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Monday, 15 April, 2002, 14:29 GMT 15:29 UK
Lift-off for low-cost satellite broadband
Satellite dishes
Satellite services can fill in landline gaps
BT is offering a low-cost satellite service for those in the UK who are cut off from the broadband revolution - but questions remain about how widespread the take-up for this new service will be.

It will be trialled throughout Britain but will only be available through internet service providers (ISPs).

BT will be selling the service to ISPs for 15 a month, which is likely to mean an end-cost of 20 - 30 for consumers.

This makes it considerably cheaper than other satellite products on the market. However, eager surfers may still need to raid their piggybanks, as the cost and installation of the satellite dish will be around 400.

ISPs reticent

There are also concerns that few ISPs will go for the service.

According to BT, there has been "some interest" from ISPs and it is expecting more in coming months.

There are more cons than pros with it compared with landline services... it is 400% more expensive to connect and half as fast

Freeserve spokesman
However, its own ISP, BTopenworld, will not be offering the service, citing limited resources as the reason.

"We already offer a 2-way broadband service but the pricing means it isn't really a consumer product," said a BTopenworld spokesperson.

"We have decided not to look at a satellite service for consumers at this time," he added.

Freeserve has also decided not to offer it to customers.

"We don't think this is a mass market product," said a Freeserve spokesman.

Not so fast

"There are more cons than pros with it compared with landline services. It is 400% more expensive to connect and half as fast. On top of that, there is no return path other than by telephone line," he added.

Satellite dish
Users will not need planning permission for dishes
BT admits that the service is inferior to its traditional ADSL broadband service.

"It is not true broadband, but it will give much faster internet access to many people who could otherwise be denied," said chief executive of BT Wholesale Paul Reynolds.

The biggest drawback, other than the speed, will be that is only works one way.

No games

Users wishing to download music, photos and other large files may find it useful but BT admits that it is not designed for online gaming, one of the biggest applications of broadband.

Moreover, those wishing to upload material to the internet will have to do so via a conventional phone line.

Anyone wanting faster speeds will have to pay a premium.

Despite its problems, satellite broadband services could be useful for rural residents desperate to get their hands on a high-speed net service, said Ovum analyst Tim Johnson.

"It fills in the gaps other broadband can't reach," he said.

See also:

31 Mar 02 | Sci/Tech
Struggle to get broadband
21 Mar 02 | Sci/Tech
UK slow to close digital divide
26 Feb 02 | Sci/Tech
Which broadband technology will win?
26 Feb 02 | Business
Understanding broadband
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