Eutelsat's Tooway satellite broadband goes live

The company's KA-SAT satellite has begun offering commercial services, delivering fixed line-comparable speeds across Europe and parts of North Africa and the Middle East

Eutelsat's KA-SAT satellite has begun offering commercial broadband services in the UK, the wholesale connectivity operator has announced.

KA-SAT satellite

Eutelsat's KA-SAT satellite, pictured here prior to launch, has begun offering commercial broadband services in the UK. Photo credit: EADS Astrium

The 'Tooway' services, which are being resold through retail ISPs, went live on Tuesday. Consumers are being offered up to 10Mbps on the downlink and 4Mbps on the uplink, while business services will soon reach up to 50Mbps on the downlink and 20Mbps on the uplink. By way of comparison, ADSL-based fixed-line connections tend to offer up to 24Mbps.

KA-SAT offers coverage to Europe and parts of North Africa and the Middle East. The coverage is available in 82 spots, mostly of a 250km diameter — some spots in North Africa have a 500km diameter — and connectivity comes via points of presence in locations such as London, Berlin and Paris.

The wholesale services are sold through Eutelsat affiliate Skylogic. According to Steve Petrie, Skylogic's director for northern Europe, a starting price of around £25 a month will get up to 6Mbps on the downlink and 1Mbps on the uplink, making the service a viable alternative for rural users who cannot get an affordable fixed broadband connection.

However, that monthly charge comes alongside the cost of the satellite dish, which costs £199 upfront or £9.99 a month on rental. The kit can be installed by the user, or professionally for an additional £99 charge.

Digital divide

Petrie told ZDNet UK on Tuesday that, across Europe, 13 million households were beyond the reach of ADSL and 17 million had access speeds below 2Mbps. He said services such as Tooway could help "bridge that digital divide".

KA-SAT offers a total throughput of 70Gbps. Based on the estimate that around 60 percent of connections would be consumer based and 40 percent business based, Petrie said the satellite should be capable of maintaining between one million and 1.5 million connections.

Although satellite communications traditionally suffer from relatively high latency, Petrie said Skylogic was pushing the VoIP capabilities of Tooway, and is also looking at video streaming and video-on-demand. "You can have three TV streams coming in while doing broadband," he said.

We can certainly help by enabling those traditionally hardest-to-reach customers.

– Steve Petrie, Skylogic

Petrie said the company was in talks with Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) about Tooway's potential in helping the government fill in the UK's rural broadband not-spots, but he stressed that "the market and product stand up on their own without additional funding".

"We can certainly help by enabling those traditionally hardest-to-reach customers," Petrie added.

KA-SAT was launched in December 2010, shortly after Avanti sent the rival Ka-band satellite Hylas 1 into space. Avanti's services kicked off in March of this year, with BT signed up to use them to reach remote parts of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.


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