Ariane 5 brings satellite broadband closer to home

The rocket has successfully transported two satellites into orbit, bringing broadband services within closer reach of consumers that are unable to access a high-speed fixed-line service

French commercial space transportation company Arianespace has successfully launched its Ariane 5 rocket, with dual-payloads set to provide satellite broadband and television services to areas in Europe and beyond.

The launch occurred on Friday at the ELA-3 spaceport in Korou in French Guiana. It took 49 minutes to separate the satellites from the spacecraft and establish a signal after launch. Avanti Communications' Hylas 1 satellite was on board Ariane 5; it will theoretically be able to supply up to350,000 residential customers with broadband connections of up to 10Mbps.

Ariane 5 image

Ariane 5, complete with two satellites, takes off from its launch pad in French Guiana on Friday. Photo credit: ESA

Satellite-based communications often use the Ku-band (12-18GHz) of spectrum, but Hylas 1 will operate in the Ka-band (26.5-40GHz), allowing for higher throughput.

Avanti's service is set to go live for European consumers in the first quarter of 2011 with monthly charges starting at around £25. The company is planning to launch a new satellite late in the first quarter of 2011 — known as New Dawn — that will have capacity for voice, internet and wireless backhaul communications for customers in Africa

The Ariane 5 launcher also carried Intelsat 17 (IS-17), a C and Ku-band satellite that will bring television services to Russia, Asia, Africa, Europe and the Middle East.

Meanwhile, communications provider O3b announced on Monday that it has secured the final round of funding for its project to launch a satellite that will provide "fibre-quality" connections for telecoms and broadband operators.

The new funding takes the total cash investment to $1.2bn (£772m) and includes backers such as HSBC, Google, Liberty Global, SES and the Development Bank of South Africa. O3b stands for 'Other 3 billion', which refers to the fact that half the world's population does not have access to broadband internet connections.

"I am delighted that we are now fully funded and working towards a firm launch date," O3b chief executive Mark Rigolle said in a statement. "This news means that we are now truly on the map — our customers can be assured that O3b is a reality. This has allowed us to secure our funding and to achieve our goal of reaching the billions who have so far been poorly served or completely cut off from the internet — the greatest business and information resource of our time."

O3b plans to begin providing commercial services during the first half of 2013.