Though technically suitable for countries with large rural populations, the deployment of broadband satellite services in China still faces a number of hurdles. 'Currently, the penetration of satellite broadband in China is limited to schools and enterprises due to the lack of knowledge about the technology,' said Maurice Liu Tsun-wai, Asia-Pacific sales director for New Skies, a satellite provider based in the Netherlands. 'But in future we expect individuals - especially people with higher incomes and educational levels - to adopt the technology at home so they can watch desired programmes anytime through continuous downloads.' New Skies' newly launched satellite, NSS-6, has been in service since Saturday. The firm signed a deal last month with telecommunications carrier Reach - a joint venture between PCCW and Australia's Telstra - to install a 13-metre antenna at Reach's gateway in Hong Kong. This will allow Reach to offer enhanced voice, video, data and Internet services in the Asia-Pacific region. New Skies has reached a similar agreement with China Telecommunications Broadcast Satellite (ChinaSat), a subsidiary of China Satellite Communications and under the Ministry of Information Industry. Using its own satellites, ChinaSat offers communication services to large firms for applications ranging from air ticket sales to the transmission of financial data. According to ChinaSat, it is 'putting great effort' in the development of systems for multi-media communications, broadband high-speed data transmission and rural telephony. 'Hopefully these systems will be put into operation in the near future,' the firm said. 'China is really the only place in the region where satellite broadband has any sizeable take-up,' said Renee Gamble, International Data Corp analyst. 'Satellite broadband can compliment [municipal cable networks] by providing further geographic reach. While it may not be economic to provide wire-based services to certain areas, satellite broadband may be able to provide the service coverage. 'It is generally a niche service, targeted at enterprise customers because it is typically more expensive,' she said. 'Satellite Broadband will see take-up in China with very large companies with multiple locations . . . It will also be a good option for companies in rural areas where network infrastructure does not provide adequate bandwidth or service.' According to Mr Liu, users would be charged US$30 to US$200 per month, prices too costly for most rural users.