Alternative Access

To 3G or not to 3G? That is the question’ from James Webb, ALVEA product manager at COMPUTERLINKS who looks at satellite as a viable alternative option.

The Internet is a central part of business life for every corporate and government organisation. From web browsing and email, to ecommerce and cloud computing, access to the Internet for corporate data and applications is critical. Despite the proliferation of mobile devices, it isn’t always possible to connect to the Internet, particularly in remote areas, and even when fixed line connectivity is available it can be costly, time-consuming and unreliable. Any loss of connectivity can result in lost revenue, productivity and irreparable damage to a business.

One alternative to a fixed line is a mobile 3G or 4G connection. However, as cellular networks get congested and each cellular relay has limited capacity, this is often too slow for effective business use. Recent research conducted by BroadbandGenie showed that the average download speed on 3G is 1.39Mbps and 1Mbps for upload. Due to the nature of cellular networks, people are on the move and the number of phones connected is continually changing, so connections can be unreliable and random.

Comms Business Magazine (CBM): So how can you overcome these 3G and 4G issues with satellite broadband?

James Webb (JW): The good news is that there is a viable alternative to 3G and 4G – satellite broadband. In simple terms, it is a two-way broadband connection that is bounced from earth to a satellite, then to the user and back again. Reception is via a satellite dish, similar in size to a satellite TV dish but transmitting broadband rather than TV signals.

Satellite broadband has been around for a while, freeing customers from the limitations of terrestrial Internet connections and delivering fast, reliable broadband anytime and anywhere without the need for phone lines or mobile signals. Satellite-based solutions are unaffected by the landscape, do not suffer from fade-out away from cities and are available from any UK land-based location. This makes satellite broadband particularly attractive to businesses in construction, oil and gas, utilities and civil engineering. Whether an organisation needs broadband at the top of a mountain, in a green or brown field construction site or simply for remote workers at home in a rural village, satellite broadband allows them to be connected. Unlike many terrestrial services, the speed that the satellite broadband provider offers is the speed that the clients will get.

CBM: Isn’t satellite broadband just as slow, difficult to set up and very expensive?

JW: In the early days of satellite broadband start-up costs were high and speeds were low, making it an expensive and impractical option. Thanks to advances in satellite technology, today, however, the market is now far more competitive and the latest satellites, launched into space early in 2011, are far more advanced than ever before. ALVEA’s Satellite Broadband service, for example, is based on the latest Ka-band satellite technology and delivers speeds of up to 15Mbps download and up to 3Mbps upload.

Satellite broadband is now an affordable option for businesses of all sizes. Whereas a typical fixed line Internet connection could cost a business up to £3000 per month to provide remote access, with ALVEA’s Satellite Broadband, businesses can be paying as little as £40 per month for a 1Gb pay-as-you-go plan and their satellite connection can be mobilised in around three minutes, ready to start any new project. A number of different service plans are also available to meet individual business needs, including an unlimited usage monthly plan for around £400 a month.

CBM: Can you give me some examples of users benefitting from the service?

JW: Sure. The Erith Group specialises in delivering complex demolition and civil engineering projects, often in remote locations. Erith’s Remediation Division is responsible for the rejuvenation of contaminated land as well as civil engineering and utility works. The division operates in locations on a temporary basis, with often no basic communications network in place or where there is no mobile phone signal. With projects lasting anything from a few months to a number of years, maintaining email contact and access to the Internet is vital to facilitate the smooth running of the business. In the past the only solution was for site personnel to catch up on email when they returned to their hotel rooms in the evening after a day on-site. This was neither tenable nor viable in the long term.

The challenge for Erith was to provide Internet connectivity to the company’s remediation teams, wherever they were located and at a cost that would not make a dent in project overheads. It also had to be up and running quickly to ensure on-site teams could be productive from day one. With no copper exchanges available in remote rural locations and 3G and 4G either unreliable or non-existent, satellite broadband was the obvious choice.

CBM: Is there a channel play here? What about reseller opportunity?

JW: Erith worked with Comtact, a London-based IT Infrastructure integrator and managed service provider, to evaluate the options available. It selected ALVEA Satellite Broadband, a satellite-based Internet connectivity service that uses Avanti Communications two-way satellite HYLAS 1. Erith are paying £100 a month for the service

ALVEA Satellite Broadband is available as a range of static, mobile and failover solutions exclusively via the channel for resellers to offer to customers. Options include a static, continuous use service, which provides a stable connection to the Internet for organisations of all sizes and integrates fully into their existing network. For organisations needing a temporary or short-term project, a portable Mobile Platform option is available which takes less than five minutes to erect. Finally the Business Internet Continuity (BIC) service provides failover Internet connectivity when a client’s standard ISP fails. Supported by all the standard features of the Satellite Broadband service, BIC offers a variety of hardware and payment packages to offer true diversity from standard, common Internet connections.


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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine
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