EuroSky – Internet via the Sky review

Web access via satellite
Photo of EuroSky – Internet via the Sky
Ultranet £19.99 + VAT per month, Alternet £9.99 + VAT per month, Decoder card £191+VAT, dish installation &pou

Fed up waiting for ADSL? Don’t have a cable connection? Don’t want to pay £50 a month for broadband Internet access? If your answer to these questions is a resounding ‘Yes’, then EuroSky’s satellite-based broadband Internet access technology may be just what you need. On a very basic level, the EuroSky service allows you to make a normal modem or ISDN connection for sending data, just as you would with a normal ISP, but uses a satellite link for incoming data, which can reach you at speeds of up to 2Mbps.

To get up and running, you first need a 60cm satellite dish pointing 19.2 degrees East – the same location you get Sky’s analogue satellite TV service from – and a special decoder card for your PC. EuroSky will sell you a suitable card, such as the TeleMann SkyMedia 200D we were supplied with, and install it in your home or office for £190 or so – about the same as you can expect to pay BT to install ADSL if it ever gets round to launching the service. EuroSky can also arrange for a suitable satellite dish to be supplied and installed, but this will cost you extra. You’ll also need an Alternet or Ultranet account with EuroSky. The Alternet account costs £9.99 per month but requires you to have an existing ISP through which you link to EuroSky’s systems. In contrast, an Ultranet account, which costs £19.99 a month, allows you to connect to EuroSky directly, and includes Email accounts and some Web space.

Having dealt with the administrative details, you can start surfing right away. The first thing you’ll notice is how fast pages appear on your screen, and how fast you can download files. In our tests we saw download speeds of up to 512kbps for a group of files, though individual file download speeds tended not to exceed about 18kbps. At some times of the day, though, when EuroSky’s systems get heavily used, speeds dropped to a mere 2kbps.

But all this is just half of what you get for your money from EuroSky. Additionally, you can use a special web site to choose from a range of selected application files, film trailers, utilities and games and have them squirted down your satellite link at speeds of up to 2Mbps. Alternatively, you can select any file accessible via FTP on the Internet and have it sent to you at the same speed. Unfortunately, you can’t control exactly when the files will be sent to you – they are only sent at certain pre-scheduled times of the day. What’s more, they may come via any one of the three different satellite transponders EuroSky uses, and you’ll have to configure your satellite card’s reception frequency to match. However, you can see exactly when they will be sent and from which transponder when you select the files to download. And, most importantly, you don’t need to be connected to EuroSky by modem when they get sent – special software installed on your PC will simply receive them in the background whenever they are transmitted.

Company: EuroSky

Contact: 01844 293335


Verdict
A novel and - relatively - inexpensive approach to broadband Internet access, EuroSky's Internet via the Sky represents a landmark in Internet connection technology for the UK. Because it is so new, though, there are still some teething troubles to be sorted out, particularly in the way download speeds can drop to a crawl at some times of the day. EuroSky tell us that they are working on solving all the initial problems, and that everything should run smoothly and at high speeds at all times of the day before long. If that's the case, then as an alternative to xDSL, EuroSky's service is well worth investigating.