Eutelsat readies for 10Mb/s broadband

Chris Forrester

Rapid TV News understands that Eutelsat is about to announce a significantly upgraded ‘Tooway’ satellite-based broadband service. Eutelsat’s senior management are expected in London today (April 30) to unveil the new offering, which will be fully launched across Europe once a major new satellite is in orbit.

So-called UK “noband and “slowband” consumers, who might live in rural areas, or are poorly served by existing DSL-based infrastructure, are today’s target for Tooway. Tooway’s prices are reasonably competitive for a very clean 2Mb/s satellite feed, at just £29.99 a month. Tooway is available at similar rates across Europe.

Tooway has a raft of UK retailers and service providers lined up to provide services to consumers. Key to Eutelsat’s growth strategy is a link-up with US-based Viasat, which has energised the home broadband-by-satellite market in the USA, garnering some 400,000 customers in the past year or so, with low-cost – and neat – receivers, and according to Eutelsat boss Giuliano Berretta, supplying “90,000 units in the last quarter alone”.

But next comes the big break, and a significant increase in possible download speeds, up to to 10 Mb/s from Eutelsat’s giant Ka-band super-satellite. The massive craft has the equivalent of 40 traditional satellites, and will beam its services to the UK (as well as France, Poland, Germany and Europe’s other major markets), and will be able to serve – says Eutelsat – more than 1m homes. Ka-Sat will be co-located at Eutelsat’s ‘Hot Bird’ orbital position. However, Tooway, is already up and running in some 20 European markets.

Berretta, speaking a few days ago to German trade publication Digital Magazine, said: “Ka-Sat will offer 10 to 15 times the capacity of large Ku-band satellites through extensive frequency reuse by groups of spotbeams that will supply coverage of areas sufficiently far from each other to avoid interference. The architecture of the satellite will enable up to 900 Mbps of capacity shared between the forward and return link to be provided by each spotbeam. Combined with the ground technology, we will be able to lift total throughput to an impressive 70 Gbps. What this means is that in comparison to several tens of thousands of professional users served by Ku-band satellites serving Europe, over one million homes can be addressed by Ka-Sat.”

And just to put Berretta’s words into context, an American satellite platform (WildBlue) is demonstrating the exact same technology to offer – at a price – download speeds of up to 18Mb/s. That’s fast in anyone’s satellite language.