Satellite Internet service for remote areas announced

The Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE), Greece’s largest fixed-line telephone service provider, yesterday announced a plan to provide remote areas of the country with access to telephone and Internet via satellite. The connection is available both to the permanent inhabitants of remote areas, where OTE’s land network does not penetrate, as well as to owners of hotels and country houses in these areas, said OTE Chairman and CEO Panayis Vourloumis and Hellas Sat Managing Director Christodoulos Protopappas. The pricing of the service, however, is certain to make it prohibitive for any but the richest country homeowners in those areas, and out of reach of most permanent inhabitants: the cost of the equipment, a satellite dish about one meter (40 inches) in diameter plus a modem, was set at 1,499 euros, while the monthly subscription rate for Internet access will range from 119 euros for speeds of a 256-kilobits-per-second (Kbps) download and 128 Kbps upload, to 549 euros for a 2 Mbps (2,048 Kbps) download/512 Kbps upload. Vourloumis and Protopappas said these costs were competitive with other satellite Internet packages, adding that they soon expected prices to fall significantly. In any case, OTE and Hellas Sat do not plan to serve many customers: The two managers said their business plan estimates a total of 230 subscribers by the year’s end and 2,000 after three years. Vourloumis and Protopappas said the new service was not conceived as competitive to the offerings of OTE subsidiary OTEnet, but as part of OTE’s effort to expand broadband services as soon as possible by taking advantage of all existing technologies, wired as well as wireless. Users of the satellite Internet will also have access to telephony services through VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol). The system’s high download and upload speeds offer the ability to take advantage of two-way broadband applications, such as communication by businesses with remotely located units, monitoring of fisheries, telematics applications in education and medicine, forest monitoring for fires, monitoring of water and other natural resources, e-government and banking. Hellas Sat was launched on May 13, 2003, and is the biggest and most powerful European satellite, covering, besides Europe, all of Africa, the Middle East and large parts of Asia. It cost 180 million euros. OTE owns 95.68 percent of Hellas Sat’s shares, Hellenic Aerospace (EAV) owns 3.93 percent and Telesat 0.39 percent. Vourloumis said there are no plans at present for a second satellite. He criticized state television ERT for using another satellite (Hatbert) to transmit its program overseas and added that Hellas Sat is in discussions with digital platform NOVA to transmit its program. Hellas Sat is also used by some ministries and the National Intelligence Agency (EYP). The Transport and Communications Ministry is responsible for bandwidth allocation.

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