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How to get 10-meg broadband, anywhere in the UK

It's fast, and reliable... but it isn't cheap

As we reported earlier, Eutelsat Communications today announced affordable, always-on broadband for everyone in the UK, regardless of where they live in relation to the nearest phone exchange.

Well, almost: the company's Tooway satellite broadband offers up to 10Mbps broadband to anyone who can house a KA satellite dish with a south-facing line of site to the sky. In practice, this means just about anybody.

(But if, like me, your house is in a dip with a series of mature trees to the south, you may have to send a series of satellite dish fitters further up increasingly insecure poles, and still find that Sky Sports News goes all squiggly when it's windy. And your garden will always be covered in acorns. Curse you, beautiful, protected oaks.)

No matter. According to Steve Petrie of Eutelsat subsidiary Skylogic (the company that does the actual satellite stuff), the entry into service of Europe's first high-throughput satellite means that upwards of 1 million people can get fast, always-on satellite broadband, even if they currently live in so-called 'not-spots'. Which sounds like the answer to all our broadband woes, but there are some caveats: most of them of the wallet-busting kind.

The orbitar cost €350m to sling up there, Petrie told PC Advisor, and offers 70Gbps throughput. Eutelsat will limit the number of users so that everyone will continue to enjoy the same calibre of service. So to enjoy the good stuff, broadband users are going to have to help Eutelsat recoup the cost.

See also: What's the best UK broadband ISP? PC Advisor's 2011 Broadband Survey report

Petrie told us that the equipment required is a 77cm dish on the outside of the building, and a small modem inside. You can install the dish yourself for free, although it will cost around £199 to buy one (you can rent them for £9.99 a month). Tooway does provide an installation guide, but if you need someone else to plumb it in, you're looking at a further £99 one-off charge.

So that's small change out of three hundred quid before you even start paying for the broadband itself. This starts at £24.99 for 6Mbps down- and 1Mb uploads, with a data allowance of 4GB a month, and tops out at £99 a month for 10/4Mb and 25GB respectively. You can get 10Mbps downloads from £54 a month. The limited nature of the capacity means that this pricing is unlikely to go down, too.

And unless you have a 77cm dish lying around, you can't really try before you buy. Petrie told us that all of Eutelsat's retail partners (Avonline, Bentley-Walker, Tarium and Broadband Wherever) offer 'try before you buy' drop-in centres, but that's not the same as seeing something work in your own home.

Finally, although you can receive satellite TV down the Tooway dish once it's installed, you can't get the internet on an existing satellite TV dish. So if you are a Sky TV subscriber, you'll end up with a chimney stack that looks like the BT Tower (that's the Post Office tower to you, Grandad.*)

But then, as someone irritating once sang: 'nobody said it was easy'. And if you are currently one of the unfortunates who cannot get decent connectivity, Tooway could be a Godsend. The one-off costs will seem cheap at the price, and £24 a month for 6-meg broadband is no big deal. For businesses on the outer reaches of the connectivity spectrum, Tooway could literally be a life-saver.

See also: How to get 100Mb broadband

So there you have it: some good news for web have-nots, but not a panacea for everyone. If you live beyond conventional connectivity, and despaired of ever being able to watch Cash in the Attic on BBC iPlayer, help is at hand. But you'll need to get your hand in your pocket.

We'll be testing Tooway just as soon as we can get our hands on a dish (and persuade Geoff the IT guy to scale the six floors of PC Advisor Towers).

*Fun fact of the day: none of the dishes on the BT Tower actually do anything these days, but the building is listed, so they can't be removed. FACT.

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