Finalist for UK's NextGen Awards: Superfast Satellite for Communities (SS4C), a project by Astra Connect and Satellite Internet.

NextGen 2015 will take place in London, UK, on the 5th November 2015. During the evening there will be a awards ceremony in the House of Lords, to which our project is nominated.

Below is more information on Superfast Satellite for Communities (SS4C).


The Challenge

Set in the heart of Brendon Hills and Exmoor National Park in Somerset, Luxborough is among the UK’s most rural communities. As a result, consistent and reliable connectivity is of utmost importance to Luxborough’s residents, with livelihoods and education often critically dependent on Internet access.

Amazingly, in today’s digital age, the scenario faced by those in Luxborough is typical of between three and five percent of UK households. Homes in this bracket have no access to a high-speed broadband connection, as revealed by Ofcom, and current connectivity speeds provided over copper are extremely slow. Luxborough residents, for example, commonly experienced broadband speeds well under 2Mbps. Most of these broadband-disadvantaged homes are in rural areas, where installing fibre brings numerous challenges, including accessibility and cost.

Finding an efficient and economically-viable way to connect this final three to five per cent is among the Government’s top priorities and challenges and a key target to explore options to get near universal superfast broadband coverage across the UK by 2018 has been set.

The Solution

Last year, as part of its bid to connect the UK’s final five percent, the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) made £10million available and invited companies to put forward proposals for projects designed to connect underserved communities. Seven successful projects were announced in March with Satellite Internet’s Superfast Satellite for Communities (SS4C) among them.

Based on SES Techcom Services’ Astra Connect for Communities solution, Satellite Internet proposed using a Satellite Distribution Node (SDN) solution, incorporating a single satellite headend with wireless distribution, in combination with Direct-to-Home connections for properties outside of the headend’s range. In these cases, broadband would be provided via a single, smaller dish attached to the exterior of the building.

Providing speeds of up to 25Mbps, the solution was ideal for Luxborough, which was chosen to pilot the technology – which had never been used in the UK before. A further two villages in the region were also selected to benefit from an installation later in the year. Satellite Internet has worked closely with Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) and the Exmoor National Park Authority to progress the project over the latter half of 2014. Feasibility studies and community engagement were carried out towards the end of 2014.

The Achievement

Fast-forward to August 2015, and two headends are now up and running. Overseen by engineers from SES Techcom Services and Satellite Internet, the headend was fitted to Luxborough’s Village Hall and successfully configured on Friday, January 23, with around 109 homes now in the service area. The difference this has made to those families now connected is remarkable – children can get online to complete homework, farmers can submit vital forms to DEFRA and residents can access everyday services not previously available. The second installation in Simonsbath went live last week, enabling a further 90+ homes to be connected to superfast broadband and a third headend is scheduled for installation in another remote Somerset community later this year, further increasing the number of homes and families that will be able to benefit from the solution.

With several mobile phone networks now offering Voice over Wi-Fi (VoWi-Fi) services another major benefit of the service is that Luxborough and Simonsbath residents connected to Satellite Internet’s service can now stay in touch, making and receiving calls on their mobile phones, despite there being no mobile phone signal in their villages.  

Furthermore, the service is fully adaptable for future installations, with advantages of the groundbreaking solutions including: cost-effectiveness, reliability, consistency and fast download speeds. No matter how rural the location, the model can be deployed anywhere across the UK and is particularly suitable for the final three to five per cent in the country which, until now, has not felt the benefits of high-speed Internet.

In other words, with Satellite Internet, the Government has the potential to not only reach its target of exploring universal superfast broadband by 2018 but to exceed it, making high-speed broadband for all a reality.

To hear from those involved in the project, please watch this video: