What’s Satellite Internet and Why is it a Great Option for You?

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Category: Internet
Posted on: 04/27/2021
three satellite dishes seen in silhouette against a purple and pink sunset sky

Living in a big city certainly has its benefits. A fast, reliable, and consistent internet connection is one of them. No matter where you go or live within your city limits, you can always link up to the virtual world. But we don’t all live in a densely populated area—some of us are small-town dwellers or have our own slice of land in a rural area. Back in the early days of the internet, this meant tough luck for connections and speeds, but things have changed for the better with satellite internet.

What is Satellite Internet?

The majority of us get our internet via a cable connection. For those who don’t have this option, in small towns or rural areas, providers can install a connection to a satellite. It’s a wireless connection that’s comprised of three satellite dishes. One is at your provider’s hub, one is in space, and one is on your property. You’ll also have a modem and cables that connect your satellite dish to your modem.

When everything is installed and connected, your internet service provider sends an internet signal to the satellite dish in space, which then relays the signal back to the one installed on your property. So, when you use the internet at your house to do things like download, send emails, or watch videos, the request is signaled into the dish space and then to your internet service provider’s hub. The request is completed when it’s sent back through space, to your dish at your home, and then finally to your computer.

It seems like this would take quite a while as there are many points the signal has to hit, including going all the way to space and back down to earth. That may have been the case when satellite internet debuted decades ago. But with new technology and advances, many providers offer speeds up to 25 Mbps, and that’s only going to increase in the next couple of years. 

The satellites in space are also in geosynchronous orbit, meaning they remain in the same place on the planet and have consistent contact with your house.

The Progress of Satellite Internet

Satellite internet first made its appearance in the early 1990s, when the Federal Communications Commission approved satellites for the purpose of connecting households to the internet (despite the internet not being as prevalent in homes back then as it is today). Then, the concept of wired internet overtook satellites, surpassing it in terms of accessibility, speed, reliability, and costs.

Satellite internet got a bad rap for many years, as the network lagged behind wired internet connection, only offering slow speeds. In 2007, speeds for satellite internet finally increased to 20 Mbps, and another decade later, HughesNet launched a fifth-generation network that met current FCC standards for broadband. Satellite internet is receiving increased funding and attention and, thanks to SpaceX’s investment of $10 billion, will have 12,000 satellites in low-Earth orbit.

The Perks of Satellite Internet

For some consumers, satellite internet is the better option for internet connection. With recent advances in satellite technology, this type of internet connection has proven advantageous in many ways.

Widespread Availability

Satellite internet’s greatest strength is that it can work anywhere. It just requires the installation of three satellites to make the process work, no matter where you live.

In today’s world, internet has become less of a privilege and more of a necessity, no matter where you live, which is why options like satellite internet have become increasingly important to develop. Rural areas, especially the farm-focused parts of our country, have limited internet access and few available options. Satellite internet can be installed no matter how rural the location is and if the internet provider doesn’t offer DSL or cable.  

Natural Disasters

Satellite internet isn’t just the best option for customers living in rural areas or small towns, but it’s the better choice for consumers who live in regions prone to natural disasters. For areas subjected to earthquakes and hurricanes, satellite internet is the more reliable connection. 

Cable connections can be severed by these natural disasters easily, but with the wireless connection of satellite internet, you’ll have a higher chance of remaining connected as long as you have an intact satellite dish. Reportedly, satellite internet is much faster to recover following a natural disaster than other internet connections.

Cable connections take a while to repair should anything happen to them, but with satellite connections, the receiving satellite is in the same position in space, so you’ll only need to have the equipment in your house operational to access the internet, which takes significantly less time to fix.  

Speeds

Satellite internet has come a long way in terms of speeds. New technology has allowed this type of connection to surpass the speeds of dial-up and mobile hotspots. Even in isolated areas, you’ll see increased, impressive speeds. 

Some providers are offering 25 Mbps and intend to come out with more significant increases to their speeds in the next couple of years. The Federal Communications Commission has also reported that satellite internet providers deliver 140% of the speeds they promise, even during peak operating hours. 

For you, that translates to getting bang for your buck—and then some.

No Phone Line Needed

You won’t have to fight with an internet service provider about getting a phone line in order to have satellite internet access. No phone line is needed to have satellite internet. Not only does this cut down on costs and saves you from an unnecessary add-on for your internet plan, but it’s one less thing you have to worry about installing.

Bandwidth

If you’re worried about satellite internet not being able to support your internet habits, fear not, because in the last decade, much progress has been made in this front. 

Satellite internet’s advantages include its bandwidth capabilities, as the connection is able to support moderate internet usage. You can stream, browse and internet surf, and stream movies, videos, and music all with your satellite connection.

Satellite Internet Plans

You can go online and type in your zip code to search for a satellite internet provider. Among the most popular are:

HughesNet: offers speeds at 25 Mbps with plans starting at 10 GB through 50 GB.

Viasat: has speeds starting at 12 Mbps through 100 Mbps and corresponding plans called the Unlimited Bronze 12, Unlimited Silver 25, Unlimited Gold 50, and Unlimited Platinum 100.

HughesNet is available everywhere, even remote locations—a key difference that sets this provider apart from its competitors. Viasat service accessibility will depend on your physical location, but it is available to almost all of the United States, with about 96% coverage. Parts of states without Viasat coverage include Arizona, Maine, Wisconsin, and Alabama. Other popular satellite internet providers include DISH and Frontier, who are among the largest providers within the United States, but you’ll need to check your physical address to see if your area is serviced.

Satellite internet has made strides in just the last decade, and the technology behind it has no intention of slowing down. Satellite internet is, for some people, the only option to connect to the virtual world of the internet, but now, it’s one of the better options. Fast speeds, global accessibility, and limited downtime following a disaster, satellite internet is only going to get better in the next few years.

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