VIA SATELLITE: Is there any truth in the perception that European policy makers prefer wireless alternatives, often ignoring satellite technology advancements?
Kroes: Absolutely not! I am very excited about all the developments in the satellite industry. But, let me be clear, I certainly do not want to favor one technology or another. I see that the satellite offering today has some capacity limitations, and this is why it is useful but not the panacea. However, those limitations appear to be addressed with the launch of the new generation of satellites in Ka-band, which have increased performances, and are comparable to terrestrial wireless and ADSL. In addition, future satellites are already contemplated with planned broadband speeds of up to 50 Mbps, though as I said before, it still requires a good deal of research.
There are 95 percent of Europeans that now have access to broadband Internet infrastructure. That’s a great achievement. But it still leaves a lot of people — 10 million households, in fact — who need to be reached. These 10 million are those that have proved to be the most difficult and expensive to cover, by and large rural and isolated. The solution of wired networks, which works well for the majority, may become prohibitively expensive there. And that is exactly where other technologies, like terrestrial or satellite wireless networks, can step in. They can be the most cost-effective in such areas where more common, landline solutions are not an option.
I favor such a diversification of infrastructure for two reasons. First, although wireless technology does not have the same performance as advanced wired networks, it is good and getting better. Take satellites — we already see their value to the mobile and television industries, and they can provide a great contribution to deliver the important goal of basic broadband for all. This should not be underestimated. But the contribution of satellite services can also go further. With that clear mandate on basic broadband, the satellite industry will have an incentive to continue longer-term investment.
VIA SATELLITE: Are you a believer in the benefits of satellite technology now that new developments like Ka-band satellites are becoming available?
Kroes: Lots of investments for broadband deployment take place at the regional level, and structural funds are called upon to play an important role. What is important is to convince the regional policy makers that satellite offers can be a credible alternative to other solutions. We in the Commission have a role to play in raising awareness towards the various available solutions, and in providing guidelines towards deployment of infrastructures. But it is for the satellite industry to build the models that can successfully convince the local or national policy makers to deploy the technology. I think exciting times are ahead for satellite technology. The industry is already making good progress on the provision of broadband service offerings to the consumer.
From a more global perspective, I think that there is definitely a role for satellite in helping us to reach our broadband objectives. In the United States, satellite has been selected to connect about one percent of the households through the Rural Broadband program; in Australia, satellite has been selected to cover places beyond reach of terrestrial solutions; and in Canada, satellite is used to connect the Northern isolated territories. These examples show that there is clearly a role to play where broadband deployment is a policy issue, and Europe should not be any exception to that.