Avanti prepares 10Mbps satellite broadband for Europe

The satellite's launch on Friday could help fulfill the government's target of bringing 2Mbps broadband to everyone in Britain, according to Avanti

Avanti will launch its Hylas 1 satellite on Friday, with the aim of bringing satellite broadband internet connection to Europe, according to the company.

The satellite — known as Hylas 1 — can supply up to 350,000 customers with broadband connections at a download speed of up to 10Mbps.

Hylas 1 can transmit data faster than other satellites as it operates in the Ka-band, which occupies the frequency around 20GHz, according to Avanti chief executive David Williams. The Ka-band, a microwave band of the electromagnetic spectrum, allows Avanti to transmit more data, resulting in a lower cost for the end user, Williams told ZDNet UK on Wednesday.

Once in orbit, the satellite will offer coverage to Europe, with the exception of Scandinavia. Williams said that traditional concerns about weather interference or latency are not issues for Hylas 1.

"The new technology that we invented with [space tech company] Astrium means that we broadcast at eight times the power of a traditional Ku-band satellite, so there's this huge power punching through the atmosphere and that guarantees high availability and high service quality," said Williams. "It's a very, very powerful satellite. Latency is a bit of a myth. If the military is prepared to use K-band satellites to pilot real-time unmanned aerial vehicles, which are actually conducting war-fighting operations, I don't see how latency can pose a problem for someone playing an online game."

The satellite is scheduled to launch on Friday and will begin serving customers in the first quarter of 2011, following post-launch testing and tweaks.

"It looks as though Hylas [1] is slightly better than the design suggested it would be — we have a bit more capacity and we can do a few things that are a bit cleverer than we expected. In this regard our manufacturer has outperformed, so we're going to play with that for a while and that should take us a couple of months," Williams said.

Hylas 1 is capable of delivering speeds of up to 200Mbps but Williams says that the consumer proposition will be limited to 10Mbps, with prices starting from around £25 per month. In terms of end-user infrastructure, the service will require a 60cm satellite dish and a small modem.

The scheme received £24m in 2006 from the European Space Agency to help towards development of the core technology, but has received no government subsidies. The UK government has pledged to bring a minimum of 2Mbps broadband to all homes in Britain.

"We are working with a variety of government customers who want to invest money in deploying the service in the UK," said Williams. "We have worked with the Scottish government who were very pioneering and got into this early... Our message to government is that, given that economic times are hard for everyone, we don't feel that subsidy is essential; we feel we can play a part in making sure that everyone in Britain gets broadband. If government feels it wants to accelerate the rollout of broadband deployment, that's a rational objective, and we'd be delighted to help."

Hylas 1's capacity is already 25 percent booked. Avanti is planning to launch its second Hylas satellite in spring 2011. This satellite will be capable of serving up to 700,000 connections at around 10Mbps.