AVC – Satellite Broadband review

fast Internet connection via a Sky dish
Photo of AVC – Satellite Broadband
£250 installation plus £26.99 to £43.99 per month, all

Despite BT claiming it’ll have broadband to everybody in the UK by 2005, there are currently large swathes of the country where it’s not available. Most of these are rural areas, where the number of potential customers is small and the cost of upgrading exchanges and cables is comparatively high. One broadband solution is satellite, where data is beamed down to a Sky dish. This is what AVC offers.

AVC can supply broadband download speeds of 256Kbps for £26.99, 512Kbps for £34.99 or 768Kbps for £43.99 per month. The data is beamed directly to your satellite dish and, via a small Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) decoder and a USB cable, to your PC.

Note we say downloads, as one of the problems with satellite broadband, compared with, say, a wireless link, is that you need to make a phone call to upload data or even to navigate the Internet. That means you still need a ‘regular’ Internet account with BT, Freeserve or whoever, on top of the AVC service.

It’s certainly quick, though and in our tests downloads remained close to the 512Kbps AVC offers in its standard package. As more people join the service, contention may reduce this, but AVC maintains there is plenty of spare bandwidth in the Astra satellite used to transmit the service and more can be brought online to cater for extra demand.

There’s an installation fee of £250 for the AVC package, but this includes the cost of a suitable digital satellite dish and a Hauppauge WinTV Nova DVB adapter. The dish supplied by AVC uses a quad LNB (the sensor in the middle of the aerial), so you can have broadband and Sky through the same dish. The DVB adapter is a simple box which takes the down-feed from the dish and pumps the converted signal to any USB or USB 2 socket in your PC.

The Hauppauge software is pretty basic. While you can view a list of just TV, just radio or your selected favourites, there’s no way to automatically select just the free-to-air channels, which would save a lot of work. Sky’s free-to-air channels are not as much use as the Freeview set, either, as they don’t include Channel 4, five, nor the ITV digital channels.

The whole package is fitted and cabled by AVC and, after checking you have a working PC and Internet connection, the company configures the software and checks you have a broadband link. It’s all pretty painless.

Company: AVC

Contact: 0870 8500187


Verdict
This is a viable broadband service for those who can't get fast Internet any other way. However, it's currently more expensive than wireless, cable or land-line and still requires a phone connection. And, on a minor point, most of the Sky free-to-air channels try to sell you things.