Britain can boast a cheaper broadband satellite market than fellow European nations, according to research published by Oftel on Wednesday.
In its latest Internet and broadband benchmarking study, the regulator has found that both one-way and two-way satellite services can be bought for less in the UK than in France, Germany or Sweden.
Satellite broadband is one alternative for homes and businesses that cannot get broadband via either cable or DSL. Two types are available -- two-way, which provides both a fast uplink and a fast downlink, and one-way, where a user gets a fast downlink but must upload information much more slowly, via a telephone line.
According to Oftel, two-way satellite services can cost just over £60 per month in the UK, compared to the equivalent of almost £70 per month in Sweden, £85 per month in Germany and £170 per month in France.
"Prices for two-way satellite services are generally above prices for DSL and cable modem services, although it is unclear how much of this price difference can be attributed to differences in the service parameters such as speed, contention ratio, Web hosting and security," explained the report.
Oftel cited Bridge Broadband as the cheapest supplier of two-way satellite services in the UK, followed by BT Openworld, Space IP, I-sat and Aramiska.
For one-way services, prices are more similar across Europe -- the main difference being the cost of the telephone calls when uploading data.
In the UK, Oftel reports, the cheapest one-way satellite service will cost some £34 + VAT per month, compared to the equivalent of £43 + VAT per month in France, £45 + VAT per month in Germany and £89 + VAT per month in Sweden.
The regulator cautions, though, that the satellite broadband market is difficult to measure accurately, because operators are providing a wide range of different services. Some restrict users to a certain amount of downloaded data per month, while others offer different download speeds depending on conditions. One company, Satdrive, lets people pay more to get a faster connection.
"Some one-way satellite services have what appears to be particularly low prices, but these often have limits on guaranteed rates and traffic so it is unclear what level of service is experienced in practice," cautioned Oftel.
Another key distinction between satellite broadband and ADSL is the larger start-up costs, especially for two-way satellite services where the necessary equipment can cost several hundred pounds.