Internet service provider, FirstNet has teamed up with Beam Solutions to offer a nationwide satellite broadband service.

FirstNet marketing manager, Kelly Lynch, believes that the partnership allows it to offer "a whole connectivity package", but says, "The main benefit is the fact that it's available anywhere."

Satellite broadband can be installed anywhere, so there are none of the limitations associated with ADSL and cable modems, both of which require customers to live in a certain location before they can connect to the service.

Hooking up to satellite broadband is similar to signing up to a satellite TV service, as it requires the installation of a mini satellite dish, which can then be linked to a PC via an ethernet connection. FirstNet's service offers download speeds of 512Kbps (kilobits per second) and upload rates of 110Kbps.

But before customers living in non-broadband areas get too excited, satellite has a downside: cost. FirstNet is aiming its service at "companies that can't get access to ADSL [asymmetric digital subscriber line], or which don't want a BT line, and companies that don't want to pay leased line costs", according to Lynch. As a result, pricing has been set at a level to appeal to these business customers.

There is a £249.99 connection fee, plus a £159.99 installation fee. A monthly package costs £109.99 for a single user, while a multi-user package for up to 20 people is priced £199.99. This is far higher than the cost of either ADSL or cable modem services, but it is cheaper than a leased line, which can work out at as much as £15,000 per year.

For their money, satellite users will get domain name registration, 20MB of web space and 10 email addresses, plus access to FirstNet's customer support.

FirstNet is not the only satellite broadband provider in the UK, but its prices are competitive — a similar service from European provider, Aramiska
costs from £199 a month for up to 30 users, but provides transfer speeds of 256Kbps download and 64Kbps upload. Setup costs are higher, too, at £400 for installation and £100 for connection.

Aramiska admits that, like FirstNet, pricing is not aimed at consumers. An Aramiska spokesperson said "We are not priced like BT or Telewest for the individual user," but suggested that individuals can still benefit from satellite broadband if they club together and spread the costs.

Aramiska is currently running demos of its service nationwide to increase the awareness of satellite broadband, and has already provided connections to a number of remote companies in the Highlands and Scottish isles. Its awareness tour is due to visit Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire this week and will be in Liverpool in the first week of July.