Are you someone who lives in a rural area or is planning to move to one? Are you worried about getting access to internet connectivity? Well, the good news is that satellite internet service is available almost everywhere! But, is it a good option? While satellite internet can connect you where no other type of internet can, it may also come with some drawbacks. In this post, we will explore the pros and cons of satellite internet service, and help you make an informed decision about whether it is the right choice for you. So, let's dive in!
What is satellite internet and how does it work?
Satellite Internet is a service that allows users to access the internet through a signal sent to and received from orbiting satellites. This technology works by an internet service provider sending a signal to satellites in low or high Earth orbit, which then route the signal to a receiver dish mounted outside the user's home or business. The incoming signal is translated into a workable internet connection by a modem, which is connected to the receiver dish. Electricity is required to power the dish, but satellite internet is not dependent on ground-based infrastructure such as cable wires or phone lines.
This makes it a good fit for rural areas where broadband alternatives may be scarce. The two primary satellite internet providers in the US are Viasat and HughesNet, each with decades of experience in the satellite-based communications industry. While satellite internet may not be as fast as other options, its widespread availability and range make it a valuable choice for remote areas, especially with new competition such as Amazon's Project Kuiper and Elon Musk's Starlink promising faster speeds and lower latency. Satellite internet may have long-term service contracts and can be expensive, but it may be a viable option for those with no other access to broadband alternatives.
Advantages of satellite internet
1. Global Connectivity: One of the most significant advantages of satellite internet is the ability to provide a network anywhere in the world at high speeds, even in remote and hard-to-reach areas. This is beneficial for businesses that require 24/7 reliable connectivity, regardless of location. With satellite internet, companies can establish a secure private link to connect many remote locations spread over long distances.
2. No Infrastructure Investment: Unlike ground-based infrastructure, satellites do not require complex ground structures to access the internet service. This means that companies can reduce high costs in terms of construction and ground connectivity, as well as reduce the time required to deploy fiber, which can be several months.
3. Low Latency: With the introduction of low earth orbit (LEO) and medium earth orbit (MEO) satellite constellations, satellite internet can offer lower latencies and higher throughputs. This means that users can access high-speed internet and run applications with low latency, similar to terrestrial broadband.
4. Built-in Redundancy: Satellite networks provide constant connectivity, even when terrestrial networks fail. This is because of their built-in redundancy and automatic backup service. If one satellite fails, there are multiple satellites that can take over the coverage area without interruption.
5. Quick Time-to-Market: Satellite technology is an ideal solution for quick deployment, especially in disaster and emergency relief scenarios. The modularity of systems allows for easy upgrades and rapid deployment of VSAT remotes. New remote locations are easily added to a network where limited terrestrial infrastructure exists simply by configuring bandwidth to the site and having ground equipment installed.
6. Secure Connection: By adding encryption technology, satellites can provide a more secure connection than terrestrial networks. This makes it an ideal solution for government, military, and enterprise (virtual private network) solutions.
7. Versatility: Satellite technology can deliver a communications infrastructure to areas where terrestrial alternatives are unavailable, unreliable, or simply too expensive. They can also extend the edge of terrestrial networks to remote places or act as a stand-alone solution.
8. Flexibility: Satellite internet can be obtained through different portable and mobile devices, with access to voice and data at high speed anywhere on the planet. This is an excellent advantage for companies because it allows them to carry out their own business activities such as text messages, video conferences, and access to email, among others.
9. Continuous Connectivity: Satellites that have fixed positions in large oceans, like those at 180 station locations on the geostationary orbit or specific constellations, provide a stable and sufficient signal to ensure access to voice data and communication services to hard-to-reach areas while minimizing service interruptions.
10. Cost-Effectiveness: Satellite Internet offers a variety of pricing options to meet a wide range of telecommunication needs. With a scalable pricing model, businesses and individuals can establish a solution that works for their needs and budget.
Disadvantages of satellite internet
1 Slow speeds: One of the biggest disadvantages of satellite internet is its slow speed. Data has to travel from the dish on your house, through the satellite, and then back down to earth. This round trip can cause delays, which is known as latency. The latency can range from 500 to 700 milliseconds - not ideal for real-time activities, such as online gaming or video conferencing. This is especially noticeable during bad weather or peak usage times, which can further slow down your speed.
