Surfing with the Aliens

/ 5 years ago

Getting a good, consistent internet connection is not as easy at it may seem. According to latest figures there are up to 10 million homes in the UK alone which can only get dial-up internet, and with the revolution in video on demand that is currently taking place all around us, dial-up internet simply does not cut the mustard.

Which is why the launch of Ka-Sat, run by French communications firm Eutelsat made waves this week. Ka-Sat is not the first satellite to be launched with the aim of offering internet coverage – there was already the Hylas-1 from London-based Avanti – but now that both are fully operational, the competition could lead to significantly better prices for customers around Europe.

Using satellites for the internet has long been fraught with problems, first of all, getting decent speed out of them was a challenge. Ka-Sat, however, uses Ka-band which is the higher register of the radio communications spectrum and can handle much greater data output than previous technologies. It promises up to 6mbps in general (more than quick enough to download a film fast) although you can only upload at about 1mbps, some users can get up to 10mbps or more if they’re willing to pay for it.

These packages are also not particularly expensive: less than three years ago many people were paying roughly the same prices for ADSL lines that only ran up to 2mbps.

At the moment, the focus of the companies operating the satellite internet services are those communities and regions which don’t have anything like good coverage – either of 3G or of internet. By using the satellite, these customers can finally join the internet revolution – but there’s more.

Data download costs for mobile phones can be extortionate, particularly on the move, and they’re not always particularly solid. Trains, cars, and even one day aeroplanes could link up to these satellites and offer perfectly good connection speed for people wanting to watch services like the Sky player, through their laptop or mobile phone. Additionally, with other platforms like Skype able to handle the calling and texting part of mobile phone usage, satellite internet could lead to a genuine revolution in how we pay for our phones and how we watch television.

Of course, for the for moment, if you want really high connection speeds, you’re going to need to stay earth-bound; even the best satellite system can’t match high speed internet offerings from ISPs like Sky and their rivals. Nonetheless, it will be attractive to many, after all, part of ‘video on demand’ is that you can watch it wherever, whenever, and a satellite is just about your only option as far as that goes.

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