Science and Exploration

Broadband For All in Europe Thanks to ESA

By Keith Cowing
October 22, 2013
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Broadband For All in Europe Thanks to ESA

Thirty years of continuous investment by ESA is enabling European satellite operators to deliver broadband to all EU citizens by the end of the year. Anyone can now find a local distributor online to supply Internet connectivity via satellite, even in the remotest areas.
For many years, ESA has been working closely with European satellite operators and industry to promote satellite broadband as a key element in closing the digital divide in Europe. For decades, ESA has pioneered advanced technologies that have made satellite broadband possible. As far back as 1989, Olympus – the world’s largest telecom satellite at the time – demonstrated new market applications using the ‘Ka-band’ frequencies in the microwave spectrum.

Ka-band has since proved itself as well suited for satellite broadband, as demonstrated by the Hylas and Ka-Sat satellite systems in Europe.

Other innovations pioneered by ESA include powerful multibeam antennas working at Ku- and Ka-band frequencies, and designs that allow a single satellite to simultaneously serve hundreds of thousands of users throughout Europe with Internet access. Hylas-1, launched in 2010 and operated commercially by Avanti Communications of London, is the first satellite dedicated to delivering broadband Internet services to Europe. Its unique payload can be reconfigured in orbit, thanks to a design developed by ESA in partnership with EADS Astrium in the UK. This means that satellites can adapt to market demands, essentially future-proofing them during their typically 15-year lifetimes.

Whereas Hylas provides connectivity at mainly fixed locations, Alphasat, launched in July 2013 by UK operator Inmarsat to expand its fleet, offers a broad array of mobile broadband services. Thanks to these ground-breaking developments, Internet connectivity via satellite is now an attractive option for homes and businesses throughout Europe.

The EU has established the goal of having 30 Mbit/s satellite coverage available to all EU citizens by 2020. ESA is supporting the development of next-generation satellites and systems to help meet that target. ESA is also encouraging market developments and applications that are paving the way for the next generation of satellite broadband.

Finding broadband in your area

With the support of the European Commission, an online tool from the European Satellite Operators Association is now available to help anyone find a local satellite broadband distributor and an installer – no matter where they live. The tool was recently launched by Association Chairman Michel de Rosen at an event in the European Parliament led by MEP Lambert Van Nistelrooij and the EC Vice President and Commissioner for Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes.

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.