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Two-Way Satellite Internet Grabs For Mass Market

By | July 31, 2002

      This year will see a strong boost for two-way Internet via satellite access, placing the technology on the verge of conquering the mass market. While both trials and regular services have been running on the Astra satellite system at 19.2 degrees East for several months, Eutelsat will throw its weight into the industry by entering the two-way broadband market this year with the launch of the new Hot Bird 6 and e-BIRD satellites.

      While Hot Bird 6 offers four Ka-band transponders designed for two-way Internet traffic as well as 28 Ku-band transponders, e-BIRD will be used solely for two-way broadband services. Hot Bird 6, which is due to be launched onboard an Atlas rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Aug. 11, will be co-positioned with the other Hot Bird satellites on Eutelsat’s prime slot 13 degrees East Longitude.

      Eutelsat recently gave a look into the future during a presentation in Milan organised by Sat-Expo, the yearly Italian satellite fair. The company said e-BIRD would bring high- speed Internet access via satellite without the need for a telephone-line based return channel and its accompanying per-minute charges to end consumers. The e-BIRD satellite is expected to become operational from the 25.5 degrees East slot in the fourth quarter.

      Arduino Patacchini, head of Eutelsat’s multimedia department, said Hot Bird 6’s Ka-band capacity would be used for high-speed corporate networks, as well as mobile telecommunications service for ships, ferries and trucks. He pointed out that Eutelsat would not offer the services itself, but act as a platform and leave the commercialisation to telecom service companies.

      One of the companies that will use the Ka-band spectrum on Hot Bird 6 is Italian telecommunications group Alenia Spazio. According to Francesco Rispoli, head of Alenia Spazio’s multimedia department, the company plans to offer high-speed Internet access as well as interactive TV applications and telephony services. Service launch is planned for September. As another example, he cited a service for Italy’s national railway company that will allow travellers to watch television and surf the Internet while trains are in motion.

      Michele Sasso, technical director of Italian satellite telecoms provider Telespazio, cited as further examples tele-medicine, distance learning, surveillance of transports and homes and scientific uses such as meteorological observations of certain parts of the Earth. End-users benefit from two-way broadband services offered via satellite, Sasso said.

      Satellite-based telecommunications offers an attractive solution for people living in regions with insufficient land-based technical infrastructure due to the absence of DSL or broadband cable networks.

      No doubt, satellite-based two-way Internet service will give customers more choice. It will also give the competition among different broadband platforms a much needed boost, particularly in countries such as Germany where only one player, Deutsche Telekom, has a de facto monopoly in the DSL market.

      –Jorn Krieger

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