Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Satellite vs Copper - which is least worst?

The recent news about BT choosing the new HYLAS satellite to complement its part-taxpayer-funded broadband roll-out in Cornwall brings back memories of "satellite broadband grants" back in 2002.  Government money was given to small businesses in rural areas to install these broadband connections due to lack of alternatives.  To a lot of people they seemed to offer the ideal solution but the user experience wasn't too great.

The new purpose-built HYLAS satellite might be better than the re-purposed TV and marine telephone systems used back in the day, but the physics of radio communications hasn't changed.

Like all geostationary satellites, the round trip delay using HYLAS is going to be in the half to one second range.

But with focus for more bandwidth, the latency (or responsiveness) of Internet services seems to have been forgotten.
The reality is that for most uses of the Internet today, we need a reasonable (not huge) amount of bandwidth but we also need a reasonably snappy response.  No doubt in the future there will be interactive HD 3D multi-player social networked games that need both huge bandwidth and low latency, but they aren't here yet.

Using satellite is an easy win for BT to be able to claim it has delivered full broadband coverage - it is relatively cheap too, the deal with HYLAS is only costing them around £20k/month which would hardly pay the business rates on a single fiber across Exmoor, and I don't doubt that there will always be 0.001% of the country where it simply isn't feasible to get on the Internet any other way.

But is it acceptable?  Will customers be fobbed off this easily?  Is it a solution for 33% of the country in the final third?

BT have been criticised for offering BET - a way of driving existing copper to longer distances and higher bandwidth - but at least it doesn't suffer the appalling latency of satellite Internet.

So there we have it, I don't like Satellite, and I don't like BET, but which is worst?  There's only one way to find out.

1 comment:

  1. Coincidentally, Lindsey Annison has blogged her experience this week of using Satellite "broadband" during the snowy weather:

    "the reality is that this is NOT broadband. It's internet connectivity [tick] but it's so sporadic and bloody limited, you can't even get a link whilst typing your blog post."