Get the best of the Net for free via satellite

Sat@Once portal
5 November 2002

Sat@Once is currently a free service that distributes, by satellite and at high speed, the most popular parts of the most popular websites and newsgroups from the Internet. In less than 6 months after launch the operators SES ASTRA and the CSP research centre in Turin (Italy) clocked 13 000 registered users.

The service is available to the general public at the same time as being used in two pilot studies as part of a project jointly financed by SES-Astra and the European Space Agency (ESA). The aim of the trial is to investigate how far this technology can offer a solution to organisations with a need to share information and to distribute large files be it data, video, audio, or graphics.

The service is based on the Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) standard which is deployed Europe-wide (and is becoming accepted as a worldwide standard) for digital television. It allows the user to receive Internet services anywhere in Europe. All that is needed is a DVB-satellite dish (normally used for receiving television broadcasts), a PC equipped with a standard DVB/IP satellite reception card and the free download of Sat@Once software (5.8 Mb).

Using statistical webcasting technology based on keywords set by the user, the local PC automatically determines and filters the huge amounts of broadcast data (20 GB a day) and picks out those pages that are interesting to its owner. This set of preferences is kept local and private. The sites selected are renewed periodically at no recurrent cost.

Sat@Once in schools
Sat@Once portal being used in schools

By selecting categories of interest in the left-hand list on the Sat@Once portal, the user can browse offline the sites of interest. Links that are not sent by satellite can be retrieved seamlessly using a classical Internet connection (modem, ISDN, ADSL, etc.).

Users of the Sat@Once service made available to the public can offer suggestions for sites that could be included in the broadcast. The more 'votes' a site gets the more likely it will be included in the next broadcast. When users stop voting for a site, it is removed from the broadcast.

In the frame of the ESA project (within the User segment programme line of ESA Telecommunications), two concurrent pilot studies are currently underway in the Italian region Piedmont. The mountainous terrain of the region makes this technology especially useful where cable Internet connection is often not possible. In these trials, a number of schools and public offices are using the technology. Schools are accessing web materials and courseware, public offices have been able share databases. These trials will run until March 2003.

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