Satellite broadband goes nationwide

It's rather more expensive than ADSL, but regional agencies are expected to help with the installation costs of BT's satellite broadband service
Written by Graeme Wearden, Contributor

Homes and businesses across the UK can now sign up for a satellite broadband connection from BT.

Following trials in remote parts of Scotland and Northern Ireland last year, the telco has now announced that the service will be launched across the whole of the UK.

With monthly rental charges starting at around £60, and installation charges of £899 or more, BT's satellite broadband is considerably more expensive than its ADSL offering, not to mention cable or wireless broadband. But for the 40 percent of the UK that isn't covered by BT's ADSL network, or by the likes of ntl, Telewest or Tele2, it could be a sensible way to achieve high-speed Internet access.

In a statement, BTopenworld chief executive Alison Ritchie said that businesses, especially small and medium-sized firms, would benefit from a broadband connection. "We're committed to extending the availability of high-speed Internet access to businesses across the UK. The nationwide rollout of the satellite service as well as the recent self-install product launch and price cuts are significant steps to making this a reality," said Ritchie.

BT will offer a home user satellite package, and also a version designed for businesses. Both the single-user package, and the business package -- which lets up to four PCs share the broadband connection -- offer download speeds of up to 500 kilobits per second (kbps) and upload speeds of 150kbps.

BT is also cutting the monthly rental prices of both services. The single-user package will now cost £59.99 excluding VAT per month, compared to the £69.99 ex. VAT paid by the companies taking part in the trial. The business service will cost £109.99 ex. VAT, down from £139.99 ex. VAT.

Installation fees are still high, though -- £1,299 ex. VAT for business customers and £899 ex. VAT for single-user packages. This covers the purchase and installation of the satellite dish and indoor broadband unit.

In comparison, the equipment and installation fee for BTopenworld's self-installation home ADSL is currently £85 (including VAT). The installation fee for business ADSL packages is £280 excluding VAT.

Businesses in some parts of the country might be able to get subsidies for the installation costs of the satellite service. During last year's trial, BT worked with regional development agencies -- and plans to continue this policy.

The South West Regional Development Authority has already announced that it will support businesses that are keen to try satellite broadband. "In a bid to encourage take-up of broadband satellite, we intend to offer £800 vouchers for qualifying organisations willing to participate in the evaluation and appraisal of broadband satellite. This scheme will be available for use with all ISPs who offer a broadband satellite service," said Nick Lewis, director of corporate services at the South West Regional Development Authority.

Many regional development agencies are understood to be concerned that their areas will suffer from a lack of high-speed Internet services -- especially since BT chairman Sir Christopher Bland warned that some rural areas might have a 20-year wait for ADSL.

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