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Here Comes Two-way Satellite Broadband? 27 May 2002 Edition
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It looks as if satellite-based Internet access is in the news again with two overseas operators preparing to move into New Zealand after smelling the cash that will accompany a government pledge to put broadband into every school.

Given the remoteness of many small NZ Schools, and the virtually non-existent rural coverage offered by Telecom's DSL service, wireless or satellite looks to be the only viable technology for filling in the many gaps.

Two-way satellite broadband is an emerging technology that is already available in the USA from several suppliers such as StarBand and DirecPC.

A fairly good FAQ on the features and promises of the Hughes-operated service is available here.

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Comparing the price of the two-way satellite services being offered in the USA indicate that they're not too much more expensive than DSL (once you've bought your dish and other hardware).

I didn't see any mention of a data cap either!

Let's not forget of course that we already have a satellite-based Internet service in New Zealand -- namely IHUG's Ultra.

Unfortunately for IHUG, the government wants a high speed uplink as well as a high speed downlink, so as to allow video-conferencing and the like. The current incarnation of Ultra as applied to a rural situation uses a regular dial-up connection to provide the uplink -- which limits it to 33.6Kbps. There's also the, not insignificant effect, of that 4 cents/minute Telecom charge associated with the outgoing call. Assuming a school were online for 6 hours per day, that's as much as $72 per week or nearly $3,000 per year -- on top of the other costs. Read Tim Wood's correction to this

This makes a two-way, "no phone line required" alternative look far more attractive, even if the service itself costs several hundred dollars per month.

Readers Say
(updated hourly)
  • High Speed Ultra... - Tim
  • unregistered software IT... - Paul
  • Broadband pessimism... - Baz
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    However, what I find most incredible about this whole situation is that, once again, it seems the promise of the Souther Cross cable has been hijacked by those seeking to keep bandwidth prices high.

    Although I don't know for sure, it's quite likely that the two-way satellite services being touted now will bypass the SC cable completely -- in the same way that the Ultra satellite service is fed directly from the USA.

    This could be even more ridiculous when you realise that the US-based two-way satellite services appear to be frequently sold on an uncapped "all you can eat" basis.

    Would you pay $150 per month for an uncapped broadband satellite connection that offers 400Kbps download and 150Kbps upload?

    Of course we're unlikely to see that sort of deal offered here in NZ -- after all, why should any competitor to Telecom's DSL service undercut their pricing by more than just a modest margin?

    "What the market will bear" is frequently a far more lucrative pricing method than "cost plus margin" when you're selling in a marketplace with only limited competition.

    Keep your eyes peeled for new services and new deals -- but don't hold your breath over the price.

    It's worth noting too that Microsoft is in bed with Gilat in the USA -- so perhaps any Gilat offering here will be subsidised by MS on condition that the schools elbow the open-source option for their software.

    Maori TV Flush, TVNZ Poverty-Stricken?
    As we all know, a very large dollop of your tax dollars are being used to fund a Maori TV service which, depending on your perspective, is either a valuable contribution to the preservation of Maori culture or a vote-buying waste of money.

    Whatever the case, it seems that TV1 is perhaps getting the short straw these days.

    When I tried to find some info on the recently presented Qantas Media Awards (no, there's no website that I can find for the awards -- go figure) I got this result screen (screendump).

    Check out the large bold text at the bottom of the page which says (or said) "Unregistered release / Uncertified binary"

    A little more investigation reveals that the message comes from a search engine written by Vestris Inc. It seems you can run the code for an "evaluation period" of 15 days -- after which you are required to "purchase a commercial License Agreement from Vestris or destroy all copies of the product in your possession." (Read the Terms of Use)

    Ooops - call Marion Hobbs and get some more cash guys!

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