Tooway satellite broadband review

rural broadband

TOOWAY'S satellite broadband deals: do they really offer an alternative to poor quality ADSL for those in rural areas?

In the UK, satellite is often the broadband of last resort: an option for those still struggling with a dial-up connection, so far from a telephone exchange or decent 3G or 4G signal that broadband goes at a snail's pace, or for people unable to get any kind of internet access at all.

Quick jump menu
How satellite broadband works
What it costs:
  • per month
  • pay as you go
  • To buy or to rent the equipment?
    Making satellite broadband more affordable
    Buyer beware: the limitations

    Tooway are one of the three biggest satellite broadband operators in the UK; like the others (SES and Avanti) they operate across Europe in order to provide some economy of scale.

    The limitations of the technology mean that satellite broadband isn't superfast, but it can offer speeds on a par with a good ADSL service; in early 2013, Tooway upgraded their download speeds to up to 22Mb, and over time there have been improvements to data allowances and prices.

    How it works

    Like all satellite services, Tooway require a dish to be attached to the property with a clear line of sight, then, as with other broadband providers, a modem to connect the household's internet-enabled devices.

    The satellite collects a signal from a Eutelsat geostationary satellite at the speed of light.

    It can take from a quarter of a second to three quarters of a second to send and acknowledge the signal (round trip time), which allows for download speeds of up to 22Mb and upload speeds of up to 6Mb.

    How much does Tooway satellite broadband cost?

    Only a tiny proportion of broadband connections are via satellite, so although Eutelsat covers all of Europe, the (lack of) economy of scale results in an expensive connection.

    For example: Broadband Wherever, one of the main Tooway distributors, charge from £14.95 for the 5Mb package, up to £84.95 for the up to 22Mb Extra deal.

    That's far more than standard ADSL home broadband - and those are the prices for just the broadband service. Prospective customers must also factor in some rather steep equipment and setup costs.

    Like all broadband connections, the cheapest deals offer slower speeds and a smaller monthly download limit: 5Mb with a 2GB data limit is the smallest package available, while the most expensive offers speeds of up to 22MB and a data limit of 100GB - although unlimited usage between midnight and 6am is included with Tooway 25, 40 and Extra.

    The prices we've quoted below are those available from Broadband Wherever, although Tooway do list a couple of other recommended distributors on their site.

    Package Broadband Contract term Upfront cost Monthly cost
    Tooway Tooway 2 Up to 5MB
    2GB usage
    24 months From £448 £14.95
    Tooway Tooway 10 Up to 22MB
    10GB usage
    24 months From £398 £24.95
    Tooway Tooway 25 Up to 22MB
    25GB usage (unlimited at night)
    24 months From £398 £44.95
    Tooway Tooway 40 Up to 22MB
    40GB usage (unlimited at night)
    24 months From £398 £64.95
    Tooway Tooway Extra Up to 22MB
    100GB usage (unlimited at night)
    24 months From £398 £84.95

    Note the upfront costs. As mentioned, they're rather steep - and these are the minimums charged by Broadband Wherever, but they do at least include professional installation.

    Shorter contracts, of 12 months or on a month-by-month basis, are available for another £75 or £125 respectively; the prices we've listed here also include the cheapest router available with Broadband Wherever.

    As we'll explain further below, both the upfront and monthly prices do vary from distributor to distributor, but the costs listed above are fairly standard.

    Pay as you go broadband

    Tooway also offer a pay as you go deal, Tooway Easy, which is only available for people who own their equipment and comes with an annual cost of £49.99.

    Customers then pay for tokens as and when they need them; these give users a set amount of data to be used within a specified period of time:

    Package Token Broadband Token cost Plus annual cost
    Tooway Tooway Easy Two day Up to 22Mb; 2GB allowance £19.99 £49.99
    Tooway Tooway Easy Seven day Up to 22Mb; 5GB allowance £29.99 £49.99
    Tooway Tooway Easy One month Up to 22Mb; 15GB allowance £69.99 £49.99

    Do I have to buy all the equipment?

    There's no commitment-free way of signing up for satellite broadband. Customers must either buy the equipment outright, or rent it but agree to being tied in to a lengthy contract.

    Depending on which supplier we go through, renting the kit will add between £5 and £7 to the monthly bill - it but does bring down the upfront cost. It also means signing up to a minimum two year contract - and customers are required to return some of the equipment when they leave.

