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Ka-band leads the drive for 'broadband for all'

There has been much recent debate at both channel and end-user level on the availability of high speed broadband. Look at the official 'not spot' figures for the UK and then talk to those individuals and small businesses around the country unable to get consistent broadband delivery and two very different pictures emerge.  Latest broadband research shows that parts of the Midlands and the South East, for example, are just as likely to suffer from so-called sub-2Mbps 'slow spots' or 'black spots' as the more obvious, remoter geographies.    

More broadly across Europe too, it is generally accepted there are at least 30 million locations lacking broadband access – defined as connection to the internet at download speeds exceeding 512kb/s - with the European Commission targeting 100 per cent broadband across the EU by 2013, two years ahead of the revised UK target. 

And arguably the potential is even greater than this: individual countries such as Germany and the UK are now defining broadband in terms of higher download speeds of 2Mbp/s, taking the number of underserved households to 55 million - representing a huge, untapped market opportunity.    

Until now the options open to resellers of broadband in meeting customer demands for universal access have been limited.  However, with the launch of the HYLAS 1 satellite in November 2010, all this is set to change dramatically.

New markets

In the past, satellite has not always been seen as delivering a fully competitive alternative in providing robust, cost-effective communications.  Yet, more recently, there have been a number of technology developments which have significantly narrowed the gap. 

And with HYLAS 1 satellite - Europe's first dedicated Ka-band satellite - the next few months will see nothing short of a revolution, with in the availability of broadband services to the consumer market throughout Europe.  This will open up an exciting new opportunity for the channel, who for the first time will be able to offer all domestic users affordable broadband, including those in rural and remote areas not currently served by terrestrial networks. 

In addition, a second HYLAS satellite, due for launch in 2012, will help meet the anticiapted expansion of the European satellite broadband market.  This is predicted to grow by more than 30% CAGR over the next five years – from 80,000 subscribers in 2009 to more than 650,000 in 2015 - according  to Northern Star Research.     

Importantly for channel partners, these services are available from experienced and well-respected satellite service providers, substantially reducing the overall operating costs of satellite services, both in terms of bandwidth utilisation and systems hardware.  The result is that resellers will be able offer users reliable high-speed always-on satellite Internet access backed by market-leading service and technical support quality - at a price end-users can afford.                    

Consistent broadband delivery  

As a result, Ka-band end-users will be able to experience exactly the same high level and consistent quality broadband, irrespective of whether they are in central London, the heart of the Tatra mountains or the middle of the Black Sea.  There will be no waiting for land-lines to be connected and guaranteed 100 per cent coverage, with no 'not spots'. 

Satellite communications have traditionally used C-band frequencies (between 4 and 8 GHz) and Ku-band (between 12 and 18Ghz), whereas the latest Ka-band uses between 26.5 and 40Ghz to communicate with the satellite.  This offers the advantage of more bits per second – more than twice the capacity of the earlier satellite technology. 

At the same time, other issues that have historically impaired satellite performance, such as rain fade, have been directly addressed by a number of new related technologies designed to ensure that the connection stays alive and minimises latency. 

The availability of Ka-band provides a unique opportunity for sellers of satellite communications to fill the gap between the promise of universal broadband and the current rather more earthbound reality.

by Christopher Britton, CEO, Hughes Europe