PARIS — Satellite fleet operator SES, which insists consumer satellite broadband is a niche market that cannot justify investment in a dedicated Ka-band satellite, now has more than 50,000 subscribers for its Astra2Connect consumer service, which uses available Ku-band capacity on SES’s existing fleet, Luxembourg-based SES announced Oct. 7.

The SES Astra division said it is increasing the maximum Astra2Connect speeds available to subscribers to 4.096 megabits per second downlink, and 360 kilobits per second for uplink. New packages also propose maximum monthly download limits of between 2 gigabytes and 4 gigabytes, the company said.

Astra2Connect, which was introduced in early 2007, reported 30,000 subscribers as of Jan. 1, 2008, and 45,000 subscribers as of June 30. It is available in 14 European nations.

SES officials have said they have commitments from Internet service providers in Europe for more than 200,000 consumer satellite broadband terminals, which are made by Newtec of Belgium, to be installed in the next two to three years. The local service providers order directly from Newtec and set their own installation rates.

These orders corresponded in early 2008 to some 165 million euros ($243 million) in early commitments over the same multiyear period. SES has not released updated figures on terminal bookings or revenue backlog.

Following a distribution agreement with Intersat Africa of Nairobi, Kenya, Astra2Connect will be available in 10 nations in East and Central Africa. Commercial service is scheduled to start in early 2010 following the planned late October launch of the NSS-12 satellite.

NSS-12 will operate from 57 degrees east and carries a C- and Ku-band payload.

SES’s biggest European competitor, Eutelsat of Paris, is building a large all-Ka-band satellite, called Ka-Sat, for launch in late 2010. Unlike SES, Eutelsat has concluded that selling broadband satellite links to consumers and small businesses in Europe will be a major business generating more than 100 million euros in annual revenue for Ka-Sat alone by 2014.

Peter B. de Selding was the Paris bureau chief for SpaceNews.