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Rural Broadband Problems – How Realistic Is Satellite Broadband?

The internet is full of examples of people in Cumbria, Lancashire, Yorkshire, and Worcestershire who are having problems finding decent quality broadband. They say that whichever provider they choose, they are unable to receive a connection above 1 megabyte per second and are calling out for solutions to their issue.

Reasons for poor broadband connection in rural areas

Fibre optic broadband has only been brought to around 60% of the UK population. The majority of this has been focused around cities and urban areas, and rural communities are underrepresented in this regard.  ADSL is available throughout the United Kingdom. However, a major characteristic of ADSL is that internet speed is lost over a distance down the copper cable. The further you are from the phone exchange, the more loss of speed there is.

If you are many miles from the telephone exchange, as in some remote rural areas, it is impossible to get any sort of level of decent internet connectivity.

In these areas, mobile broadband is often not an option either because telephone masts are too far away and because the signal is poor. For these poor folks, just about the only solution for obtaining decent internet connectivity is through satellite broadband.

Government plans

Before we talk about satellite broadband, it is worth noting that the government has plans to ensure that over 90% of the population can gain 24 megabyte per second connectivity and the rest over 2 megabyte per second connectivity through fixed broadband within the next couple of years. Cable is being rolled around the country in joint ventures, and funding has been made available to improve the lot of rural communities.

Introduction to satellite broadband

Many people don’t consider satellite broadband. It works by passing information via satellite and internet signals travels through your dish. The great thing is that satellite broadband has 100% coverage of the UK. With the newer connections, on the newer satellites, it is possible to get 10 megabits per second connectivity.

This normally equates in reality to 4 or 5 megabits, but it is a far cry from the impossibility of ADSL in these regions right now.

Some of the newest satellite internet providers include Utelsat, KA, Isensat and Avanti Hilux satellites, and no doubt more will be able to deal with broadband in the future.

The problem with satellite broadband

The problem with satellite broadband is that it has a limited shelf life.  With mobile broadband improving apace with 4g, and connection speeds of up to 14.4 megabits per second arriving, 3G coverage spreading around the UK, fixed line broadband getting better and better, and fibre optic being laid around more of the country, satellite phones and broadband will remain the realm of hikers, climbers and seafarers around the UK.

Consumers looking to purchase satellite broadband are likely to find the barriers to entry to be quite steep. It tends to cost around £500 or more to purchase the hardware and to get the systems setup, and then rental starts from around £25 a month for relatively small data allowances.

Most providers shape their traffic quite heavily and have data limits of 10 gigabytes per month. This is fine for browsing and e-mail, but a couple of movies streamed would consume this in no time at all. Data is expensive, setup is expensive, but for those in rural areas who don’t have any other option, this could be a good choice.

Is it really worth the investment?

If you have a problem with broadband, then this may be the only solution. However, the government is investing in bringing better broadband to areas like yours. Therefore, it is important to consider whether it is worth the £500 setup cost now, which may well be a case of wasted money in the near future.

Find out whether there are plans for upgrades in your area and what the time frames will be. This will to a certain extent dictate the return on investments you will receive from the satellite broadband. Obviously, if you run a business, or are thinking of running a business in a rural area, broadband may well be a key component of your day to day operation. Factored into a 2-year expense, a £500 setup cost is only around £20 per month and could work out to be the most viable and economical solution, especially in terms of the increased business productivity you will experience.

As a business, it may also be worth talking to providers and finding out if they can do anything. With a spend of £500 setup and £25 a month, your account is worth £1,000 over the next 24 months, and it may be that there is an exchange that could be improved or fibre that can be run and that your business account, and that of others in your community, could be the impetus for speeding up the improvement of the broadband in your area.

Limitations of satellite broadband

Satellite broadband is practically useless for multi-player gaming, VOIP and other real-time activities requiring good latency performance. Satellite broadband latency is very poor and VOIP tends to be jittery as does gaming experience. On top of this, traffic limits imposed by providers can be very onerous for consumers.

Some satellite services can also not provide a UK-based IP address. This can make using certain online TV and web-based services difficult. For example, BBC iPlayer requires that you are on a UK IP address in order to utilize their service.


If you are encountering problems with broadband in a rural area, then satellite broadband is a definite possibility. If you are particularly remote, it may be that a community can get together to purchase a more expensive satellite broadband connection thereby offering a wireless option for multiple residents.

Do not despair if you cannot live without your broadband. There are options wherever you are in the UK.

Phil Turner moved to the country and discovered that his current broadband provider did not offer adequate cover at his new home. He logged on to the uSwitch price comparison site and got himself a great deal with a more suitable provider.

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