back to article Folk shun UK.gov's 'expensive' subsidised satellite broadband

Poor advertising and expensiveness have been blamed for the woeful uptake of the government's subsided satellite broadband scheme, with just 24 people having so far signed up. The £60m scheme was launched in early December, with an estimated 300,000 properties across the UK eligible for assistance. The contract was between …

  1. A Known Coward

    Inaccurate title?

    You can't shun what you don't know about ...

  2. James 51

    First I've heard of it but then I'm not the target market.

    1. Flywheel Silver badge

      Yeah, but you may know people who could use the service. Unlike (most) politicians, voters tend to talk to each other, and listen.

  3. 2460 Something

    First I've hears of it but after a quick look into it, even with the installation paid for monthly costs would still be much too expensive to be a consideration.

  4. LegalAlien

    I have satellite internet... and I hadn't heard, but then I've already paid the setup costs, and the monthly fees are very steep

  5. nil0

    £££££££££££

    I'm target market, I know about the voucher scheme, and I'm shunning it.

    Currently on 1.9Mbps VDSL. Typically get through 50-100GB a month, but with two teenage boys, after a Steam sale we can hit 250GB.

    Voucher covers installation cost, but you then have to pay the monthly fee. Have a quick peek at the options, and you'll see the problem.

    Typical example: Up to 15Mbps (9Mbps average), £60 for 50GB per month, or £150 for 150GB per month. Plus on-line gaming, VoIP calls and teleconferencing become nigh-on impossible.

    Thanks, but even with the installation paid for, that's not tempting.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: £££££££££££

      Currently on 1.9Mbps VDSL.

      Wow. Can you apply for a reduction in your rates?

    2. inmypjs Silver badge

      Re: £££££££££££

      "Typically get through 50-100GB a month, but with two teenage boys, after a Steam sale we can hit 250GB."

      How disgusting the government can't come up with a better scheme for the rest of us to pay for teenagers to not have to wait for their steam downloads.

      The real disaster is not the scheme but the idiot politicians that thought it should be set up.

  6. Tom Womack

    What is the point of a subsidy which covers the cheap part of the installation and not the expensive part? Give Openreach a full-service obligation without differential pricing, so they have to absorb the price of the ground station and the satellite bandwidth for any place that they're not willing to run wire to, and look how suddenly they will become more willing to run wire.

    1. ZSn

      Cross-subsidy

      The problem with a full-service obligation is that it is very expensive. The rollout in somewhere like London is cheap compared to somewhere in the Highlands. For example one customer is 12 miles away from the exchange in the highlands and would have to have a fibre personally put out to them to get the bandwidth. For all I dislike BT that would then put up everyone else's cost. If you are willing for that then fine, but most people are not it seems.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Cross-subsidy

        For example one customer is 12 miles away from the exchange in the highlands

        But it is curious that we can afford a national infrastructure for electricity and "damp string" telecoms without the cross subsidies being deemed unduly onerous....

        Just playing devils advocate, btw.

        1. Elmer Phud

          Re: Cross-subsidy

          I could do with it working across the board -- I get FTTC and then O/H copper from BT while there are fibre ducts just outside my home that are for the use of everyone else

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Cross-subsidy

          "But it is curious that we can afford a national infrastructure for electricity and "damp string" telecoms without the cross subsidies being deemed unduly onerous....

          Just playing devils advocate, btw."

          There are no competing last mile electricity networks. BT has competition from Virgin for half of the UK (by population) and in large cities and towns there's lots - Colt, Verizon, KCOM, C&W and so on.

          If you impose a USO on a player with competitors things go awry. The player has to up their prices to cover the cost of the rural connections (remember, last 10% costs the same as the first 90%). The urban dwellers who would normally be subsidising the rural folk just jump ship to a cheaper player and the subsidy is lost.

          The end result of that is that the USO player has no urban customers left to subsidise the rural ones and so the rural ones still have unaffordable bills. No-one gains.

          It can only work for broadband if other telcos have to contribute to the USO too.

