A satellite that promises to bring broadband internet to 20 million people in the UK and mainland Europe was successfully launched late Friday.
The Hylas-1 satellite was carried into space on top of an Ariane 5 rocket from the European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. Lift-off was at 3:39 pm local time (6:39 pm GMT). (See video of the launch on YouTube.)
The satellite will cover areas of the UK, Ireland, Spain, Portugal and Eastern Europe via eight regional spot beams. Unlike conventional satellites that cover the whole of the continent, the spot beams on Hylas-1 are focused on smaller parts of the continent. That means the same frequencies can be re-used in different beams, increasing the overall bandwidth of the satellite.
While some nations in Europe are well served by fixed-line broadband, others lag far behind. Low penetration is sometimes due to the lack of broadband access in rural areas, where carriers are less likely to invest because the lower population density makes the return on investment lower.
The Hylas service is targeted at areas where the wired broadband infrastructure is not available or is available at slow speeds.
The satellite is owned by Avanti Communications, a UK-based company that sells broadband service to telecom carriers for resale to individual businesses and consumers.
It has already announced a string of contracts with telecom and IT services companies in Europe. One unnamed customer will provide broadband Internet, television and IP telephony services in the UK via the satellite, Avanti said.
A second satellite, Hylas-2, is scheduled to be launched in 2012 and will cover parts of the Middle East and Africa. Avanti estimates that the two satellites will together be able to provide broadband Internet for around 1 million users.