European Space Agency

Distributed Satellite Broadband


Freetimers Internet's Distributed Satellite Broadband project seeks to develop secure and authenticated methods by which satellite delivered broadband access can be provided and shared amongst a number of disparate users. The goal is to reduce the cost of satellite broadband to that of ADSL for each individual user and enable people in rural areas without ADSL access to obtain a broadband internet connection, which otherwise they would not be able to afford. The technical options will be investigated, then built and tested in-house, and finally operated in 3 pilot schemes in village, industrial estate and primary school settings. The final result of the project is expected to lead to commercial launch of a system in late 2003.


The key issues of the Project are concerned with producing a 'black box' package that will potentially work interchangeably with satellite connectivity provider equipment, using a number of distribution technologies, which can be custom-implemented to suit the installation environment. Performance must be proven adequate, and costs must be low enough, to make the system commercially viable against a variety and growing number of options for potential clients to choose from. The process of the project is first to test these issues in principle, then to build and test systems in house, and finally to test them in practice. Success in the pilot trials is expected to result in a commercial launch throughout the UK shortly thereafter.


Many areas in the UK and around the world are unable to obtain a broadband internet connection because the costs for a dedicated satellite system are too high, or because an inadequate ground-based infrastucture is present. A principal benefit of the project is that such areas will be able to receive broadband without penalty compared to urban areas, leading to the sustainability and re-invigoration of rural economies.


A number of different technologies and resultant architectures are being investigated, which will produce a system which will be adaptable and potentially employ a number of different transport mediums for each installation.


The Project commences with research into potential competing systems and the planning and legal environment, and then short-lists technologies for test and eventual deployment. This first phase results in initial system designs and a Baseline Design Review (BDR). On completion of the BDR, in-house build and test of the system and prospective technologies takes place. If successful, the Project moves to its final Pilot Trials phase, with pilot programs in village, industrial estate and rural primary school environments.

Current status

The Final Review and Presentation for the Freetimers DSB project have been successfully completed at ESA's ESTEC facility in Holland on July 29, 2004.

The Pilot Programmes based in Northamptonshire have been very successful, and after many months of operating will be closed down and converted to commercial operations during August 2004. The vast majority of participants in the pilots are now expected to continue with the service.

Much has been learned during the Project, particularly with regards to the operation of wireless networks, which have been proven to fall well short of many of the public claims made about the technology. During the Pilot programmes extensive analysis was undertaken, which resulted in highly successful re-engineering of both Prime Site and Customer Premises equipment. The result is an easily deployable, highly reliable and robust system that functions surprisingly well even in an urban environment.

The main aims of the Project have all been achieved, and Freetimers DSB will now be rolled out commercially, first in the Midlands in the UK, then throughout the UK and Europe, and finally throughout the rest of the world. To aid in this rollout Freetimers Internet are seeking partners who can assist them, and will be interested in all serious enquiries.

Prices for the new commercial service are expected to start at £17.99 per month for mid-band 128Kbps, and range between £20 and £35 per month for the typical residential service for a range of broadband packages. Services for small numbers of between 5-10 independent users will be customised to suit the requirements, but the typical installation would expect to serve between 10 and 60 users, depending upon the mix between business and residential. Interested persons can register on the Freetimers DSB website at

Status date

Tuesday, June 2, 2009 - 11:59