Satellite Internet: Is it for You?The capabilities & limitations of satellite high speed internet.


If you can see the southern sky you can get Satellite Internet, but should you? For some, satellite internet is the only high speed internet option. For others, satellite internet may be one of many options. In this article we review some of the capabilities and limitations of satellite internet service. Will it fit your needs? Is it a viable option? Let's find out.

The Technology
Uses satellite signals to both transmit and receive data. No wires required - except electricity of course.

Generally available anywhere in the continental USA. Though an obstructed view of the southern sky may cause problems or limit access.

With the launch of the ViaSat-1 communications satellite in 2011 and the Echostar XVII satellite in 2012 satellite broadband service was vastly improved. Prior to 2011, the maximum download speed from a satellite connection was approximately 1.5 Mbps. After these launches speeds improved to 15Mbps. With the launch of Echostar XIX in 2016 and ViaSat-2 in 2017 service is improved even more. Currently, satellite internet users can expect download speeds of up to 30 Mbps.

Latency is an issue effecting Satellite Internet services. Essentially this means that there is a slight delay between requests and responses, primarily due to the distance traveled by the signal. This could be an issue if you want to use your high speed service for activities requiring faster response times such as online games or real-time stock trading. Additionally, VPN connections do not work well over "traditional" satellite internet services and can slow service by as much as 75%. Research and testing is recommended before proceeding to subscribe to satellite internet service for these types of activities.

Nowadays service is quite reliable, but bad weather can adversely affect performance and occasionally cause outages.

This is a common question. Mobility is one of the bigger advantages of satellite internet service. Since satellite internet systems both transmit and receive data, the FCC requires that they be professionally installed. It can, however, be professionally installed in a mobile environment. Additionally the system can be moved at a relatively low cost - about $50 per installation. If you switch between home and cabin once or twice a year, moving your system is not a big deal.

If you want to take your Satellite Internet on the road, a professionally installed mobile dish system can allow you travel anywhere with your dish. Mobile satellite internet equipment can cost between $3,000 and $8,000. The higher end models feature automatic aiming and retraction as well as integrated GPS. A perfect addition to that $200,000 Motor Home. Basic models are essentially a glorified tripod.

Of course, the big question is: "Will anyone know that I've moved my dish without calling a professional installer?" We have no idea.

Fifty to One hundred dollars per month depending on the plan and provider. Generally around $70 per month for decent plans offering good speeds.

Other Considerations
Specialized equipment is required and must be bought outright - no rental options. Expect to pay between $250 and $400 for equipment and installation depending on the provider and their various incentive and rebate plans.

Since the satellites themselves can only transmit so much data, capacity issues can effect availability. Satellite internet may not be available in areas that already have too many users. If satellite is not available for you now, it may be in a few months.

So is Satellite Internet for you? Often the decision is predetermined by availability, but every situation is unique. Be sure to evaluate all options before choosing a High Speed Internet Provider and weigh your options carefully.

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