Closing the Digital Divide gap with Multi-Beam Satellite Technology

Gabriele Boccolini | Researcher

The European Union (EU) aims to have 100% broadband coverage by 2013, and to increase coverage bandwidth to 30 Mbps for all Europeans by 2020 with 50% or more of European households subscribing to internet connections above 100 Mbps.This is the main objective of the Digital Agenda for Europe which is one of the initiatives of the Europe 2020 strategy to promote social inclusion and competitiveness in the EU.

The main challenge of this ambitious target is to close the digital divide gap of rural areas that are still not served by terrestrial broadband infrastructure. The geostationary satellite technology is the most appealing solution due to the capability of large coverage area without the necessity to deploy any terrestrial infrastructure. However, the high costs and low data rate of classical geostationary satellites technologies have relegated them to the role of niche technology.

We are now facing a new era for satellite communication with the introduction of multi-beam satellite technology which enables frequency re-use similar to a cellular system and allows to increase the throughput while achieving a substantial reduction of the unit costs of satellite broadband capacity. Broadband satellite services are nowadays offered in Europe through the KaSat multi-beam satellite launched in 2010 and manufactured by EADS Astrium. There are ongoing projects funded by ESA (European Space Agency) for multi-beam satellite technology with the objective to offer 1 Tbps using a single satellite by 2020.

Gradiant is collaborating with some of the most influent actors of European satellite industry, such as Thales Alenia Space, EADS Astrium, DLRand Avanti Communications, within the European project BATS (Broadband Access via Integrated Terrestrial & Satellite Systems) which aims to integrate the satellite and terrestrial technology to offer broadband access for all Europeans and to progress on the reduction of the cost per bit of the satellite segment.