Thousands of Europeans will enjoy their first access to broadband Internet thanks to a new satellite launched Friday, owner Avanti Communications promises.
The firm says the €120 million HYLAS 1 bird is the first of its kind outside the US, and will bridge the digital divide for rural consumers that have been unable to access fixed line broadband connections to date.
It was launched on an Arianne 5 rocket from French Guyana, and will be followed by a second satellite in spring 2012 that will extend coverage to the Middle East and Africa – a move that will allow the firm to connect up to 1.2 million homes, according to the New York Times.
“The launch of our satellite today means that access to broadband in remote areas is no longer on the distant horizon,” Avanti chief executive David Williams said.
Avanti has partnered with 60 operators in Europe, which will offer 2MB services to rural communities, Governments and businesses.
“[T]here is significant unmet demand which we can tap into,” Williams noted.
Research firm Euroconsult told the Times around 30 million European homes currently lack a basic broadband connection.
Avanti’s bird will be joined by a larger, €350 million, satellite from French carrier Eutelsat by the year end, the newspaper said.