E-Bird, a satellite designed to offer a two-way, high-speed internet service across Europe took to the skies on Saturday aboard an Ariane 5 rocket.
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The satellite, which will be operated by Paris-based Eutelsat, was one of three carried into orbit on Ariane flight 162. The rocket was also carrying Insat-3E, an Indian telecommunications satellite, and Smart-1, a lunar probe owned by the European Space Agency.
E-Bird has been optimised for two-way broadband internet service and can be accessed with a dish antenna of around one metre in diameter.
The satellite carries a payload of 20 transponders which operate between 11GHz and 14.5GHz in the Ku band and has four downlink beams. Four of the transponders will receive signals from users and connect via Eutelsat to the internet while the other 16 transponders will handle downstream signals from the internet to users, said Eutelsat.
Conventional satellite internet service uses a telephone line for the generally low bandwidth connection from the user to the internet and relies on the satellite to carry the higher-bandwidth downstream connection. This is because transmitting a signal to a satellite is more complicated and requires more expensive equipment than receiving a signal.
From its position in orbit above central Africa at 33 degrees East, its signal will cover all of the European Union and neighbouring countries, from Scandinavia to the north coast of Africa and from the Atlantic to eastern Europe and Turkey.
Within the EU, Eutelsat estimates up to 40% of the 26 million small and medium-sized enterprises do not have access to broadband and up to 10% will never will be in a digital subscriber line service area.
One-way satellite internet service is also possible with E-Bird. Its proximity to several satellites at 28.5 degrees east which provide direct-to-home digital television to the UK means a combined one-way broadband and TV package could be offered with a 70cm dish.
Martyn Williams writes for IDG News Service