Rural communities in the UK are being offered satellite-based broadband services for £5,000 per year per village or community.

Aramiska, the UK subsidiary of Netherlands' based Aramiska BV is offering the service to communities that lack access to ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) broadband, marketing communications manager Peter Gumm said yesterday.

BT requires that a particular demand-level be reached before installing broadband ADSL in rural areas. Communities must collect names of those interested in the service and then petition the company.

Aramiska usually only offers its satellite broadband service to business customers, but has recognized that many rural communities are unlikely to get ADSL broadband access, Gumm said. It has therefore set up a package allowing a community to establish a nonprofit business and share the connection locally.

For an annual charge of £5,000, Aramiska will install a 75cm satellite disk, a modem and a router as part of its ARC 2000+ package. The community can then share that connection, usually using a wireless 802.11b connection and repeaters where necessary, Gumm said.


Subsidies are available from many UK Regional Development Agencies, so the community organization can apply to have up to half of the fee refunded, Gumm said.

The service offers contention ratios of 4:1 downstream and 2:1 upstream, Gumm said, so that even on shared bandwidth users will get good performance. The contention ratio indicates the number of users who share bandwidth and a typical ADSL connection might have a contention ratio of 50:1, meaning that up to 50 people might be sharing bandwidth at any time.

Unlike Aramiska's business offering, there is no cap on usage or the number of PCs connected in the rural package, "although we usually see around ten to 20 connections on average," Gumm said.

The villages of West Haddon and Winwick in rural Northamptonshire, England, have set up an Aramiska broadband service, which went live October 3.

Straight to the top

Trevor Sherman, one of the 11 founders of West Haddon and Winwick Community Broadband Ltd, which was set up to run the service, said he spent over a year trying to organize broadband through BT as he needed it for his business as a training consultant. However, he could not find any way to get a BT broadband service to the area, despite emailing BT CEO Ben Verwaayen and getting him "on the case," Sherman said.

"I'm a cheeky sod, so I emailed him one night and got a reply within a couple of minutes. He's very responsive to customers! But even that didn't get us anywhere," Sherman said.

People in the area are now starting to sign up for the service, which costs £27 a month plus a £100 set up fee, according to the West Haddon site. "I don't know exact numbers, but I know we've had about 20 enquiries since the launch and that some people have signed up. It's going at a decent rate," he said.

"I spent a lot of time messing about before I came to the conclusion that we were not getting broadband by copper or cable; that satellite was the answer," Sherman said.