Pie in the sky?

Will broadband satellite communications make a difference?

Will broadband satellite communications make a difference?

Today's deal between Interxion and Cidera to ease delivery of broadband internet content raises some serious questions about the use of satellite technologies as a way of bypassing fixed line infrastructure. The pitiful rollout of DSL services - not just in the UK, we may add - has angered users, and while cable modem-based services are in many cases proving more reliable, they are typically even more limited in geographical reach than their copper line alternative. Meanwhile broadband fixed wireless (BBFW) and third-generation (3G) mobile have had their licensing problems, and we predict deployment will open more cans of worms. Where does this leave us? As mentioned above, delivering bytes from space would seem to have its advantages. For one thing, a potentially global footprint is no bad thing, as television broadcasting has shown. However, voice-oriented services such as Globalstar, ICO Global Communications and Iridium have had their well-documented troubles, suffering as cellular networks grew quickly during the 1990s. Meanwhile, Skybridge and Teledesic - each with more of an emphasis on data, and billion dollar price tags to match - have yet to convince the doubters, and perhaps even their deep-pocketed investors, a certain Mr Gates included. If nothing else, the cost of launching satellites (and this is a case where launch is the right word) is prohibitive, and sending data upstream is no piece of cake for the average user. Good luck to the internet in the sky, in all its forms, but ultimately there's a different answer that only a few enlightened metropolitan communities around the world have woken up to. Fibre is tried and tested and already used in parts of many networks. Running it up to users' doors or the desktop is an admiral goal, and perhaps the only true way to guarantee a broadband future. That's what many of you said in reaction to silicon.com's Broadband special report last autumn (www.silicon.com/broadband). Just don't get us started on the political and business reasons why that dream won't be realised any time soon.