New satellite a fillip for regional broadband

Broadband users in the rural areas of Australia have been given a big speed boost with the launch of a satellite service that offers speeds of 4Mbps.

The service provider and wholesaler, IPSTAR Australia Pty Ltd, is a subsidiary of Thailand's Shin Satellite and has already signed up six ISPs to deliver the service.

The satellite, also called IPSTAR, was launched into orbit in August. Its footprint covers a chunk of Asia from India, east through to Japan and down to Australia and New Zealand.

Australia, with 14.7 per cent sits behind China on 26.2 per cent in the satellite's total coverage area.

IPSTAR Australia satellite consultant Bob Hinrichs, who formerly worked with Telstra in its satellite Internet team, said the IPSTAR would work best in access challenged areas.

Technically, IPSTAR provides10 spot beams across Australia plus one large shape beam, meaning the whole continent gets coverage. Other satellites, he said, only provided one big beam and were not as thorough.

Hinrichs said this changed satellite in Australia from being considered a quasi narrowband service to one that could match the speed and capacity of terrestrial broadband offerings.

"IPSTAR allows customers to exploit broadband," he said.

IPSTAR is offering a maximum speed of 4Mbps per terminal, with uploads at 1Mbps. However, in reality, local ISPs may offer a range of packages, such as 256Kbps, 512 Kbps or 1Mbps.

Speeds would depend on what the ISP wanted to offer according to its demand forecast, Hinrichs said.

In comparison, BigPond's 1-Way satellite plan peaks at 512Kbps, and its 2-Way plan at 800Kbps. Optus's 1 and 2-Way services have speeds of 1000Kbps/256Kbps

To receive the service end users need a satellite dish about 85cm in diameter. This connects to a satellite modem in the users PC or notebook.

With the Federal Government's Higher Bandwidth Incentive Scheme (HiBIS), Hinrichs said the service would have further appeal to both ISPs and consumers in regional areas.

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