          1. Tom Womack

            Re: Cross-subsidy

            And that's why I'm proposing putting the USO on Openreach. They're big enough to absorb the cost of the USO and efficient enough that they can keep charging the same price as Virgin while doing so; and having satellite broadband available as an option to satisfy the USO means the last 0.1% cost Openreach no more than the £1800 per year each to settle their satcom bill (obviously in reality less, since Openreach will have a bulk arrangement with the satcom provider - sadly I suspect the economics doesn't work out for Openreach buying and operating its own satellite)

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              @Tom

              "And that's why I'm proposing putting the USO on Openreach. They're big enough to absorb the cost of the USO"

              I think you're missing the point.

              Giving one company a USO to deliver rural broadband whatever the cost - think 50Mbps broadband to a crofter's cottage 30 miles from the nearest town and 5 miles from the nearest road - will massively increase the costs of that company's network. I buy data services around the world - I've paid well north of £1M before for the installation of a single fibre. Oil and gas companies tend not to have sites just down the road from a telephone exchange.

              Companies don't absorb the cost of USOs, it doesn't work that way. They take the cost of the network and divide it by the number of lines to arrive at a mean cost.

              So - say there were 20M lines today and the annual cost of installing new lines and maintaining service to existing lines was £2Bn - then each line costs on average £100 a year.

              If you create a USO to everywhere and all those people sign up, that last 10% has a remarkable effect. You now have 22M lines, but the cost is £4Bn. Network cost doubles The annual cost is now £200.

              That extra isn't swallowed because the company offering it would probably go bust and it would almost certainly be illegal under the Competition Act (1988). How would, for example, Virgin fare if Openreach were selling lines way below the annual cost? The increase in cost is divvied up and added to the bills.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Cross-subsidy

            It can only work for broadband if other telcos have to contribute to the USO too.

            Well done Sherlock! You articulate a problem by assuming the the cross subsidy would be only for one company, and then present the solution. It wasn't rocket science, now was it?

            1. Fibbles

              Re: Cross-subsidy

              Well done Sherlock! You articulate a problem by assuming the the cross subsidy would be only for one company, and then present the solution. It wasn't rocket science, now was it?

              Perhaps think before shooting someone with the sarcasm gun? If you strongarm smaller urban providers into a USO they go from say, providing lines to intercity Birmingham to being forced to provide lines in rural Scotland. That's not reasonable.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                @fibbles

                "If you strongarm smaller urban providers into a USO they go from say, providing lines to intercity Birmingham to being forced to provide lines in rural Scotland. That's not reasonable."

                I don't think that's what's being proposed. If smaller players had to contribute to an ISO it would be the funding of it, not the actual work to provision a service.

                If socialisation of the cost of rural broadband is the aim - which is what a USO is - then the many have to pay a little extra to fund the extra costs of the few. If too many urban folk opt out by switching to a lower cost network, the subsidy is lost and the USO doesn't work.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Cross-subsidy

        "For example one customer is 12 miles away from the exchange in the highlands"

        24GHz unlicensed band, £1100 per end with line of sight should get better speeds than anyone on FTC.

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      "What is the point of a subsidy which covers the cheap part of the installation and not the expensive part?"

      Theoretically an opportunity to generate good PR along the lines of "hey, look, we are really doing something here", but looks like they have managed to screw up that as well. Bit unusual, come to think about it.

      60 / 24 = 2.5 millions - why, you could almost by a broom cupboard for that in the more fashionable parts of London with that!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Give Openreach a full-service obligation without differential pricing"

      The last 10% of coverage in a network costs the same as the first 90.

      If you mandate a USO to cover the last 10% of population with broadband you've just doubled the cost of broadband for everyone. Is that your intention?

      The USO doesn't mean providing service at a loss, it means socialisation of cost. BT gets to divide the total cost of running the last mile network by the number of lines, add an Ofcom approved profit percentage and then bills everyone the same.

  7. Christoph
    Trollface

    Of course they advertised it ...

    They put notices on the web that anyone without an internet connection could use this

    1. Simon Crowe

      Re: Of course they advertised it ...

      But the plans were on display…”

      “On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”

      “That’s the display department.”

      “With a flashlight.”

      “Ah, well, the lights had probably gone.”

      “So had the stairs.”

      “But look, you found the notice, didn’t you?”

      “Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard.”

      1. Lotaresco Silver badge

        Re: Of course they advertised it ...

