Eutelsat Launches Tooway Satellite Broadband Service

Eutelsat’s KA-SAT satellite went live today, delivering Tooway broadband to remote areas of Europe

Eutelsat Communications has today launched its Tooway satellite broadband service, offering download speeds of up to 10Mbps for consumers and 50Mbps for businesses across Europe.

Tooway uses Eutelsat’s KA-SAT satellite, which was launched in December 2010, to deliver broadband to people in areas that are beyond the reach of terrestrial networks. The technology has been touted as an important tool for bridging the digital divide in Europe.

“The entry into service of KA-SAT turns a new page in affordable and immediately available IP solutions, and places Europe at the forefront of high-capacity satellite technologies that can serve to quickly close the broadband gap,” said Michel de Rosen, Eutelsat CEO, in a statement.

In line with terrestrial broadband

KA-SAT is a Ka-band satellite, with 82 spotbeams – five of which are over the UK and Ireland – and more than 70Gbps throughput. It is located in geostationary orbit at 9° East, and is integrated with a network of ground stations to create a pan-European broadband infrastructure.

Unlike Ku-band satellites, which have a single large beam, Ka-band satellites use multi-beam technology that makes it possible to reuse frequencies in groups of spots, multiplying available capacity by a factor of 20, according to Eutelsat. Ka-band satellites also provide two-way broadband services, removing the need for a separate back channel over a phone line.

“There are 2 million homes in the UK – which is approximately one in ten – that can’t get 2Mbps at the moment, and there’s a proportion of that (around 250,000) that can’t get any broadband service whatsoever. Now they can,” said Steve Petrie, Northern European director of Eutelsat’s affiliate Skylogic. “What’s crucial in all this is it’s an affordable price as well, so it’s in line with terrestrial services.”

Eutelsat is offering four consumer services starting from £24.99 per month. ‘Tooway 6’ delivers up to 6Mbps download and up to 1Mbps upload, ‘Tooway 8’ delivers up to 8 Mbps download and up to 2 Mbps upload, ‘Tooway 10’ delivers up to 10Mbps download and up to 2 Mbps upload, and ‘Tooway 10+’ delivers up to 10Mbps download and up to 4Mbpd upload.

The company is also hoping to cater to the enterprise market, offering higher bandwidth services for private networks, as well as back-up services and remote monitoring. For this type of use, Tooway can offer speeds of up to 40 Mbps downstream and 10 Mbps upstream, with a 50 Mbps service to be made available shortly.

Eutelsat has invested €350 million in the infrastructure, and hopes to generate revenues of around €100 million by 2014, from a mixture of consumer and professional services. UK services providers include Bigblu, Freedomsat, Broadband Wherever and Tariam.

Closing the digital divide

The news comes at a time when Satellite broadband providers are lobbying the European Commission to provide public funding for the rollout of satellite broadband across Europe. They claim the technology is essential to providing universal access, and meeting the key aim of the EC’s ‘Digital Agenda Action Plan’, to give every European citizen access to basic broadband by 2013.

“We have been working towards eradicating the digital divide since long before it became a political objective,” said Jürgen Grützner, managing director of the Association of Telecommunications and Value-Added Service Providers. “It will cost millions to get fibre to the entire population. With satellite it only costs when people say they want to connect.”

Meanwhile, Avanti’s HYLAS1 satellite went live on 4 April, beating Eutelsat’s KA-SAT to the punch by almost two months. Avanti also offers consumer services of up to 10Mbps, and has already announced a deal to help BT get broadband to the remotest parts of Cornwall.

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