November 27, 2010

Europe Launches Broadband Satellite

Europe has launched the first satellite dedicated to delivering broadband services.

The Hylas spacecraft is designed to work in remote locations, also known as "hotspots," such as rural villages where it is currently not possible to get a fast Internet connection.

The satellite was successfully placed into orbit 34 minutes after its launch from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana on an Arian 5 rocket.

Hylas signal was picked up almost immediately at an antenna located in India.

The satellite is a commercial venture operated by start-up Avanti Communications of London, but the spacecraft itself incorporates technology developed with public funding through the European Space Agency (ESA).

"It is a fairly small spacecraft but rather capable," ESA's Hylas project manager Andrea Cotellessa told BBC News.

"The payload has flexibility to reallocate bandwidth and power in each of the eight spot beams that cover key market areas selected by Avanti."

"Normally, satellites have this frequency plan fixed at the design stage and it can't be changed in orbit."

"On Hylas, this can be done at any moment in time from the control centre. This agility is important because it will allow Avanti to keep up with market evolution."

Hylas was prepared at the Portsmouth, U.K. factory of EADS Astrium, Europe's largest space company, and in Bangalore by Antrix, which is a commercial arm of the Indian space agency (ISRO).

The spacecraft will operate in the KA radio band and deliver broadband services to about 35,000 subscribers.

Hylas will be offering up to 10Mbps to its users.

"Now that we've got this satellite access, we'll be able to get fast broadband for the first time [in notspots]," the British Science Minister David Willetts said.

"There'll be farmers, hotels, houses in the Lake District, in Scotland and parts of Cornwall that haven't been able to get broadband before; but now this satellite will deliver it. That brings them all online and that's something the coalition government is really committed to," he told BBC News.

Avanti CEO David Williams told BBC that the company has big plans for the future.

"Hylas-1 is the first of what will be many satellites," he explained. "We've already got our second satellite under construction at the moment and that launches in about 15 months' time.

"That will put more capacity into the UK but also it puts new capacity into new areas in Africa and the Middle East. And then we are planning more satellites for Latin America, India and other parts of Asia."


Image Caption: Hylas spacecraft aboard Arian 5 rocket, ready for launch. (Image courtesy: Avanti Communications Group/ESA)


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