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European broadband-internet satellite launched

Ka-Sat is third satellite to be launched in 6 weeks

A new satellite that promises to bring broadband internet to homes and businesses across Europe and the Mediterranean was successfully launched on Sunday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Eutelsat's Ka-Sat is due in service in 2011 and is the third broadband internet satellite to be launched in the last six weeks. SkyTerra-1, on which Ka-Sat's technology is based, was launched in mid-November and will provide service across North America while Hylas-1 was launched at the end of November and will target Europe. (See the Ka-Sat launch on YouTube.)

Ka-Sat will cover the continent with 80 spot beams - focused signals that cover an area a few hundred kilometers across. Unlike traditional satellite beams that cover all or most of a continent, spot beams allow for frequencies to be effectively reused in multiple regions without interference. The result is increased capacity.

Each of the spot beams will have an overall capacity of 900Mbps, shared between all users, and the entire satellite will have a capacity of 70Gbps.

The same spot beam system is being used by the two other recently-launched broadband satellites. SkyTerra-1 covers North America with 500 spot beams while Hylas-1 covers the UK, Ireland, Spain, Portugal and Eastern Europe via eight regional spot beams.

Eutelsat already offers a satellite broadband service called TooWay. It was launched in 2009 and provides a two-way satellite broadband connection with download speed of up to 3.6Mbps for around £22 and £90 per month in the UK.

Ka-Sat will enable TooWay to boost speeds to around 10Mbps from the satellite and 4Mbps up to the satellite.

The satellite is also being eyed for other services including local digital TV and digital cinema distribution.

Prices for reception equipment and the service haven't been announced. Eutelsat said the price of reception equipment should benefit from being based on the same basic technology as SkyTerra.

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