    Setup costs vary depending on distributor. Some offer free setup and free connection - but this again can add to the monthly price.

    The option to "own your kit" allows customers to leave after just 30 days. The downside is that all of the equipment has to be paid for upfront, which can cost between £80 and £350 depending on the package being bought at the same time.

    All customers can choose between installing the equipment themselves, which is free - or having a professional install it. Prices for installation vary depending on whether it's done by the retailer or a local installer, but expect to pay around £150.

    Because satellite broadband is so expensive from the off, there is help available - we look at this more below.

    The silver lining in the face of all these extra charges is that there's no need to have a home phone line to receive satellite broadband.

    There's more detail on Tooway's packages here.

    Help with setup costs

    Until very recently, the only people who were guaranteed help with the cost of getting satellite broadband were those in Wales.

    Wales

    The Welsh Government have updated their broadband grants scheme to include a wider range of broadband options for those who can't get a decent connection - that is one of at least 2Mb.

    The main requirement is that the new connection must at least double a household's download speed - so anyone whose connection averages out at 10Mb will only qualify for help if they go for a service offering at least 20Mb.

    For those households where satellite broadband is the most realistic option for getting online at all, this shouldn't be a problem - so people looking at Tooway satellite broadband could be eligible for at least £400 towards the cost of the equipment and set up.

    There's more on the scheme here.

    England and Northern Ireland

    Under the Government's commitment to getting basic broadband - and then superfast broadband - available to everyone in the very near future, satellite broadband is now much more affordable for people in rural parts of England and Northern Ireland as well.

    After running two pilot schemes in Suffolk and West Yorkshire, the Government launched the nationwide version of their satellite broadband subsidy scheme in December 2015.

    Like the Welsh scheme, it pays towards the cost of getting started - monthly subscription costs aren't included - and it's reckoned that most eligible applicants will benefit by about £350.

    Eligibility depends on there being no other effort to improve broadband speeds in the area in the near future - say, within the next 12 months. Anyone thinking of applying can check whether their local superfast scheme is taking part here.

    Potential problems

    In the past, satellite broadband was held back because of latency problems - that is, degradation of the signal because of the sheer distance it had to travel.

    Tooway say their acceleration technology shortens travel time, and the speeds now available are actually faster than those achieved by many home and mobile broadband deals.

    However, to maintain those speeds in the face of the latency problems caused by satellite technology, Tooway apply very strict limits on downloads.

    Tooway say customers who download more than their usage allowance won't be cut off, however their connections will be slowed significantly.

    Even customers with the most expensive deal, Tooway Extra, will find that once they've used more than 40GB of data in a month they'll only be able to use email and do basic browsing - no Youtube or Netflix - at peak hours for the rest of the month.

    People who do exceed their monthly usage allowances can purchase more in the form of Volume Booster Tokens, which start at 1GB, or persevere with extremely slow - 64Kb - access until their next billing cycle.

    Another potential problem is the line of sight. The satellite must have a clear line of sight to work correctly - this is something that should be checked by the engineer at installation.

    Before it gets to that point, it is at least possible to check the line of sight for ourselves on Tooway's website, using their nifty "dishpointer" tool; all potential customers must also complete a site survey.

    Finally, satellite connections can be affected by very extreme weather: heavy snow, rain or wind, anything which disrupts the satellite.

    Tooway are keen to emphasise that this only applies in very extreme conditions.

    .

    Comments

    1
    8 March 2015
    pete

    Unfortunately I have no choice but to use satellite broadband.

    My experience with Tooway is that all too often it is too slow to use. I've recorded speeds less than dial up using Tooway's own speed test.

    Occasionally I do get a reasonable service but for the majority of the time it is very poor.

    2
    11 January 2015
    steve

    Rural broadband service used to be good, now it's rubbish. Anyone else suffering too?

    14 April 2015
    M5

    Yeah, I've been getting ridiculously slow speeds all through this year. Tooway say they have escalated it to their provider and now are not giving anything away and basically saying that's just the way it is. Basically Eutelsat have sold too many people access to the one beam that covers the UK and at peak times when you want access, most speeds drop to as low as 1.7Mb/s. A cheek considering I entered the contract being promised 20Mb/s. Now they are offering me £6.05 off the monthly cost as compensation/to buy my silence. I think a load of us should report this to whoever the regulators are. I'm sick of corporations taking advantage of people and reneging on their contracts. It is dishonest and is simple profiteering.

