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Wednesday, 20 August 2014

The myth of Cumbria's broadband not spots

In our latest guest blog Andrew Walwyn, Managing Director of ToowayDirect, argues that Cumbrians are being hoodwinked about the extent of broadband problems in the county

Andrew Walwyn
Andrew Walwyn, Managing Director, ToowayDirect: www.toowaydirect.com/

News that Cable and Wireless are pulling out of the community wireless broadband projects in Duddon Valley and Branthwaite is obviously deeply frustrating for their users.

However, reports that residents in these areas will be cut off is deeply misleading. The fact is, there is an alternative which is reasonably priced, truly fast, and available today with no geographical discrimination – satellite broadband.

Some commentators seem biased against satellite, possibly due to a poor user experience with some early and quite costly satellite based systems. However, in June last year a new satellite was launched and it offers a real alternative to fixed line broadband – making it unfair to now think of satellite as a second rate substitute.

For some, satellite broadband may sound very different to the well publicised cable offerings like BT and Virgin. But it needn’t be an alien concept. People use satellite technologies every day without even knowing it, whether it’s via car GPS sat-navigation systems, weather forecasts or communications. Plus many people use Sky dishes to receive satellite television – without any signal

problems or interference. The difference with satellite broadband the signal goes “two ways” – so that a broadband connection can be enabled.

With download speeds of up to 10.2 Mbps, and upload of up to 4.1 Mbps for home users (with speed increases planned for the summer) no one can say it’s not fast. How many broadband products do you know that can offer an upload speed of over 4 Mbps? The UK average is only 7Mbps. For businesses there are professional satellite broadband packages of up to 40Mbps. And there needn’t be any worry about wireless as the satellite dish links to a modem, just like with a fixed line, which then enables a WiFi network across the whole property.

All broadband technologies have their strengths and weaknesses. The key fact to remember is satellite broadband is available across the UK, today, with no waiting. Data and hardware prices are affordable, the hardware is even available free of charge with some data tariffs.

The equipment is compact, robust and reliable; you can install the dish yourself with the help of a DVD and installation manual, or have it installed by the provider. Although some people fear the latency involved with satellite broadband, advances in technology mean this has virtually no effect on browsing and email, and it certainly isn’t a problem using VoIP services like Skype.

Local community officers and broadband observers in established not-spots need to be more realistic with the public when they discuss the future availability of fibre and next generation wired broadband services. Inevitably the PR departments of the fixed line broadband companies continue to pump out hot-air briefings about upgrades to rural broadband connectivity. This just gives those living in the not-spots false hope and an unfounded reason to delay in opting for the excellent alternative that satellite presents.

The stark reality is that the vast majority of people who can’t get fast broadband over wires now won’t be able to for the foreseeable future. The last Government admitted “for up to 30% of the UK there is little or no commercial case for anyone to invest in the next generation of terrestrial broadband services” (Lord Carter, Ex-Government Communications Minister).

Our advice is don’t take our word for it, come and try it! Organise a meeting and bring your laptop or smart phone along - download a movie, watch TV, phone a friend!! Don’t sit on the fence waiting for something that probably isn’t coming. But most importantly don’t consider yourself in a not-spot – with satellite broadband there is no such thing as digital exclusion.

By Andrew Walwyn, Managing Director, ToowayDirect: www.toowaydirect.com
Published: May 29, 2012

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Have your say

Satellites are brilliant quick fix solutions. For some notspots they are the only answer for a few more years. But they are expensive to run, data charges are high if you have a busy home or business, and the higher speeds quoted in this article are out of the range of most families, and they settle for slower speeds.

Satellite is a temporary fix.
The future is fibre. But it isn't here yet.

Wibe and Mifi are also useful in rural areas, and don't need an install, they either work or they don't. They also have much better upload speeds than any BT connection.

Posted by chris on 2 June 2012 at 15:15

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