Satellite Cable: Is it a Good Option?

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5 minutes read

Category: Internet
Posted on: 12/03/2020
a solid white satellite dish on a tiled roof

Nothing beats settling down on the couch to watch a movie, documentary, hockey game, or the latest reality show. There are many options to stream services, including a strong internet connection, cable, or satellite. There are advantages and disadvantages to each type, depending on your viewing needs, budget, and location. We’re going to talk about satellite services here, and then you can decide if it meets your needs.

How does Satellite TV Work?

Satellite service uses wireless technology to deliver television programming to viewers. Video and audio signals are broadcast via orbiting geostationary satellites 23,500 miles above the earth. A small satellite dish is installed on your home or on a pole outside your home. Some providers allow you to install your own devices, but a professional is usually required to point the dish in the perfect direction. The dish is then connected to a receiver inside of your home via a cable. Newer dishes are advanced enough to provide a clear digital signal so you can watch channels in high definition (HD).

Receivers function in several capacities. The receiver allows the signals collected through the dish to be viewable on your television of choice. Newer receivers allow you to watch multiple shows at once and on multiple televisions. The receiver box can also function as a digital video recorder (DVR), which allows you to record programs to watch at your convenience. You can even watch one show while recording another at the same time, even if both of them are live broadcasts.

Satellite subscriptions include channels that broadcast news shows, sports, history, cartoons, movies, reality shows, and much more. Some satellite providers also offer paid services so that you can rent movies on demand. 

Advantages of Satellite Service

  • Availability - Satellite service has almost global coverage. It covers rural areas that are not generally serviced by other types of cable or internet companies. Satellite is popular in urban or suburban areas as well. It is worth investigating no matter where you live. As long as your dish has a line of sight to the orbiting satellite (i.e., a clear view of the southern sky), satellite is available. 
  • Ease of Installation - Cable and fiber are often too expensive to lay in sparsely populated areas. Satellite skips those infrastructure build-outs and requires only a dish and cable attached to a receiver in your home. A little tweaking and you are ready to view your favorite shows and events.
  • Speeds - Satellite speeds are slower than fiber and faster than DSL. They are respectably fast, with 25 MB speeds being typical among providers. This is enough to use most applications.  
  • Reliability - Satellite has fewer network outages than other services due to the simplicity of the network. There are no cables to accidentally cut. Equipment is easy to replace.
  • Space - Satellite service has plenty of bandwidth for those who want it. The geostationary orbit has room for 180 satellites, and one satellite can theoretically provide coverage for an entire continent.
  • Mobility – Satellite, as a technology, is mobile. You can take your dish with you when you move. On a totally unrelated but fun note, if you are hiking across the desert and have a satellite phone with a little dish, you can still stay in touch. 

Disadvantages of Satellite Services

Delays in signal

Latency is the time it takes for a signal to travel from your computer to the satellite in the sky and back to the source or destination and back. 

  • It is measured in milliseconds—the lower the latency, the better for some applications. If you are an online gamer that plays real-time games that need instantaneous responses, this number is very important. However, if fiber or cable is unavailable, satellite is the next best thing.
  • Weather or other obstacles – As the line of sight to the satellite is important, you might need to trim a few tree branches to get the best signal. Weather can also cause problems, and you may need to clear snow off the dish in blizzards. Outages or blips can be caused by rainstorms as well.

Channel selection

Satellite providers contract with networks to decide which channels to carry. As a result, if there is a particular channel you can’t live without, check the lineup. 

  • Satellite providers may not carry local channels, they may charge extra for them, or you might need to find these channels from another source.
  • Contracts – Depending on how long you plan to stay in a particular location, you might want to check the required contract terms and early termination fees. Many contracts are for a year, which may be too long or too short for your needs. If you move to a new house, you can take your equipment but may need to pay an installation fee again. If you cancel, you may be required to pay the bill until the contract term is up.
  • Limitations on Devices - Many satellite services are designed to feed one television set. If you want to watch in multiple rooms in your home, you may need special equipment in addition to possible extra fees.

Is Satellite a Good Option for You?

As with anything in life, do your homework and read the fine print. Think about your purposes for wanting satellite services. If satellite internet and satellite phone are also available, you might be able to bundle those services together for one price. 

Check the other services in your area, compare them with satellite and see which one fits your needs the best.  

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