The European Commission (EC) shapes much of Europe’s digital and communications policies. One of the big questions facing the EC in recent years is how positive it has been towards using satellite to reduce digital divides and provide broadband across Europe. Neelie Kroes, EC vice president, is responsible for setting Europe’s digital agenda during the next few years. Here, she talks about the role satellite will play with other technologies in bringing the latest digital and broadband services to households across Europe.
VIA SATELLITE: What do you see as the strengths of satellite technology compared with other communications technologies in bridging the digital divide?
Kroes: My goal is to make every European household digital. Two of the most important targets in Europe’s digital agenda as well as the Europe 2020 strategy for sustainable jobs and growth are to give every European access to basic broadband by 2013 and ultra-fast broadband by 2020. Satellite services are perfectly able to provide access to communication services, such as Internet, mobile multimedia/radio and emergency services for all Europeans, no matter how remote the area in which they live, thus reducing the digital divide. I share the commonly held view that satellite broadband is one of the necessary elements in reaching the ‘broadband for all by 2013’ objective, thanks to the Europe wide coverage area that can be provided via satellite platform once in operation.
VIA SATELLITE: With new Ka-band satellites being launched, do you believe that satellite is the solution to bringing connectivity to rural areas in Europe?
Kroes: Satellite is one of several solutions that can help bring rural and remote areas online. I am happy that companies, including Eutelsat and Avanti Communications, have launched Ka-band satellites. SES is currently planning its next-generation systems also operating at Ka-band. These systems are designed to provide broadband access over the European continent at data speeds up to 10 Mbps. The potential to support the fulfilment of the European 2013 broadband target is here but capacity will be the limiting factor, considering that each satellite could typically serve a couple of hundreds of thousands of users, whilst there are millions of households that have no coverage prospect, even for basic broadband, so far. Clearly, we need to complement terrestrial solutions. Regarding our 30 Mbps target for 2020, affordable satellite solutions are not yet available. Industry is working on this next-generation of systems and our EU funded research is one of the support tools to make it happen. With satellite we need to strike the balance between making service provision financially viable for operators, and promoting affordable offerings to consumers.