2. Weather Dependency: The second biggest disadvantage of satellite internet is its dependency on the weather. Heavy rain, snow, or high winds could cause interruptions or slow down your internet connection. This can be detrimental if you use the internet for work or need it for an emergency.
3. Expensive: Satellite internet is much more expensive than other types of internet connections, such as broadband or DSL. The cost of satellite internet depends on the plan, data usage, equipment, and installation fees. It also often comes with data caps and extra fees for going over those caps.
4. Limited Data Plans: Another disadvantage of satellite internet is that it typically comes with data caps and limited data plans. Most satellite internet plans offer data caps that limit the amount of data you can use each month. Once you hit that cap, you will experience slower speeds or your connection may be cut off altogether. This can be a major issue for users who rely on the internet to perform daily tasks.
5. Latency: We already mentioned that satellite internet has high latency, meaning that there is a delay between sending data and it reaching its destination. This delay can make it difficult to play online games or use real-time applications. It also makes video calls and conferencing difficult, as there can be long pauses between responses.
6. Signal Interference: There can be many sources of interference for satellite signals, including heavy cloud cover, trees, nearby buildings, and even birds. This disruption can severely impact your internet connection, resulting in slow speeds or complete loss of service.
7. Dependence on the Provider: With satellite internet, your connection is dependent on the provider’s network of satellites. If something goes wrong with these satellites, your internet connection will be impacted. Additionally, the number of available satellites is often limited, which means that the provider can only support a certain number of users at a time.
Factors to consider before choosing satellite internet
Satellite internet is an excellent option for businesses operating in remote areas or in situations where traditional internet connectivity is unavailable. However, before choosing a satellite internet provider, there are several factors that businesses need to consider. Below are 7 factors to keep in mind when making the decision.
1. Basic Connectivity Technologies: Before choosing a satellite operator, it's essential to develop a basic understanding of the two main satellite technologies: Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) and Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT). BGAN is best for individuals and smaller teams with lower bandwidth needs, while VSAT offers selectable bandwidth to multiple Megabits and supports high numbers of users. Each technology has its benefits, and the business need should be the main deciding factor.
2. Speed Requirements: As a general rule, most businesses prefer the fastest networking capabilities possible. However, budget and performance needs make the actual choice of internet speed dependent on factors such as applications and services used. For example, some companies rely on voice-over-internet protocol (VoIP) technology, which compresses bandwidth while providing low latency, minimal packet loss, and low jitter.
3. Latency: Latency is the time delay experienced when a signal has to physically travel a long distance. Depending on the location being serviced by satellite internet, latency can become a concern. To minimize latency, use quality of service (QoS) or class of service (CoS) tools to prioritize certain mission-critical traffic.
4. Radio Frequency Band: There are four radio frequency bands for VSAT satellite communication, with Ku and C bands being most often used for enterprise satellite communication. The differences between Ku and C are in frequency strength. The higher frequency of Ku means smaller antenna sizes can be used, while the C band's lower frequency requires a larger antenna but is better suited for poor weather performance.
5. Equipment Options: It's essential to understand your hardware needs and options, and whether you want to purchase or lease hardware from your provider. Owning equipment may have a business or tax advantages, while leasing can reduce maintenance expenses and the risk of failure, as replacement is often completed more quickly.
6. Reliability and Availability: Always consider the reliability and availability of satellite internet before committing to a provider. Be sure to ask for the Service Level Agreement (SLA), which is a service contract that specifically states how reliable and available the connection will be.
7. Support: Finally, consider the support options available from your chosen provider. Ask about their technical support process, how quickly they'll respond in the event of an outage, and what their procedures are for hardware replacement and repair.
In, satellite internet can be a good option for those living or working in remote areas that lack traditional telecom infrastructure, such as fiber cable or phone wiring. It can provide internet connectivity where other types of internet service are unavailable or too expensive. Availability is the biggest advantage of satellite internet, as new LEO satellite systems like Starlink and OneWeb will pave the way for customers to access satellite services around the world, even in hard-to-reach areas. However, satellite internet does come with its limitations. Latency and data restrictions can be major disadvantages, and environmental factors like wind, rain, or storms can affect the quality of the internet. With several competitors vying to become the largest global commercial satellite internet provider, including Starlink, Kuiper, Athena, Iridium, Boeing, and OneWeb, the market for satellite internet will likely grow in the future. Nonetheless, people should carefully weigh the pros and cons of satellite internet before committing to a provider and consider other types of high-speed internet if available in their area.
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