        "But the plans were on display…”

        Nail hit on the head here. It's obvious that rural broadband whether via fibre or satellite or 4G or whatever is just a fig leaf that lets politicians fool the public into thinking that they care about development in rural areas. In truth, they would rather that all the whinging rural folk would just blow away.

        I'm in the target market. We have unreliable BT DSL to our business premises. If it worked consistently at the 20Mbps that it is capable of, we wouldn't complain. However today, for example, I can see the modem connect then drop the link every few seconds. It's down to 800Kbps at times and BT don't seem at all interested in fixing the exchange fault (three months, still not fixed).

        We have a "rural broadband initiative" fibre cabinet right outside our premises. They obviously thought our business would be first in the queue. Well we would, but their business broadband is £150 + VAT a month and they won't guarantee the speed of the connection. They mumble that it may be "about 30Mbps". Possibly.

        Satellite from a local provider is even more expensive.

        The government can however spin and say we have access to fast DSL, superfast rural broadband and satellite. We should be grateful. Our local MP gets his porn downloaded fast enough, why would we want access to an always-on business connection?

  8. Mage Silver badge
    Flame

    Satellite Broadband?

    An oxymoron. Even with Ka Band now the caps and contention is terrible. One fibre fed street cabinet can have more capacity than the ENTIRE data via satellite for all of Europe!

    Also the latency is terrible.

    Satellite links spoof TCP/IP etc, so the modem and ground-station only support whatever VPN the provider has a proxy server for in the modem and ground-station.

    It's not broadband, though apart from latency may be better than mobile, which is never broadband either.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Satellite Broadband?

      SAT as provider up/downlink technology for really far off locations will never go away. There are places where fiber is just not worth running for now.

      SAT as a consumer broadband tech has been dead in Europe for 10+ years and is now dying in the 3rd world. It beggars belief how this ended up money having thrown at it in the first place.

      1. Mage Silver badge

        Re: Satellite Broadband?

        But even Scottish Islands are not "really far off locations".

        Perhaps a very few people might need 100Mbps fixed wireless links, but fibre is cheap and easy and can go on the electricity poles, up water mains, inside sewers ...

        No one anywhere in Europe needs Satellite. For 20Mbps + speed and >50G byte cap and low contention, fibre is cheaper.

        This link showed (years old, about 2008) why even 10Mbps fixed wireless link will beat mobile, even "20Mbps" LTE. Even 100Mbps assumes a massive 20MHz channel, or 4 x 5MHz channels, only ONE user and less than 200m and/or perfect signal! At cell middle distance with and economic number of customers you have no g'tee you even connect. ALL mobile is connect on demand. Satellite the contention is customers over a vast area. It's a last resort for disasters, deserts, oil rigs, ships and jungles. Not the Highlands and Islands.

        1. Sandtitz Silver badge
          Mushroom

          Re: Satellite Broadband? @Mage

          "but fibre is cheap and easy and can go on the electricity poles, up water mains, inside sewers..."

          In theory, yes. But in practise, how many electricity pole, sewer or water mains fibre installations do you know? How many fiber technician would want to work with "brown" fiber? At least you can blame the shitty ISP if there are problems... :-)

          "This link showed (years old, about 2008) why even 10Mbps fixed wireless link will beat mobile, even "20Mbps" LTE."

          The contents there are plain wrong. Perhaps the author's theories just don't connect with real life... Then again, first publicly available LTE services were available from Dec 2009 onwards. (source: wiki)

          I have "up to" 100Mbps LTE connection that at the moment (late evening, many users I presume, living in a small city, popular ISP) gives me a latency of 10-19 ms + d/l AND u/l speeds between 20-50Mbps. I used Speedtest.net with 3 different servers, all from different ISPs. These are not only Speedtest doctored results but they reflect my experiences as well.

          I could maybe undercut the latency with a 10M fixed line, but I'd never get better upload and download speeds. The best download speeds have been fractionally less than the advertised 100M speed.

          1. Bob H

            Re: Satellite Broadband? @Mage

            One of the problems with mobile coverage is that most of the the masts aren't owned by the operators, they are owned by Arqiva. If the government paid Arqiva to roll out more masts instead of putting pots into satellite broadband then the rural community might get somewhere. But the other challenge is: do the rural communities want more masts on their hills?

