Professor beams in internet from a satellite over Africa
A retired professor living in rural Wales has told how he gets his broadband via satellite over Africa because it’s faster. Prof Christopher Spry, 79, who lives in Heol Senni in the Brecon Beacons, could only access download speeds of around 500 kilobits per second – which is relatively slow. He became frustrated that he struggled to upload weather data and nature videos for the community website he ran.
The self-confessed technology enthusiast researched the alternatives and found satellite would work best. He now gets his broadband via a satellite more than 20,000 miles up in space over in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which then routes from a company in Luxembourg.
His broadband signal travels about 50,000 miles from a dish in his back garden to the ASTRA 2F satellite over the Earth’s equator. The retired professor of immunology pays ?420 a year for his satellite internet and now gets speeds of up to 28 mega bits per second, with one megabit equal to 1,000 kilobits.
Prof Spry said: ‘I can’t get it in the conventional way really, which is down a telephone wire so what I have done is I have joined a company which will provide it by satellite.
‘Now this satellite is 24,000 miles away over the Congo and so I send my computer data to this satellite and then the data goes down to Luxembourg which is another 22,000 miles away so overall – 50,000 miles of travel for this data to get from me to the internet.
‘It really makes all the difference in the world, I am happy as a rabbit, the only difficulty is if there is a tree in the way, I have to trim that.
‘It’s an astonishing technological achievement,’ he added. The satellite, which is owned by Luxembourg-based SES, provides television and radio channels and satellite communication services to businesses and government agencies throughout Europe and Africa. Companies such as Sky also use satellites similar to this to broadcast their TV signal.
Rather than using cables and wires like traditional broadband, it sends and receives broadband via satellite which can provide equal quality of coverage to every home or business in its area. He also pays ?250 a year for BT broadband, which he uses as a backup as heavy rain or snow – or an overgrown tree – can block the satellite signal and leave him cut off.
‘I’m interested in what’s going on in the world, I’m a very inquisitive person, I’m asking questions all the time and I need to know so the web is a wonderful resource for all of us who need to know what’s happening,’ he told the BBC.
‘Without broadband we’re living in a dark age, so let’s hope everybody can have high speed broadband soon and they’ll be able to use it for whatever they want – entertainment, education, research – it’s a wonderful tool for everybody,’ he said. Wales has some of the slowest download speeds in the UK – holding back businesses and cutting of families.
MPs have demanded that those who do not receive internet speeds they pay for should get compensation.
Six of the 20 constituencies with the slowest download speeds in the UK are in Wales, with Carmarthen East and Dinefwr in top position.
A BT spokesman said: ‘Heol Senni is in scope to benefit from the scheme and work to provide access to superfast broadband to this rural community is anticipated to be completed in the early autumn.’