Satellite broadband through tooway

This is all the latest information about tooway. If you are going to use tooway and you are in East Anglia I still recommend Rural Broadband very highly. If you want to read my early experience with tooway and RB click here.

Now that BT and others have announced further big rises in landline rental it looks like I'll stick with tooway. To see my reasons go to the end of the page about fibre.

Living in the country is good. I wouldn't change. However there is one persistent problem - broadband. In the area where I live there are some who can't get it at all and many who are stuck with 500 kbit/s. In the past satellite broadband was very expensive and limited on speed and data allowance. This was a pity because, as with freesat for television, you get just as good a service wherever you are. In December 2010 the Ka-SAT satellite was launched into orbit at South 9.2 East. It supports a service provider called tooway.

In May 2011 I visited the local tooway dealer, Rural Broadband, based near Hunstanton in Norfolk. My impressions of both tooway, and the company and its owner Richard Dix were very good, so much so that I ordered a system. It's expensive to install, at £499 for hardware and installation. Alternatively you can rent the equipment for £6 a month. I pay £40 a month for 20 Mbit/s download, 6 Mbit/s upload, 20 Gb of data per month with unlimited data from midnight to 6 am. This is a few pounds more than I used to pay Zen and BT together. If you need more or less data you can choose from the services below. So for anyone more than 6 km from the nearest telephone exchange, or who suffers regular periods of very low speed as I did due to a poor quality line, this might be for you.

Ka-SAT uses spot-beam technology. Normally a satellite sends the same signals to the whole of the area to which it transmits. Spot-beam technology uses narrow, concentrated beams, called spot-beams, that are aimed at smaller regions of the coverage area. This means that one frequency can be re-used in different areas, thus reducing the cost of providing the service. For an example click here.

Here is the spot beam map for tooway. You will see that most of England is on beam 34 with 23 supplying the west and Wales. Bearing in mind population density compared with, for example, Spain and France it is no wonder there is contention and some slow-down at busy times. Spain and France have roughly the same population as England but they each have have about eight beams compared with England's two.


These charts show average speeds and variation of speed since the change of usage policy in January 2014. On the skylogic speedtest that tooway uses there is a really funny bit of modern techno-bullshit. The 20Mbit/s 'up-to' speed is defined as " Maximum throughput reachable in best effort mode without any guaranteed capacity". Hee hee.

Chart dated 10 October 2014 (285 readings and overall average 11.50 Mbit/s)

The above is a chart for data from 2015. (461 readings and overall average of 9.07 Mbit/s).

This is getting close to the 8 Mbit/s that the local WISP providers are offering. Coupled with the fact that the 20 Gbit data limit is now much too restrictive and higher limits are very expensive it looks like I must give WISP a try. I did try but because I live in a dip the nearest WISP transmitters could not give me a usable signal.

This is the chart for 2016 dated 29 February. 90 readings and average 10.58 Mbit/s.

There has been a change in the hours during which data is un-metered. Without notice, tooway changed this from 11pm to 7 am to midnight to 6 am. This is a significant and irritating drop and reduces the time from one third to one quarter of the day. It also means that even late-night catchup television is not possible.

This chart shows the average for each day of the week. Not much variation.

This chart shows how much the speeds vary. A tall bar means that there is a big range from the maximum speed to the minimum. A zero bar means a single reading, no variation or no reading for that hour. For example the peak period in hour 17 has the lowest average speed and the highest range. This is where you are most likely to have a poor speed. Hour 11 on the other hand has a high average and low variation.

The calculation used is:

((maximum - minimum) / 2 ) / average multiplied by 100 to give a %age.

Download speed varies quite a lot. Occasionally it can drop as low as 2 Mbit/s but, since tooway have reduced priority to the unlimited data service they foolishly sold for a short while, it has got better. Bear in mind that tooway is used mostly by people who would otherwise have little or no broadband. The overall average of about 11 Mbit/s compares reasonably well with the Ofcom data for UK average speeds when you remember that the Ofcom data is skewed by the very high speeds available in some places:

November 2008
April 2009
May 2010
November/December 2010
May 2011
November 2011
May 2012
November 2012
May 2013


These are the service levels from March 2013 (the letters in brackets are the tooway names for them). Note that speeds drop to an unspecified level when you have used a quarter of your allowance in any one week:

(S) 2 Mbit/s down 1 Mbit/s up 2 Gb data (not on offer at Rural Broadband) at £19.99 a month

Medium (M) 20 Mbit/s down 6 Mbit/s up and 10 Gig data at £30 per month

Large (L) 20/6/20 and unlimited overnight (11 to7) at £40

X-Large (XL) 20/6/30 unlimited overnight at £55

I am just a customer of tooway and Rural Broadband. I have no financial connection with either.

The system was installed very efficiently by Chris. I saved a bit of money by fitting the brackets, mast and cable ducts. I fitted a 50mm steel mast and a T/K pair of wall brackets which gives good stability as the clamps can be made very tight. As well as the tooway Via-Sat modem, on the right in the picture, you get a wireless router which also provides the DHCP addresses for your network. I have a fairly extensive network with up to twelve devices attached, using a mixture of wireless and wired connections including gigabit ethernet.

The dish is very substantial:


My dish had to be at the back of the house because I am in a conservation area, so I needed about a 15 metre cable run. This has not reduced the speeds and I get excellent signal to noise ratios and attenuations. Using or tooway's own at to test, I get speeds that vary from acceptable to excellent. Due to the latency, there is a slight delay between a selection click and the start of the download or upload, but this is of no consequence for me. It might be for gamers or last-minute eBay bidding.

One negative for me is that just being an access service, there is no newsfeed for usenet groups. 1and1, the web hosting service that I use, does not provide this either. It's not a serious problem but I used to find the diy and cycling newsgroups useful.

If you don't know what your monthly data usage is, you can download and run the ThinkBroadband monitor called tbbmeter from


(C) Peter Scott 2011

Last edit 24 December 2016