            In late 2014 I was staying at the Snake Pass Inn in the Peak District and they were constrained to satellite broadband. I don't imagine many locals wanting the Peak District dotted with masts.

            Fibre is great, but it is really expensive to dig roads and rural communities are more spread out, thus connectivity is more expensive. The government has tried to subsidise it but those plans weren't very successful. I believe enabling communities to manage their own solutions, which meet their particular local needs, with government support and subsidy, is the best approach. Enable local communities to petition Arqiva and enable small FTTC cooperatives.

            Finally, OpenReach, they are over burdened and as a virtual monopoly there doesn't seem to be an adequate solution that doesn't involve restructuring the market.

    2. Pompous Git Silver badge

      Re: Satellite Broadband?

      It's not broadband, though apart from latency may be better than mobile, which is never broadband either.

      I get 10 Gb/s on my fixed wireless connection* and 20 Gb/s on my 3G connection. Why is the latter "never broadband either"?

      * Except when MS decide I need to be shaped to 256 Mb/s

      1. Anthony Hegedus Silver badge

        Re: Satellite Broadband?

        "I get 10 Gb/s on my fixed wireless connection* and 20 Gb/s on my 3G connection. Why is the latter "never broadband either"?"

        Are you from a different planet?

        1. Pompous Git Silver badge

          Re: Satellite Broadband?

          Are you from a different planet?

          Presumably...

          http://www.speedtest.net/my-result/5028587116

          1. Anthony Hegedus Silver badge

            Re: Satellite Broadband?

            So why did you write 10 Gb/s? It's 10Mb/s

            1. Pompous Git Silver badge
              Facepalm

              Re: Satellite Broadband?

              So why did you write 10 Gb/s? It's 10Mb/s

              Brainfart! Probably the result of a tripling of my intake of beta blockers. Doctor's orders...

        2. Lotaresco Silver badge

          Re: Satellite Broadband?

          It must be planet Zog. We have pretty good mobile data in Italy. The landline speeds are rubbish. We get offered ISDN for "broadband". Hence we use an internet key in a router to provide a network connection for the house. Until recently this was 3G at 42Mbps, capped at 8GB/month (ouch).

          We have now moved to 4G which gives 100Mbps and gives us 30GB/month daytime with unlimited "free" night-time use for €20 a month.

          I'd jump at the offer of 20Gbps. Backwards, through a hoop of fire.

          A downvote from Pompous Git was just petulance on his part.

    3. Anthony Hegedus Silver badge

      Re: Satellite Broadband?

      You'd be surprised how good 4G is. Latency can be 30-40ms on a good day. Satellite broadband has terrible latency or at least 500ms, usually almost double that.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Facepalm

    Island mentality

    Its funny to read comments about BT having to put in fibre just for one person 12 miles away...

    You folks really are living in the past when elsewhere in your own european union there are broadband providers who leapfrogged the incumbent (Telephonica) who put broadband to the mountain town (of around 1000 people + a school) of my parents when Telephonica bitched about cables for near 6 years.

    Now there is a network of microwave antennas and a small (7inch) antenna on my parents house... they get the middle package of around 7 or 8 Gbps. Its probably Wimax or something.

    There is technology to make provision of 100% broadband in the UK affordable for any supplier... any other excuse is just that.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Island mentality

      In the UK the price the market is willing to pay for broadband is less than the number that allows new entrants like the ones you describe to make a return.

      This isn't a technical problem, it's commercial. The technical bit is easy.

  10. DrXym Silver badge

    Satellite broadband stinks

    Those geostationary satellites are 22,000 miles away so the round trip means appalling latencies. Throw in the crippling costs of the service and the need to have a hulking dish and it's a waste of time.

    For the effort it's probably cheaper for the government to subsidize phone network operators to provide coverage to users who want broadband.

  11. AndrueC Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Maybe people realised that it's barely fit for purpose. If you're stuck in a field doing OB or driving around the country then satellite is useful. But for a fixed point in the country such as an office or a residence it's expensive and performs poorly.

  12. Flywheel Silver badge

    I knew I shouldn't have ..

    .. sold that bl**dy container ship! I mean, how was I to know I'd need it?!

