The Hylas-1 telecoms satellite is fired into space tonight, with the mission to provide satellite broadband everywhere in Europe.
If all goes well, broadband not-spots could be a thing of the past - for residents who can afford to pay the relatively small premium for the service.
The Hylas-1 is "mated" to an Ariane 5 rocket, which is currently sitting on a launchpad in Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.
Hylas-1 has EU money sunk into it and the promise of (relatively) low-cost broadband for rural users resting on its success.
If the launch goes OK this evening then a cheap dish should provide something rather better than dial-up to anyone in Europe who wants it: it's not perfect, but it's a lot better than nothing.
Satellite broadband has been around for a long time, but requires a significant dish and an expensive contract. Hylas-1 should be able to provide 2Mb/sec to anyone in Europe with a 66cm dish, at about four times the price of ADSL.
Satellite broadband still suffers from a second or two of latency, long enough for the signal to get to geostationary orbit and back. This makes it unsuitable for on-line gaming and odd for VoIP applications, but a bird in the sky is worth a great deal, when compared to the pain of using a dial-up modem.
Most of the capacity will be sold through resellers such as HughesNet, which has committed to 50,000 connections through Hylas-1. Most will be businesses that like the reliability of satellite, as much as its reach.
Hughes provides satellite connections for shops selling UK lottery tickets, for example. A small proportion of lottery sellers use ADSL, but the majority rely on a satellite connection the lottery company can provide and fit without reference to local infrastructure. ®