European space operator Eutelsat has today announced that their new Konnect VHTS (Very High Throughput) broadband satellite, which was launched into orbit a year ago, has now successfully moved into live service from its orbital position at 2.7°E – covering much of the UK, Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.
The new satellite, which was built by Thales Alenia Space, is a more traditional one that will sit in a high geostationary earth orbit and cover a wide area. The VHTS weighs 6.3 tonnes, supports 230 beams over Western Europe and has a large Ka-band (radio spectrum) capacity of around 500Gbps (Gigabits per second).
By comparison, the operator’s previous KONNECT satellite weighed “just” 3.6 metric tons at launch, included a designed lifespan of 15+ years, as well as 65 spotbeams and a Ka-band capacity of only 75Gbps. Suffice to say, the VHTS (Konnect VHTS) could help to boost broadband speeds from space, albeit while still being somewhat hobbled by sluggish latency (ping) times.
Eva Berneke, Eutelsat Group CEO, said:
“The entry into service of the state-of-the-art EUTELSAT KONNECT VHTS is an important milestone for the Group, showcasing once again our leadership in innovation, and our commitment to bringing connectivity to the next level in Europe to help bridge the digital divide. With its ability to accommodate joint GEO-LEO services, specifically in zones where demand is highly concentrated, EUTELSAT KONNECT VHTS represents a key asset in the Group’s offering going forward. Moreover, its substantial precommitments are a testament to the significant demand for satellite connectivity, even in developed markets.”
The big question mark right now is over where, in the UK, consumers will be able to access packages on the new satellite. Back in June 2023 we reported on how European satellite operator Eutelsat had decided to exit the retail satellite broadband business (here) and, as a result, customers of their UK ISP outlet – Konnect – found themselves being transferred to Bigblu Operations Ltd. instead.
The old website for Bigblu UK now redirects visitors to a seemingly fairly new provider called Brdy, which is a trading name of Bigblu Operations. The provider currently offers two satellite broadband packages, although it’s unclear whether these are being sold via Eutelsat’s satellites or those of ViaSat (the FAQ page only seems to mention Viasat, but the packages look more like we’d expect from Eutelsat).
Both packages include a router and operate off a short 30-day contract term, although annoyingly there’s no online ordering system (you have to phone or share your personal details first), and we couldn’t see any details on how much the systems would cost to install (inc. terminal hardware).
A quick look at the small print reveals that the advertised prices don’t quite reflect reality because the provider also gives “average” speeds of 18Mbps (3Mbps) for Standard 25 and 33Mbps (3Mbps) for Superfast 50. The UK’s advertising rules mean that they should really be showing the ‘average’ speeds at the front.
The packages are also expressed as being “unlimited satellite broadband“, although once again if you look a bit deeper then it becomes clear that both plans include an allowance for “priority data” (60GB and 150GB). “Once you have used all of your high speed data, you still have access to unlimited standard data which may result in a minimum of 128 Kbps download speed and 128 Kbps upload speed,” says the operator.
Once again, we strongly suspect that this definition of “unlimited” would not pass approval by the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) as, under the rules, any restricts on an unlimited plan should only be extremely light. But trying to access even many modern websites on a connection as slow as 128Kbps (0.12Mbps) is going to be nothing short of painful.