On 6 December, the UK government released “Britain’s Superfast Broadband Future,” December 2010, a document laying out “Government’s £830 million strategy to make sure the UK has the best broadband network in Europe by 2015.” The paper was issued by the Secretary of State for Olympics, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). Some good language on the need for satellite platforms is spread throughout the paper – the summary says that “A mix of technologies – fixed, wireless and satellite – will be needed to deliver superfast broadband throughout the UK.” (Summary, para. 10, page 4). Other similar statements include the following:

  • “1.4 This vision of world class connectivity embraces a wide range of technology solutions. We believe that fixed, fixedwireless, mobile and satellite communications networks will all have a part to play in delivering this vision if we are to bring the benefits of broadband to as many people as possible.”
  • 1.29 … it is important that our vision for superfast broadband is not narrowly defined but instead will take advantage of the many developing strengths in the UK. As a result, we are likely to see a mix of technologies – from fibre-based solutions to mobile, wireless and satellite.
  • 3.13 Another technology that can be used to deliver broadband services is satellite. The UK benefits from three satellite arrays. Providing broadband services over satellite to the general public is a new and developing market sector. Satellite using the Ka band can offer high data rate services to large number of customers at an acceptable price point – with more than 150,000 connections likely to be available before the end of 2011 following the successful launch of Avanti’s Hylas1 satellite at the end of November 2010. While the physics of being 30,000 km away cannot be completely overcome, particularly its impact real time two way services (voice, video conferencing, gaming) it has a potential role to play in delivering data to set-top boxes and other computing devices. Satellite is a viable option for the most remote users and for those in some other not-spots. It will need to be part of any solution aiming at universal coverage.

DCMS says that the government is “taking a mixed-technology approach with fixed, wireless and satellite all having a role. It is recognised that one technology is not suitable for all circumstances, although high capacity fibre optic is likely to be a key feature of the UK’s network…”. The proposals laid out in the paper are mainly terrestrial, and consist of:

  • a ‘digital hub’ in every community by the end of this Parliament;
  • investment of £50 million in a second wave of projects to test how to deliver this (on top of the four pilots currently running on how to deliver superfast broadband to remote and rural areas);
  • cutting the costs of and access to infrastructure – increasing shared access, work with house builders to make new home broadband ready, and cutting the costs of laying cable by clarifying the rules on streetworks[; and]
  • the award of spectrum for mobile services

These activities will be the responsibility of Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), a body established within BIS with its own BDUK website. In guidance notes, DCMS notes that it will issue further information in April 2011 for local bodies to apply for grants. It notes that “the Government’s £830 million investment consists of £530 million by 2015 confirmed in the spending review in October, and £300 million by 2017 as part of the TV licence fee settlement.”