South West Broadband Initiative

Status date

The primary objectives of the project include:

Testing the use, efficiency and reliability of satellite technology as a means of delivering bandwidth to rural and peripheral communities. Conducting field trials across a range of sectoral activities, evaluation of the use of the technology to deliver the required bandwidths in support of a wide range of applications that have, to date, been seriously constrained as a result of the lack of available or affordable bandwidth in the region. These applications include e-business, e-medicine, e-learning and e-government applications. Investigation of ancillary issues such as security, service management, client operability, licensing, rollout etc. Ancillary trials will investigate linking Satellite to 802.11B wireless LANS to give broadband services to towns.

A key element of the project will be to encourage the involvement and networking of European Companies interested in the appropriate technologies.

Project objectives importantly include the dissemination of our work and research throughout the regions of Europe.


The key issue being addressed in SWB is the current deficit in available and affordable bandwidth in rural and peripheral communities throughout the South West Region of Ireland, and indeed in similar communities across Europe, and the potential impact this can have on sustaining rural regions in terms of their ability to compete in a local and global market.

The South West Region, with a physical area of 12,161kms, and a total population of circa 580,000 people is geographically one of the most peripheral European regions, both in terms of distance from the central European market and its peripheral location within Ireland. Notwithstanding its geographical location, the Region has one of the most successful economies in Europe.

However, the physical size of the region constrains the rollout of ducted fibre for broadband. The SWRA and its partners have identified satellite broadband as a technology with excellent potential to facilitate the provision of high bandwidth in rural towns.

The ability to access high bandwidth is crucial if modern technologies are to play a real role in our everyday lives, making information more accessible, businesses more competitive, cutting down on travel time and generally adding to the sustainability of the local community.


Our expected benefits include the improved delivery of education, medical care, information and public services throughout the South West, through e-learning, e-medicine and e-government applications, as well as increasing the capacity of businesses to compete and individuals to participate in the Information Age.

It is anticipated that satellite broadband will enable users to send/receive significant amounts of data, not currently accessible in all areas outside of the major commercial and urban centres. This availability will mean a reduction in travel time, improved accesses to services and upturn in the amount of businesses locating in the region, taking advantage of the lack of congestion, lower rents, lower housing and general living costs, as well as the region's clean and attractive environment.

We believe that satellite technology will prove to be a viable and cost effective way of delivering broadband to peripheral regions everywhere.


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Illustration of Kerry County Council Project, linking Kerry County Council Headquarters to remote local authority office. Graphics courtesy of Kerry County Council.

Four sectoral areas will be facilitated through a number of satellite based and hybrid-technology solutions in the areas outlined below. Each Field Trial location will have different bandwidth requirements, based on the varying needs of the partners involved, while a number of applications will require 1 Mb links, the average requirement is 512 K up and down.


In the case of the rural development and SME applications, broadband satellite equipment will be located within a newly developed technology park, which is presently dependent on ISDN, bandwidth will be distributed via a 802.11B Wireless LAN to clients. A second application is that of a remote SME requiring to transfer very large files on a continuous basis to clients internationally.

In the case of the public services access, a number of satellite units will be installed in the remote offices of local authorities around the region, facilitating e-Government services.

In the case of the e-learning pilot trials, satellite systems delivering broadband will be installed at local community locations and with education providers.

Similarly, in the case of the e-medicine applications, connectivity will be developed between the Cork University Dental School and Hospital and remote dental practitioners/health centres.

An additional technical feature of the initiative will be the development of two satellite based Town Wireless LANs in Cahirciveen and Bantry, in conjunction with the two partner Local Authorities, which will provide high bandwidth, low cost service to businesses and residents of the communities.


The project plan is based on the following phases:

Completion of Baseline Design Review to establish existing barriers, expectation and aims of partners and demonstration trials (March 2003)

Installation of equipment (March 2003) and adoption of technology by partner organisations (March to September 2003)

Operation of field trials in terms of usability, cost-effectiveness, reliability, relevance and sustainability in various locations and scenarios March to September 2004.

Ongoing evaluation of trials and other aspects of project operations January 2003 to June 2004.

Disseminate and support the uptake of Satellite Broadband technology in Ireland, across Europe and into candidate and accession states (awareness raising is already underway and requests are being received to present papers and participate in various events across Europe from January 2003 to June 2004).

Current status
Having secured funding from the European Space Agency under the ARTES 4 Programme, the South West Regional Authority in Ireland and project partner Ildana Teo. have successfully carried out and completed several field trials to test the role of satellite broadband technologies in bringing high bandwidth connectivity to rural and remote locations in the South West of Ireland.  

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The fundamental aims and objectives of SWB were:

  • Through a range of field trials, to independently and rigorously test satellite as a means of accessing broadband connectivity within the business, community, education and public sector domains,
  • To evaluate the suitability of the technology, together with its affordability, usability, sustainability and reliability,
  • To support and sustain innovation in technology and business development, and 
  • To evaluate and disseminate our experiences, for the benefit of other peripheral regions in Ireland and across Europe.

The trials involved a variety of satellite operators, service providers, teleports, and resellers being directly involved in providing hardware and bandwidth to SWB to enable the initiative to continue. The team learned that there is a broad range of satellite operators offering services to all types of users in need of broadband connectivity. The current levels of service and support available include a plethora of providers, some of whom offer a robust, quality and sustainable service, and others whose service is poor, over contended and offers little by way of back-up and support in an emerging market.

The project experience has highlighted the urgency of common standards of service to be adopted within the industry, and where these are not introduced on a voluntary basis, National Communications Regulators should consider the introduction of mandatory standards.

In the course of the field trials a range of issues arose regarding latency, contention ratios, and cost, as did new opportunities in the areas of complementary technologies, the impact of which enabled a far more ambitious, exciting and challenging initiative than that originally planned.

Hardware employed in the trials included two-way satellite systems (VSAT and DVB RCS) providing similar service to ADSL, right up to large-scale systems augmented with Wireless Local Area Networks (wLANs) providing town connectivity, and higher-end business applications.

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  WiFi certainly balanced out the scales in terms of cost and deployment (last mile) and enabled the development of a generic model, which could be adapted, scaled, and tailored to the needs of individual communities / businesses or user group.

Overall the project has been a very successful venture in the delivery of Satellite Broadband to rural areas. It has highlighted the ability of local providers, local or regional authorities or community based groups to adopt a successful self-help approach to broadband servicing. Although the field trials under SWB have formally ended, some communities have decided to keep the service in place, having experienced for themselves the wide and far-reaching benefits which broadband has to offer.

During the course of the SWB project significant developments have taken place to address the Digital Divide in Ireland. These include an in-depth review and report by the Oireachtas (Parliamentary) Joint Committee on Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, which recognises the potential of satellite technology. The project has also very successfully raised the profile of Satellite Broadband across much of the European Union, with a significant influence on the Digital Divide debate also in the USA.

Conclusions drawn from the project clearly indicate an important role for satellite broadband in advancing the connectivity of rural and remote communities and organisations. However this affirmation is subject to a number of qualifications as set out in the final report, which can be downloaded at  

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