Internet access through a broadband connection is usually easy to invest in if you happen to live in a city or town. However, the more isolated areas of the world which are sparsely populated are not usually well serviced by fixed-line connections such as ADSL or cable.
As a result, residents and businesses are beginning to turn to satellite communications in order to get online in the same way as their city dwelling contemporaries do. In the past, satellite broadband has been expensive and slow, but technological improvements, thanks to the work of many a broadband expert, along with price reductions, have helped to support the mobile-internet revolution that makes your geographical location irrelevant to your ability to get online.
Across the world, it seems as though a lot of government subsidy is required and indeed being delivered, to help satellite communication become more widely available. US politicians pumped $100 million into satellite internet access as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, while similar programmes of investment are being enacted in other areas of the globe, including Australia and some European nations.
One of the main reasons that governments are choosing to spend money on improving satellite communications technology is that the economic benefits of increased broadband penetration are well established. Not only will consumers be better equipped to browse the internet and contribute to the digital economy, but businesses will also be able to tap into new markets, even if they are based in areas which are difficult to reach using common connectivity standards.
Many perceive that there is a significant issue with the so-called digital divide between urban areas and rural communities and that it could only get worse over time if steps are not taken. ADSL is not the solution in most instances because of the problems of signal degradation. Rolling out fibre-optic networks is not financially viable if only a small slice of the population is going to be served. Therefore, satellite broadband is the best way to plug this gap efficiently and cheaply.
A second benefit of satellite services is that they can be used by network providers to offset some of the bandwidth requirements from alternative fixed-line and terrestrial wireless-internet infrastructures. More and more people are going online and using increasingly data-intensive services, which is putting some providers in a position in which they cannot keep up with demand. However, using satellite communication as a kind of overflow valve to ease the pressure when there are spikes in usage is allowing the other elements of the infrastructure to develop without being swamped.
In the past, wireless internet access was largely reserved for the kind of services in the armed forces or police service might require, but entertainment and consumer-oriented functionality have now become far more important.
This means that satellite communications need to be able to support things such as social networking, video streaming, online chatting via instant messaging and even VoIP. By and large, the providers are stepping up to meet this challenge and there is definitely the market out there to support them, along with the aforementioned investment from governments.
The mobile internet revolution is still extending its grip on the globe and in some areas it is difficult to overstate the importance of the role and the support of satellite communications in its expansion.