Satellite internet is one of the many types of internet service people use these days. Mainly preferred in remote and rural areas, it is often the only way that a person living in either can gain access to the internet.
What is Satellite Internet?
High-speed satellite internet is made available through the transmission and reception of data between a satellite dish at the subscriber’s end, and a geostationary satellite placed 36,000 km (22,000 miles) above the surface of the Earth, directly over the equator. The satellite sends information to a station called the NOC, which is short for Network Operations Center and receives data from it as well.
The NOC stays connected to the internet or a private network, facilitating the flow of all communications from the satellite dish towards the orbiting satellite. When you enter the URL of web page in your browser, the satellite acquires data from the NOC and then sends it your satellite dish in the form of radio waves.
Whom Does it Work Best for?
With the arrival of high-speed fiber internet, a lot of people have gained access to blazing internet speeds that allow seamless HD streaming, online gaming, and data downloads in homes and offices. This has made it the most preferred business internet solution at present. The catch though, is that fiber is not available everywhere, at least not yet. Limited availability forces many consumers to look for alternatives that afford similar benefits, and that is where high speed satellite internet comes into the picture. The best thing about satellite internet service is that anyone with a clear view of the southern sky can get it.
How Much Speed Do you Need?
Where speed and cost are concerned, satellite internet can leave you feeling like you picked the short straw. Being said that, it is important to understand how much speed you actually need in your home or office. 25 Mbps download speed, for instance, means you can get 25 megabits into your machine every second, while upload speeds signify how much data can be sent online in the same interval. High speed satellite internet providers tout maximum bandwidth while advertising their plans.
“Bandwidth” is the highest speed your connection can deliver, and this would be different from the actual speed you get at a given time, which depends on your connection, what time of day it is, and environmental factors. Generally, 1 Mbps download speeds are sufficient for basic web browsing, and even some light file downloading thrown in. A connection that gives you 5 Mbps download speed allows more than one users to do moderate browsing, download files, and stream standard-definition video and audio. With 15 Mbps download speed, you can raise the number of users and not feel a drop in speed, while 25 Mbps download speed can accommodate several users simultaneously.
Advantages of Satellite Internet
Satellite internet gets beamed directly to your home from the satellite, which means the signals do not need to pass through a lot of cable or phone lines to get to your PC. That in itself gives rise to the following advantages when using high speed satellite internet.
- Always online: As long as your system or device is powered on and connected to the network, it is also connected to the internet. This is invaluable to avid internet users, as well as people who rely heavily on internet use for their work or entertainment. Come to think of it, almost everyone falls into one of these categories these days, which means a connection that doesn’t get dropped is a must. With high speed satellite internet, all you need to do is power on the device or machine to be automatically connected; there is no need to dial up or log on.
- Availability: It is easier to avail satellite internet in the US, than it is to get DSL or cable. Almost any place you are while stateside, is covered by a satellite network, including remote and mountainous regions, where it is impossible to relay DSL or cable service.
- Multiple users: Most households these days have more than one computer each, and it is considered normal for every member of the family to have a machine of their own. High speed satellite internet allows every machine in a house to connect simultaneously, without someone else needing to “log off” before you can “log on.”
- Easy to use: High speed satellite internet is touted by providers as a ‘no problem’ internet option, and while as a consumer you would instinctively doubt it, it turns out this is exactly the case. All you need to do is get it set up, for which a technician arrives and installs a receiver on the outside of the home. After that, you can begin accessing the internet without any hassles, and no further equipment needs to be added either.
- Fewer service outages: While a downed wire or ice on the lines can disrupt the delivery of most other internet service types, high speed satellite internet is thankfully immune to such issues. As long as you have a signal reaching your dish and PC, you can stay online and do what you need to be doing.
Disadvantages of Satellite Internet
High speed satellite internet is not without its disadvantages. Given that you obviously want the best deal for your buck, the following are a few cons of satellite internet you should know before signing up with a provider.
- Fair Access Policy: Many providers have a FAP that limits how much internet speed a subscriber gets access to at different times. For example, during peak use hours, your service could slow down considerably, something that would not happen if you went with DSL or cable instead.
- High latency: Latency is the total time it takes for a data packet to travel between nodes, both ways. Effectively, it is the time taken for the round trip each data packet makes. You may have noticed high latency when making use of voice chat applications, or VoIP service. This also occurs when you are streaming a high quality video, and the connection does not have enough bandwidth to allow seamless streaming. Satellite internet is known for having a higher average latency than other types of internet service.
- Weather disruptions: Since the data signals need to travel long distances, any blocks these encounter along the way can disrupt your internet connection. These blocks include high winds, rain, and snow. If you live in a place that has an abundance of even one of these things, your high speed satellite internet connection can get dropped a lot.
