The so-called digital divide that excludes rural communities from the benefits of broadband access could be overcome by using a combination of wireless networks and satellite receivers.
A new project aims to bring high-speed internet connections to rural areas of England and Scotland. The system could benefit rural economies and the market for satellite technologies.

The disparity between rural and urban areas with regard to internet accessibility still affects most European countries. What is commonly known as the digital divide can considerably hamper economic development.

Enterprises wishing to relocate to the countryside are currently hindered in continuing their business due to the fact that broadband access – ADSL or fibre – is often simply unavailable.

As a potential solution, the European Space Agency (ESA) has sponsored Avanti Communications of the UK, France’s Eutelsat and Rural Solutions, also from the UK to develop ‘Broadband Access for Rural Regeneration with DVB-RCS’ (BARRD).

The project began last June and is currently in a planning phase. A trial is about to take place involving 24 UK business parks, each averaging five end-users.

In practical terms, a two-way satellite connection and Wireless Local Area Network (LAN) need to be seamlessly combined. The fact that both technologies are standard platforms adds enormously to the low cost. Wireless LAN hardware is cheap and generally available for installation at computer stores. Benefits are quick and easy installation with no need for a physical cable connection.

The end result will be that instead of each end-user purchasing their own digital video receiver, BARRD makes it possible for one terminal to be shared among a group of users, making the system cost effective. Connection is possible within a range of 2 km.