How satellite broadband works

How satellite broadband works

If you are struggling to get reliable broadband in rural France then satellite broadband could be the answer. Our expert Bob Elliott explains how it works

For many of us, when it comes to the internet, speed is everything. If you’re fed up with slow or non-existent broadband, you’ll no doubt be joining an ever-growing club, as digital life in the 21st century with broadband-linked iPads, computers and mobiles has placed increasing demands on internet services.

Satellite broadband was once thought of as being out-of-this-world in terms of price. Happily, all that changed with the latest generation of satellites that guarantee 20Mb anywhere in France, and new pricing and packages making it a very attractive option.

Compare this with the traditional services in many rural areas, and its rapid growth is easy to explain. If you are about to install a new line and expect the speed to be slow, then satellite broadband might be the ideal alternative.

It might even be cheaper if there has never been a telephone line into your house and additional poles are required. These cost €500 each, making satellite a cost-effective option.


More of us shop online, keep in touch via social media, Skype our calls and download information to an extent never anticipated in the days of ‘dial-up’. What’s more, demand keeps growing, as does our reliance on a live connection to the world at large.

If you live in a rural area of France, then satellite will almost certainly be more reliable, as it only needs a clear line of sight between the dish and the satellite itself. Though there might be a temporary problem on occasion with an exceptional snow storm or heavy rain shower, once this has receded, then your service returns straight away.

If this scenario raises concerns, compare it with the kilometres of line being carried on poles between your house and the exchange, with all the risks that storm damage can bring – every winter season, lots of lines become damaged from storms and bad weather, with repairs taking longer from year to year.


Putting your calls over your satellite broadband means that you save €16.90 every month on line rental, which adds up over a year. You can even keep your existing French telephone number if you want. Typical packages, including the number and an unlimited call package, now cost less than a standard line rental, making most of your calls free.

An added bonus is that you can also plug your phone into any broadband in the world, and make and receive calls as though you were still at home – with calls still being free and your answerphone still operating. If you are sending or receiving large data files though, it is best to wait before making your call.

There is also a line-based broadband service, with which you can avoid paying line rental. This is known as ‘dégroupage total’ and puts your calls over your broadband service. Make sure this is not mis-sold to you; you will need a minimum speed of 2Mb on your line for it to work satisfactorily.


There are a growing number of programmes being made available on catch-up television, and some offers include free access to this service. It is usually free up to a generous allowance, and a small charge may be applied if this is exceeded. If you have lost your Sky service, this may be of interest.


Broadband over telephone lines gives virtually unlimited downloads, which means that access is not a consideration. However, satellite broadband is sold with different volumes of data access. Make sure that you always choose the one you think you can manage with. You can then upgrade if necessary, as this is free, whereas if you were to downgrade to a lower level, this incurs a charge. If you are only going to need a higher limit for a short period, opt to buy a booster token instead.


Unlike traditional broadband, satellite broadband can be suspended when you are away. Note, however, that there is a reconnection charge of about €36, so it is not appropriate for short absences.


There are many satellite broadband companies in France, and some specialise in the expat market. However, it is best to consider companies that sell both types of broadband, as they will have no interest in pushing you in any particular direction.

Those keen on giving you good honest advice will offer to test the standard service in your area while you are on the phone, and then talk through the options with you, so that you’re then a position to make an informed decision. Do not be tempted to decide too quickly, as the landline option involves set-up costs and a minimum one-year contract. The satellite service has no minimum contract, unless you have taken the rental option.

If you do decide on a satellite service, you can choose to buy or rent the equipment, but if you choose to rent, then there may not be an option to suspend it, so check first.

Always ask if there are any offers available. This is a good move, as several months in any one year will see some sort of promotion.

Once you have a final price, compare this to a new line and broadband installation. If there has already been a line into your property, you may be able to get it reconnected for just €55, and a good provider will make sure you do not have to pay the higher charge of €124 that would otherwise apply. Then, add together the total for line rental, broadband monthly charge and any call package, and compare this to the total satellite package.


A satellite system can be self-installed for those who are confident, and the equipment is delivered in a week. Once installed, a phone call to the supplier will have the service live within 24 hours. If you want professional installation, the process can take up to three weeks, or sometimes a little longer if you want an English-speaking installer.

A previously active line takes a week to activate, and there is a further two weeks for the broadband to become active. It will take two weeks for the line to go live if there has never been a line to the property.


All of the above relates to domestic users. Some business users need a fixed IP address to enable them to set up a VPN with a base in the UK, for example, and this is free with satellite, but not available with landline services. Similarly, if you want to use a normal service for business, and cannot cope with the typical delay between a fault being reported and repaired, then you can opt to pay for a higher level of maintenance.

www.uktelecom.netBob Elliott is commercial director of UK Telecom, the largest specialist provider of broadband services, fixed line and satellite in France.

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