Hylas 1, a satellite dedicated to plugging some of the holes in Europe’s broadband coverage, will go into orbit today, almost a whole year later than originally expected. David Williams, chief executive of Avanti, the company behind the new satellite, told the BBC that services will begin rolling out in early 2011, with 60 service providers in place across Europe. He said the service will provide an answer to rural communities which until now had been expected to pay thousands of pounds from companies such as BT to receive broadband. ‘Satellite is the only way to economically provide ubiquitous services to the most rural 10% or so of the population,’ Williams told the BBC. Avanti is hoping to create a fleet of satellites to serve rural areas, with Hylas 2 slated for launch in 2012. ‘With the first two satellites about a million people will be able to get a broadband service at competitive prices with a decent service quality,’ he said. Moreover, he promises that his satellite service will be competitive with other broadband technologies. ‘Most consumers in Britain needn’t pay more than 20 to 25 pounds to get a good quality broadband service,’ he said.
Hylas 1 is the first of three spacecraft from Avanti due to be sent into orbit with the sole purpose of offering internet coverage to rural areas. The bigger Hylas 2 satellite has mainly the African and Middle East markets in its sights but may also offer more broadband coverage in the UK. Hylas 1 will have a capacity for 350,000 users, well below the two million British homes that are currently unable to receive high speed internet access services.