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Should you get online with satellite broadband?

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Written by: Emma Lunn
04/08/2021
A million UK households are already using satellite broadband, with many consumers in rural areas saying it offers a more reliable internet connection.

With a satellite broadband connection, data is beamed from a satellite to a dish on the property, so the technology doesn’t rely on cables being laid to the home. It can offer a more reliable service for people poorly served by traditional connections.

But despite the appeal of the new type of connection, set-up costs of about £500 are deterring potential customers from trying the technology, according to Uswitch.

Set-up fees can be expensive due to the need to install a satellite dish, but satellite broadband users say they pay £29.70 a month on average for the service, compared to an average of £33.60 for all broadband users.

Satellite broadband could be a lifeline for many people due to unreliable or slow existing broadband connections. According to Uswitch, almost 200,000 UK homes are currently struggling with speeds lower than 10Mbps — the level that Ofcom considers a decent service.

Coverage from satellite broadband is set to become universal, but only a quarter of households (27%) believe it is available in their area.

Tesla billionaire Elon Musk began a UK trial of his Starlink satellite broadband system in January and hopes it will have 500,000 users worldwide within a year. Meanwhile BT has joined forces with OneWeb to provide connections to people in remote areas. Other existing UK satellite broadband providers include Broadband Everywhere, Freedomsat, Konnect and Satellite Internet.

Despite the growth of the technology, only two fifths (41%) of consumers are aware of satellite broadband, and only one in seven (14%) consumers have considered trying it out. Part of the problem may be a lack of brand recognition, with three quarters of UK consumers not having heard of any satellite broadband providers.

Extreme weather can affect a satellite broadband connection, with heavy rain and wind potentially reducing speeds or causing an outage. Almost half (46%) of consumers fear the weather in their area would be too bad for satellite broadband.

Ernest Doku, broadband expert at Uswitch.com, said: “Satellite broadband is being thrust into the limelight by entrepreneurs like Elon Musk, and it’s amazing to think that more than one million UK households are already getting their internet this way.

“The technology is improving all the time, and with big players like Starlink entering the UK market, connections are only going to get faster and more reliable. Satellite broadband offers hope to residents in rural areas who have struggled to get a decent connection from traditional providers, and we’ll be watching to see how BT’s partner with OneWeb grows over the coming years.”

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