From today, rural homes and offices in the UK with access only to dial-up Internet connections can get 2Mbps broadband via satellite. But it might be cheaper to just move house.
Eutelsat's new Tooway system offers speeds of 2Mbps down and 384Kbps up, with prices starting at £30 a month. What's interesting here is there's no need for a phone line at all -- both upload and download are handled by a satellite dish on the side of your building.
Prices vary depending on which distributor you buy the service from -- with Avonline, one of the few UK distributors, you'll need to cough up £600 for the satellite hardware and £200 for installation.
For users in rural areas currently limited to 56Kbps dial-up connections, 2Mbps broadband will feel like a thousand birthdays have all come at once, and only strippers are invited. But there are some limitations.
Firstly, due to latency issues, online gaming is a no-no, unless the object of the game is to miss the people you're trying to shoot, and getting killed as quickly as possible counts as a win.
And although there are no hard limits on how much data you can consume over a month, your monthly subscription only ensures you get the full speed of your connection up to a certain point. So for example, the £30 per month plan guarantees 1.2GB of 'priority traffic' -- after that, your connection may slow down. The top-price £100 per month plan guarantees a connection speed of 2Mbps for the first 6GB of data each month.
Let's put that into perspective. To download the most recent episode of The Apprentice from BBC iPlayer, you'll use a smidgen under 650MB. So for £100 per month, you'll get nine episodes before you hit your 6GB limit.
On top of that, there's a 'fair use policy' enforced too, so don't even think about maxing out your connection continually during peak hours (7am-7pm), or network throttling temporarily kicks in to slow you down.
The Tooway system is admirable for giving broadband to rural areas, delivering on Lord Carter's Digital Britain plans to give all UK homes at least 2Mbps broadband, and eliminating the need for a phone line to handle upload bandwidth. But it comes at a cost that will almost certainly deter most home owners. Perhaps it's one for rural businesses alone.