BBC News

Powys man gets broadband via satellite over Africa

By Ben Frampton
BBC news

media captionProf Christopher Spry is a self-confessed technology enthusiast

Slow rural broadband has prompted one man to get his internet from a satellite 22,000 miles above Africa.

Prof Christopher Spry, 79, who lives in Heol Senni in the Brecon Beacons, had download speeds of about 500Kbps

He runs a community website and uploads weather data and nature videos, so paid £620 for satellite broadband, which comes from over the Democratic Republic of the Congo, via Luxembourg.

"It's an astonishing technological achievement," he said.

Where Prof Spry lives also has sporadic 3G coverage so he researched his options and decided to invest in satellite technology.

A BT spokesman said: "Heol Senni is in scope to benefit from the scheme and work to provide access to superfast broadband to this rural community is anticipated to be completed in the early autumn."

The retired professor of immunology pays £420 a year for his satellite internet, which gives him download speeds of up to 28Mbps.

image captionProf Christopher Spry has worked in London and Oxford and has owned his home in Powys since 1971

His broadband signal travels about 50,000 miles from a dish in his back garden to the ASTRA 2F satellite over the Earth's equator and back, via a company in Luxembourg.

Companies such as Sky also use satellites similar to this to broadcast their TV signal.

"I'm interested in what's going on in the world, I'm a very inquisitive person, I'm asking questions all the time and I need to know so the web is a wonderful resource for all of us who need to know what's happening," he said.

He also pays £250 a year for BT broadband, which he uses as a backup as heavy rain or snow can block the satellite signal and leave him cut off.

But the nearest exchange is in Sennybridge - about five miles by road - so his broadband slows down when making the switch.

image copyrightGoogle
image captionSatellites are positioned over the equator to maintain geostationary orbit

"It really makes all the difference in the world, without it I think my life would be quite difficult up here... but it does need a satellite 24,000 miles above the surface of the earth over the Congo - it does seem ridiculous doesn't it," he said.

"Without broadband we're living in a dark age, so let's hope everybody can have high speed broadband soon and they'll be able to use it for whatever they want - entertainment, education, research - it's a wonderful tool for everybody."

Despite his best efforts, nature can still throw a spanner in the works when it comes to his satellite connection: "It's pretty adequate for most of the programmes I need so I'm a happy rabbit - the only difficulty for me is that there's a tree in the way and I have to trim that!"

BT said more than nine out of every 10 homes and businesses in Wales were able to put in an order for superfast broadband.

The Welsh Government also runs a scheme called Access Broadband Cymru which helps provide funds for satellite connectivity for properties not covered by the Superfast Cymru scheme.

Nearly 600 homes and businesses have taken up the option since it started in January 2016.

The UK Government announced on Sunday that homes and businesses from all parts of the UK are set to benefit from universal high speed broadband.

Related Topics

  • Brecon Beacons
  • Broadband
  • Rural life

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