Onwave Launches Into Europe with Tooway

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Onwave, formerly Satellite Broadband Ireland (SBI), is targeting the UK's DSL households, especially those with sub-1Mbps broadband connections that have difficulty supporting high-quality video delivery.

According to research firm Point Topic, there are more than one million UK DSL customers, mainly in more rural and remote locations, who receive less than 1Mbps broadband speeds and are looking for faster broadband and the cost savings of triple-play bundled services. 

Kevin Ryan, Onwave's CEO, explains: "I started the company three years ago based on the concept that in Ireland, as in the rest of Europe, there is a big digital divide which in Ireland means that 40 percent of consumer live in a rural area and unable to access decent broadband. The incumbent telco [Eircom] couldn't provide service to these areas at a cost-effective price, leaving a lot of people there without broadband.

"Satellite was the only effective technology to reach that last mile to the home, and after testing services from Astra and Hughes we decided that Eutelsat's Tooway, managed by SkyLogic, was the best from a price point and reliability aspect."

The company picked up part of an Irish government-subsidised contract to supply broadband to 223,000 rural homes in 2009 and has around 3,500 subscribers.

With the launch over Tooway into Europe, Onwave spies an opportunity to tackle the U.K. and European rural markets and even urban areas.

"With faster speeds and lower pricing, we are now able to offer a competitive service in urban areas where customers and operators are still faced with the high cost of installation and hardware," says Ryan. "We've added a bundled package of voice and 150 digital TV channels to compete, and we are more flexible as a business [a standard 6Mbps broadband, TV, and home phone package costs from £19.99] Where cable operators are reliant on their network, we can go anywhere with dedicated beams all over Europe."

The Skylogic service populates ten hubs across Europe, with one in Madrid taking care of Ireland, interlinked by fibre and managed by four POPS with the main one in Turin.

Tooway says its service can be scaled up to 50 Mbps in the future, and Onwave plans to launch business services with up to 20Mbps download speeds. It will compete, though, with the likes of Virgin, BT, and Orange, which are rolling out 50 to 100Mbps fibre networks.

"We can guarantee all home customers a 6 to 10Mbps download, which is fine for residential and business customer speeds of 10 to 20Mbps," says Ryan. "Unlike cable operators, our service is not in contention with other services along a pipe. The customer has a satellite dish on their premises delivering a dedicated network."

"We have the entire U.K. covered, and customers can order the service from today and be up and running within weeks," says Steve Petrie, northern European director for Skylogic.

"There are still about 250,000 homes in the U.K. that can't get anything other than a dial-up Internet connection, and many other broadband users can't get more than 2Mbps," he adds.

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