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 Mon Isberto, Public Affairs Head of Smart Communications, say that one of the new products to be launched by the telecoms company is a Satellite Broadband service. Not the first in the Philippines but definitely significant because it will be offered by a major telecoms company. According to the interview it is expected to be launched in 2007.

Satellite broadband will require you to have a dish attached outside your house (size is usually 75 cm in diameter) and a modem where you can connect your PC’s LAN card. From there a satellite in geostationary orbit 35,786 km above the earth will be the source of your Internet connection.The most common users of Satellite broadband services are for those areas which aren’t accessible by current broadband services (DSL, Cable, Mobile Broadband and Wireless) such as those in rural or offshore locations. These areas usually are too remote that it would be costly to deploy lines/antennas or the population is not dense enough to get a good base of subscribers. I did a check of broadband services in other countries and the price range for the services were around Php 2500 – P 80,000 (converted at $1=Php 50.) Aside from these there are also usually hardware costs and setup fees associated with the service. Speeds offered were similar to current broadband services (256kbps~2 Mbps)

Issues I’ve found with Satellite Broadband are:

  1. Bandwidth Limiters – some current providers have a fair use policy in effect with their subscription plan. Which means that you have a set amount of bandwidth allocated per month or per day (usually 200mb). If you go beyond your allocated bandwidth the service provider will throttle down your access speeds to near dial-up in order to give chance to other users to access the service. Some even monitor your current usage and throttle down your access once they notice that you are using too much bandwidth (such as when downloading large files over P2P).
  2. Latency – because of the distance of the satellite above the earth, satellite broadband is notorious for having high latency.

    The delay is primarily due to the speed of light being only 300,000 km/second (186,000 miles per second). Even if all other signaling delays could be eliminated it still takes the electromagnetic wave 233 milliseconds to travel from ground to the satellite and back to the ground, a total of 70,000 km (44,000 miles) to travel from you to the satellite company.

    This usually won’t be an issue unless you require quick arrival of your data packets (such as in online gaming.)

  3. Easily Affected by Rain and Snow – satellite broadband is known for being very susceptible to rain fade. Wherein signal degrades due to electromagnetic resistance from a storms leading edge. This could mean not only at your location but also at the hub location where the satellite transmits and receives its connection to the internet.

Given these facts, it would seem that people should only get satellite broadband if they have no other means of accessing the internet via traditional broadband services (cable and dsl) and the newer broadband services (Wireless and GPRS.) I see good use of the service though as a backup to existing broadband services.

This could also go hand in hand with the One Laptop Per Child Program if ever the Philippines should decide to avail of the program and deploy it in areas which have no access to the internet and most likely electricity as well (with solar panels or a mini hydro power plant to provide electricity).

References: here and here.

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