Ihug flogs off satellite service

Ihug has sold its broadband satellite service to an Australian company, closing one of the longest chapters in New Zealand broadband history.

Bordernet, an Australian ISP that specialises in both rural and satellite-based services, has bought Ihug's Ultra satellite service customer base in both Australia and New Zealand. Customers have been informed and told their email addresses won't change without due warning.

Ihug's satellite service began life as StarNet in October 1997, serving Auckland customers via a microwave link from the Sky Tower. Despite offering download speeds of up to 500kbit/s well ahead of Telecom's own venture into broadband in 1999 with its JetStream service, the satellite service never really fired for Ihug. The upload side of the service ran over existing phone lines and even then at a sub-optimal 33.6kbit/s. A long-promised two-way service never eventuated and the offer has since been surpassed by Telecom's wholesale JetStream products and alternative wireless offerings such as BCL and Wired Country's fixed-wireless services.

However, for some customers in regional New Zealand, Ihug's Ultra service was the only way of joining the broadband revolution at all. Those that weren't in BCL's catchment area of "rural" New Zealand, but were too far from a Telecom exchange or cabinet were left with few options, one of which was Ultra.

Changes to the service, including renaming email addresses, pricing and availability of the service in New Zealand, have yet to be announced. BorderNet offers two levels of functionality in Australia - iSat and vSat. Service on the iSat platform are available at either 256kbit/s or 400kbit/s download and 33kbit/s upload. The faster vSat service offers 256kbit/s or 512kbit/s download and 64kbit/s upload. Prices range from $28.50 for 1GB of data through to $94 a month for 2GB on the fastest plan.

Australian broadband discussion forum Whirlpool rates the service as "poor value" because it charges for both upload and downloading of traffic, although that practice is commonplace in New Zealand.

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