get superfast broadband today.
“Satellite subscription costs are affordable for most, the bandwidth and data caps have improved significantly in the last ten years and you can be up and running comparatively quickly. In fact satellite isn’t just for those hard to reach areas any more, it’s turning into a real competitor for bandwidth provision in a number of situations,” says Johnson.