- Receiver placement: Subscribers of high speed satellite internet are required to be careful with where they have their receivers installed. The latter should have a clear view of the southern sky ahead of it, which must not be blocked by trees, fences, walls, or anything solid for that matter.
- Cost: High speed satellite internet costs more monthly than you would pay for a DSL or cable connection that brings the same internet speed, and it is also more expensive to set up.
HughesNet® and Viasat® are the two main providers of high speed satellite internet in the country. The former is considered an exceedingly better option by many businesses, owing to the fact that it trumps the competition in terms of speed, reliability, and cost, and manages to provide the best overall internet experience to subscribers. Viasat® recently launched a second satellite apparently capable of delivering speeds up to 100 Mbps, which means the company may come out with next-generation plans that place it at the top. Currently though, the following are the best business internet providers based on various factors.
- Speed: Compare a HughesNet® business internet plan with one from Viasat®, and the first difference you will notice is the one in download speeds. While the former delivers up to 25 Mbps on each of its plans, Viasat® stops short at a relatively mediocre 15 Mbps. For a business, this 10 Mbps difference is what separates easy and productive work, from a stall in the same. Based on location Viasat’s speeds can drop even further.
- Affordability and data: HughesNet® gives you the best value for your buck, starting off with a base plan at $69.99 per month, which brings 25 Mbps maximum download speeds, with data usage capped at a lofty 35 GB. Viasat’s cheapest plan, on the other hand, costs $99.99 a month and brings a meager 15 Mbps download speed, capping data usage at 20 GB. Simply put, it is not only more expensive, but also slower, as well as allowing you to use less data. The last bit can be worked around with an additional fee, and here too HughesNet® outdoes its main competition. While Viasat® charges $10 for each extra GB, HughesNet® makes it more affordable at $3.
- Customer service: This is an important thing to watch about any service you consider signing up with. In the case of high speed satellite internet the Better Business Bureau (BBB) scores both HughesNet® and Viasat® at A+, and while this score does not completely guarantee you will get stellar service each time you call customer support, it does show that both companies take customers and their complaints seriously. On the flipside, BBB also reported that both companies got 99% “negative reviews”. This is par for the course, considering that all internet providers tend to have drastically low ratings.
Other Connection Options for Rural Businesses
High speed satellite internet is often the best choice for a business located in a rural area, although it is not always the only option. Based on what you can access locally, the following internet connection options may also be on the table.
- Fixed wireless: There is an internet delivery option where the ISP connects a business online using land-based radio towers, in what is called fixed wireless internet. AT&T® is one prominent Telco that provide this type of service.
- Mobile/cellular: Another way to access the internet in a rural area is through mobile hotspots set up by a cell phone company. The downside to this is the steep cost it brings, prompting many phone users to switch off their mobile data usage unless they have real need of it.
- T1: an older technology which brings internet service via copper wire cables, T1 is different from DSL in that it stays dedicated to a single location. This raises its reliability, but also ends up making it tremendously expensive. That, and the fact that it can only deliver speeds of about 1.5 Mbps at most, make it a less preferred option than high speed satellite internet.
Satellite Internet vs. Cable Internet
Reliability: Satellite internet signals can easily be blocked by anything solid, or even bad weather, sunspots, or thunderstorms. Taken generally, high speed cable internet is more reliable by far. It transmits signals via physical cables, which are consequently harder to interrupt. In actuality though, cable interruptions are fairly common, and avoiding these entails signing up with a reliable provider.
- Availability: Cable internet is available almost anywhere that you can get TV service. This makes it available to a lion’s share of consumers in the country, but those in remote and rural areas usually get left out. Satellite internet, although less well-known, can be accessed anywhere that is open to the sky, even in remote and rural areas. People in large cities may not find this very useful, but many rural communities consider it as a lifeline.
- Speed: Cable internet download speeds can be anywhere between 20 and 100 Mbps, with several companies offering the latter. However, the upload speeds are generally very low, and usually only reach up to 5 Mbps. At peak traffic time, this can bring down your download speed. Still, high speed cable internet scores higher than high speed satellite internet in this respect, which only bring you 35 Mbps of download speed, and 2 Mbps of upload speed. This is more than sufficient for checking your email and surfing the web, but something more data-intensive, such as high-graphics gaming, can cause lags aplenty.
- Service costs: Cable internet subscriptions charges vary with location and provider, although bundling services can earn you serious discounts. There may also be an installation fee. Satellite internet costs more per month, and requires you to buy a satellite dish from the provider. This also brings an installation fee, along with additional costs in case you decide to avail higher service speeds.