  13. CraPo

    Is there....

    a name for this scheme? A website? No clues in the article :-(

  14. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Poor BT

    Did you know they have 'offices' overlooking St Paul's cathedral? There is a massive broadcast standard auditorium, and conference suites with solid mahogany board room tables. I did some work there a few years ago. No expense spared (except for us minions).

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Poor BT

      Apologies for posting this in the wrong thread (guess which other one I was reading at the same time).

      I'm wondering if my downvoter was one of the control room technicians we had to train - the one who reckoned he could handle the entire desk by himself {snigger}

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Poor BT

      Apple have got some quite nice offices too, as have many other large businesses.

      Apple still won't sell me a phone for half what it costs them to make though. Tesla won't sell me a Model X for £5000.

      Why do you think that is?

  15. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    "[Ed Vaizey's] super-slow broadband crawl-out."

    Nice turn of phrase.

    Scheme is still s**t.

  16. Commswonk Silver badge

    "Folk shun UK.gov's 'expensive' subsidised satellite broadband"

    Just 24 people signed up to poorly advertised thought out scheme

    FTFY

  17. fionasboots

    Super fast satellite ...

    ... compared to our ADSL service which is actually a reasonable 5Mbps download but a pathetic 0.6Mbps up.

    The satellite (from Europasat) costs £75/month (we paid for the dish etc up front, and also negotiated that tariff based on a competitors pricing) for 100Gb allowance with unlimited HTTP/email after that.

    We get 22Mbps download and 6Mbps upload.

    And considering the signal is bouncing all over the damn place (it comes out in Spain I believe) it's still pretty nippy in terms of ping times.

    Even better, this service alone has managed to carry 1.5Tb of data up to an online backup service in about 2months (running 24/7 - you get unlimited data between 00:00 and 06:00).

    So, it's clear that satellite can work but it's still ridiculously expensive for the average consumer (I'm a contractor so it's a legitimate business expense) and the dish is rather ugly and large for a normal sized family home (though you can pay more and get Sky signal piped off the same setup)

  18. Bob Dunlop

    Make them feel the pain

    All MPs and BT employees above say "team leader" grade should have their broadband service at home and work restricted to the bandwidth and level of service of the lowest performing customer. Costs almost nothing to do.

    BT "management" should have all business calls prefixed by a useless 10 layer menu system which if successfully navigated leads to 25 minutes on hold with a broken muzak player before a one in three chance of a random disconnect. Might be trickier to implement but I'm sure there'd be volunteers to build the system.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Make them feel the pain

      Why?

      Would that 'encourage' Bt employees to work harder to change the laws of physics? Or encourage people in rural areas to pay the full cost of provision of faster services?

      I suspect that the actual result of your rule would be that telcos would simply withdraw service to lots of people with slower connections. It would almost certainly be cheaper to lose the revenue from those customers than it would to spend the money required to make high speed coverage universal.

  19. Jonathan Richards 1 Silver badge
    Coat

    That headline pic...

    "Ferraro-o Rocher in spa-a-a-a-ce"

  20. regwatcher
    Thumb Down

    I've applied

    ................... however, all that happened was that I got referred to the Somerset and Devon local group who were supposed to scrutinise the application and issue a voucher code.

    When I chased - and chased and chased them, they reluctantly told me that they had no scheme to issue the voucher numbers!!!!!!!

    So I went back to the Culture Dept and got referred back to the local group.

    The scheme simply doesn't work !!! Is there any wonder that so few applications have succeeded?

    Anyone got any ideas how to work this impasse?

  21. mrs doyle
    Holmes

    all part of the superfarce

    BT and avanti became partners years ago, they knew this would happen. It gave bt a breathing space to con the councils that they could get superfarce broadband to everyone, then when it became obvious to even the dopy councillors they roll out this 'solution'. Most rural dwellers have already tried satellite. They know it is too expensive and not very good. So now the government will throw millions into advertising it. This will keep the meeja on their side, and they will continue to promote the hype that the uk is leading the world and everyone has superfarce blah blah.

    When will someone see that the emperor (EdVaizey) has no clothes? We are going to become a laughing stock and a third world digital nation at this rate. Copper and satellites cannot deliver our future needs. Do not ask what it will cost to get a fibre to every home, ask what it will cost if we don't.

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