Satellite: Bridging the digital divide between urban and rural communities

Opinion Despite significant investment over the years, there are still ‘black spots’ in connectivity – not only in rural areas, but even in the heart of London. With data-intensive applications an expected part of mobile life, these black spots can have significant implications.

For instance, a business looking to relocate within the UK will most likely make the level of connectivity available a key part of its decision process, meaning areas plagued by black spots – most likely rural areas – will regularly lose out compared to their more connected competition. Furthermore, if emergency services move away from the existing Airwave national public safety network to a system such as cellular, which provides greater access to broadband data, any black spots over remote areas will prove not just inconvenient and costly, but also potentially dangerous.

The continued existence of black spots is largely down to a very simple issue: not enough cellular base stations. Placing base stations in every conceivable location to ensure continuous coverage is often impossible due to issues of cost and access, meaning that remote and sparsely populated areas are often overlooked.

To do nothing would be to indirectly validate the digital divide that is widening between rural and urban communities. To counteract this, other technologies, like satellite broadband, must be used to supplement existing connectivity and ensure consistent and uninterrupted speeds UK-wide.

Once seen as a last resort for those too remote for any other form of access, satellite has come on leaps and bounds. The advent of higher speed Ka-band satellites has increased network capacity from single digits to hundreds of Gigabits per second. Thanks to this, a satellite services can now guarantee a high-speed connection to any area within its coverage, eliminating the last few black spots.

At the same time, receivers are constantly shrinking in size and can be placed in unconnected areas with little cost or direct impact on the area in order to receive a signal. This means that monetary concerns no longer need to impact the decision of whether or not a rural area is worth providing with a good connection.

To avoid a digital divide, every part of the UK needs equal access to high-speed, high-quality connectivity. Turning to technologies like satellite broadband can bridge this gap and make high-speed connections available to all users – whether on Oxford Street or in the Orkneys.

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