    4 May 2015
    Mike Gilbert

    I am using SES satelite services to a dish in southern France with a contracted "upto" 4Mbps. The speeds achieved are anywhere between 10% and 90% of this and average at 50% of 4Mbps. My service provider tells me this is normal and refused to budge. I feel cheated when much of the time I am operating on 300Kbps. I am an occasional user so don't wish to pay for a high volume service. Is there no-one to complain to?

    3
    13 June 2013
    Dave Milthorpe

    I've just found a limitation to Tooway which makes me think that the name is intentionally misleading. It should really be oneway. What I've found is that all incoming ports are blocked. Tooway have so far failed to respond to my support requests.

    24 October 2015
    Ted Townsend

    Quite right. I signed up, expecting not the max claimed, but something close(ish) to the headline 22megs. The reality was 2 megs, rising to 4 on occasions, but not at peak times (which is when you need download speeds). But the upload speeds at these times were miles higher than the download and sometimes as high as 6megs (ie over twice the download ). So it's clear that they throttle back the service. I gave up after 24 hours and swallowed the installation costs. READ THE SMALL PRINT. THEY APPLY IT.

    4
    8 March 2013
    mark f

    I've had this 2 weeks and find it brilliant, consistently getting 22-24Mbps. It can be delayed when browsing which compared to the 1.5Mb I was getting is a minor irritant. BBC iPlayer just plays, no more making the tea whilst I wait. I must say that I took the unlimited package at £65 a month though so not been slowed down, the guy that installed it said that I should as they won't slow you whilst on unlimited. It's pricey granted, but in my opinion worth every penny, although I have seen fibre in action and it was better but not by much. Hope this helps someone in making their mind up. Go with unlimited though.

    5
    10 January 2013
    Mark

    We live on a housing estate at the end of the exchange and there are no cable services available so we were getting less than 1Mbps bandwidth (whilst being forced to pay for 8Mbps! Thanks Sky). Having looked at all the options we eventually decided to try Tooway in an effort to improve the terrible bandwidth. Sadly we have found it to be overly expensive and the ridiculously complex throttling is extremely unfair, randomly slowing us down to pre-satellite speeds without warning even though we primarily use the service for working from home, email etc. Annoyingly the company do not provide meaningful reports so it's impossible to challenge them. I find it most odd I can do everything I want on my iPhone internet without using any of the 250Mb data allowance but as soon as I use my computer at home I somehow manage to go over the Tooway threshold!

    So have now decided to install a configurable router which will enable us to monitor all traffic and usage thereby allowing us to challenge the company when things start slowing down.

    10 January 2013
    Choose team

    We have a guide on the best way to monitor broadband usage <a href="/media/guide/features/monitor-broadband-usage-data.html" rel="nofollow noopener">here</a>, which might be useful.

    Also, it's worth bearing in mind when you use the Internet on a mobile phone or via mobile broadband the providers use compression technology in order to reduce the size of the data being sent and received to help speed up using a mobile connection - the effect is that doing the same thing on a mobile phone would use much less data than doing it on a PC or laptop on a home broadband connection. This is actually the reason why <a href="/media/guide/faqs/how-to-tether-mobile-phone-modem.html" rel="nofollow noopener">tethering</a> a mobile phone to a computer to access the Internet has a reputation for incurring high charges and using a lot of allowance.

    6
    18 November 2012
    Ian

    We live in the sticks with poor throughput speed on the landline, taking us down to 0.4 - 0.5Mbp/s, internet, radio, You Tube etc, not very good, make coffee while pages load. Have read your comments and thank you all, have decided not to go ahead with satellite rather better to pay a little and accept a little and drink more coffee with the savings!

    7
    18 October 2012
    Dennis Price

    Bottom line - it's better than nothing but that's all.

    I wish I had checked these reviews before I bought a Tooway system. I agree with almost everything said.

    1. Where does my 8GB a month allowance go? I managed with a 1GB per month Orange mobile dongle and never exceeded it, now with Tooway I have to top up with a couple of GB each month so my &pound;24 becomes &pound;44.

    2. The speed is fictitious - when I check with the website from Tooway it shows 7-8Mb download with ANY other speed checker it is less than 1Mb.

    There is definitely something that I don't understand about satellite broadband because they don't use the same units as normal broadband.

