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When to choose satellite broadband

When to choose satellite broadband

There are many reasons why you may struggle to get a respectably fast and stable domestic internet connection.

However, there are fewer alternatives to dealing with Openreach, and meekly accepting their best available line speed.

Other than fibre cable broadband services, the options come down to wireless 4G connections or satellite broadband.

And although 4G represents a viable short-term option for people moving house, leading itinerant lives or having home improvements carried out, it’s not always practical long-term.

So could satellite broadband represent a viable option for people presently in stuck in the information superhighway’s slow lane?

Reasons to choose satellite broadband

  1. When you don’t want a landline. Openreach is legally obliged to ensure every home in the UK has a phone line, but sometimes this might involve considerable cost or effort.

    Other reasons to shun a landline might include council planning restrictions – a dish may be discreetly fitted on the ground, whereas phone lines tend to be connected at roof-level.

  2. Low data requirements. Satellite internet services tend to be supplied with fixed data limits, rather like smartphone contracts. Once data has been used up, line speeds drop.

    However, that’s fine if you’re not a Netflix addict or obsessed with Fifa. And the throttling of download speeds won’t pose a problem if you stay within monthly data allowances.

  3. Geographic constraints. If you’re ten miles from the nearest telephone exchange, line speeds may be dismal. Getting a line installed in the first place could be complicated.

    Satellites are unaffected by topographical issues such as hills and forests, though severe weather affects signal strength and packet loss.

  4. Poor landline connection speeds. Older Fibre to the Cabinet services rely on sluggish copper cabling into homes, which can only distribute data at around 10Mbps.

    By contrast, satellite services achieve up to 50Mbps in optimal conditions. That’s disappointing by fibre cable standards, but it’d be a revelation for some rural residents.

Reach for the skies

To answer the question posed in this article’s title, the best answer might be ‘in a few years’ time’.

Some analysts believe this could represent the future of internet connectivity, following Amazon’s announcement last month that it intends to launch a proprietary satellite network.

The company is planning to send a total of 3,236 satellites into low orbit, bringing connectivity to 95 per cent of the global population.

Known internally as Project Kuiper, it’s reminiscent of other programmes currently being developed by OneWeb and SpaceX.

The former plans to launch 650 satellites, while the latter’s $10 billion Starlink constellation would see over 7,500 satellites covering the entire world’s surface by the mid-2020s.

Reducing the distance between satellites and the ground helps to slash latency, which hinders bandwidth-intensive activities like streaming and online gaming.

However, the huge cost of developing geostationary infrastructure – including the rockets required to get each satellite into orbit – will undoubtedly be reflected in higher user charges.

Satellite connectivity is unlikely to ever be a cheap option, but it could free us all from the restrictions imposed by landline-based broadband.

For instance, moving house might not be the challenging logistical issue it currently is, since satellites provide comparable connectivity from any location.

In tandem with the rollout of gigabit broadband services and 5G mobile networks, the next decade could provide a choice of connections fast enough to cope with any activities.

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