    8
    17 October 2012
    Dave Milthorpe

    I want to be really fair to ToowayDirect. The first month was torrid. &pound;24.99 plus numerous boosters at &pound;9.99 a throw and I was unable to do much online. I just sat and watched my thinkbroadband meter and my volume being zapped. About 1GB a day. The tech support was very slow and really not much good. Anyhow I persevered and found that I had a virus of somekind on my PC. I can't get rid of it at the moment so I'm using my clean laptop and yes it work's ok. Not as fast as normal broadband but I would recommend it if you live out in the sticks.

    9
    8 October 2012
    Vince Willey

    I have now had Tooway Direct 10 (self installed) here in Spain for about 5 months, and on the whole I am quite happy. Due to living in the mountains this is the only viable system for me, and although I would argue the speeds quoted are a bit optimistic I don't generally experience speed degradation.

    The only problem I have is that occasionally the Modem loses sync and the only way to re-sync is to re-install the system - including "swinging" the dish. As an ex-telecoms engineer, I don't have a huge problem with this but can see untrained customers viewing this as a MAJOR setback.

    As said, it is a bit pricey.

    10
    2 October 2012
    charlie farlie

    We live near Alford in Aberdeenshire. There is no way we could cope with the "up to" 2Mb "broadband" through the phone line that seamed to be on offer, having enjoyed "up to" 100Mb through Virgin in the city we have just moved from.

    From searching the net it looked like Tooway was our only option. The reviews I found didn't look too encouraging but we decided to risk it. The first week it was installed was a disappointment - it was down more than it was up - VERY frustrating. Within a week though it seemed to settle down - was sent a replacement box.

    It now works fine. The latency doesn't seem too bad. Using an online speed test I typically get 7 to 8Mb which I think is very good - presumably this includes the latency. It's been "up " now for the last 5 days continuously. Haven't checked how much of my allowance I have used but can't be too bad. I would say that the effective speed is comparable to the Three 3G dongle I used to used. Hope this helps more people benefit from their service.

    Oct 2012

    11
    26 September 2012
    Graham Langford

    In operation since January 2012 and, once you have got used to the very minor latency issue on requesting a website, we have had excellent service. The speeds have been greater than advertised, the response to questions have been professional (if a little industrial and not touchy feel like a software helpdesk) and the experience very good. Networked over two mini-networks with two computers on each plus a wi-fi extension.

    We are in the countryside with over 7 Km of copper wire between us and the exchange and would never have got more than an intermittent 1 - 2 Mb via the wire. Only voice/text mobile coverage and unlikely that this will improve either.

    12
    22 September 2012
    Dave Milthorpe

    Julia, clearly you have not tried this out. I have had Tooway Direct 8 for twelve days and I am having problems with it. For one, after ten days I was told that I had used my entire volume having hardly used it. Tech Support have not been able to tell me where it went. They supplied a usage graph which showed activity when the modem was powered down and I was asleep in bed. I think I've wasted &pound;250.

    13
    26 March 2012
    Maryon Jeane

    As I work from home and I'm in a rural location with a poor broadband service, I decided to go with satellite to gain reliability and speed. I went with Tooway simply because it's the only one available in the area - and it's been a huge disappointment. Everything except simply downloading a file is actually slower than our slow ASDL broadband - and, despite choosing the second biggest package (around &pound;50 a month), in the first month we were throttled back (although we don't download music, play games, etc.) and the speed then became absolutely unmanageable.

    Despite there being no contention (because you've effectively got your own dedicated broadband), we've been experiencing just the same slow-downs at peak times and general rises and falls in speed as we did with ADSL and a normal broadband provider.

    Also, femtocells can't work with satellite broadband (which we were not told during the original assessment), which means we now have no mobile phone coverage into the bargain.

    Bentley Walker, the company providing the broadband, are not geared up for the domestic consumer. Basically, everything is up to you: to find out what to do if there's a problem, to work out how to get in touch with each department (one minute you need to deal with Technical Support, the next minute it might be Accounts - each part of a problem has to be dealt with by a different department and you have to sort this out yourself). The 'portal' (which you only find out about and to which you're given access only when there's a problem) is not user friendly (to put it mildly). Basically, you're on your own.

    Unless you're on a slow dial-up line, this is simply not something you want to saddle yourself with - avoid if you can.

    14
    13 February 2012
    Andy Scales

    I have had DAS satelite installed now for a month. At no time has it reached the stated speed. It frequently drops out and mostly runs at less than 1Mbps. In spite of a very helpful account manager nothing has been done about this in spite of many emails. Unless they get their act together I would not recommend this firm at all.

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