Satellite internet leverages the hundreds of satellites in orbit around the Earth (approx. 900) to send and receive data over the Internet. Depending upon the satellite internet service provider they may offer either 2-way or 1-way internet connectivity. In the case of 1-way connectivity it’s usually for high speed internet downloads and then it utilizes a dial up internet connection to upload data to the internet.
There are several well-known satellite internet companies that offer a fairly consistent set of packages to their users. Here is a quick summary of the biggest players in the space:
Top Satellite Internet Providers
- HughesNet. This is the top satellite internet provider in the U.S. They provide download speeds ranging from 1Mbps to 5Mbps and upload speeds in the range of 128 Kbps up to 300 Kbps. The pricing plans vary as well ranging from $59.99 to just under $120/month.
- WildBlue. This service is growing in popularity largely due to their low price point. They also offer slower connection speeds than HughesNET. Their download speeds range from 128Kbps to 512 Kbps and their upload speeds go as high as 256 Kbps. The pricing plans range from $49.99 to just under $100.
- SkyWay USA. This service is less well known than HughesNET or WildBlue but offers some great values and upload speeds. Their upload speeds start at 384 kbps and go up to 1.5 Mbps. They have plans start at $39.95/month making them the lowest cost provider and their top plan is just South of $100/month.
- STARBAND. This service has been in existent since 2000 and was merged into Spacenet, Inc. which was founded in 1981. They offer a bi-directional service with download speeds ranging from 512 Kbps to 1.5Mbps and upload speeds ranging from 100 Kbps to 256Kbps. Their prices range from $49.95/month up to $99.95 depending upon the speeds you need.
Fair Access Policies
One very important factor that you need to consider with satellite internet is the fair access policies of each of the satellite internet service providers. To back up a couple of steps it’s important to note that satellite internet like cable internet is a shared service. So multiple homes and businesses are using the same technology to get internet access and there is only so much bandwidth to go around. Therefore, if one user were to hog all of the bandwidth then all of the users on that same system would suffer. To avoid this, the satellite internet service companies have developed fair access policies and accordingly put a throttle in place to make sure that nobody consumes more than their share of the internet bandwidth. This may seem like a pain but it is necessary given the shared nature of this internet service. So, be sure to ask your internet service provider about their fair access policy before you place an order to make sure that it will work for you. The last thing you want to do is go through the install, get the equipment, and then get throttled back to a slow crawl due to abuses of the fair access policy that you were unaware of before purchasing the service.
10 Important Things to Know Before Ordering Satellite Internet
Trying to decide whether satellite internet is right for you? Making an informed decision doesn’t need to be as daunting as it might seem, provided you’ve done your homework. Luckily for you, we’ve already done most of it for you, right here. We’ve put together a list of ten important things you should know before ordering satellite internet.
- How does Satellite Internet work? Your home computer will be connected to a satellite dish mounted on your roof, via a modem. Your PC will then be able to communicate with orbital satellites over 22,000 miles up, which will relay your information via gateways here on the ground to the proper destinations, and send their responses back to your PC. All in a fraction of a second.
- Is this method reliable? Satellite internet is as reliable as satellite television. No internet service can guarantee 100% reliability, but satellite internet is rarely affected by anything other than extreme weather conditions, and even then usually only results in a short-term partial degradation of service.
- What kind of speeds can I expect? Satellite internet providers offer different levels of service, with advertised speeds ranging from about 500Kbps up to 2.0Mbps for residential customers. Your actual speeds will depend upon the amount of internet traffic in your region, as you are sharing bandwidth within a specific geographical area.
- What limitations are there? Since your bandwidth is shared, satellite internet service has what is known as an FAP (Fair Access Policy), to ensure that customers are able to enjoy equal access to the ‘net. There will be a bandwidth limit, plainly stated in your agreement, within which you will need to stay each month.
- What happens if I exceed the bandwidth limit? In order to maintain fair access to the internet for neighboring customers, you will experience slower connection speeds usually for about 24 hours. This typically only affects a small percentage of heavy internet users. Therefore you should …
- Know your internet needs and habits – If you’re a casual surfer, and only need to check emails; if you don’t download a lot of large files, chances are you’d be fine with any satellite internet plan. There are slightly more expensive plans available to accommodate heavier use, but you’ll want to know which ones suit your needs before choosing. And also, ask …
- What is the satellite provider’s contention ratio? Contention Ratio is simply the ratio of the number of customers sharing your section of sky, basically. As stated previously, you share bandwidth with other users within a certain area. Know what the ratio of users is. A good ratio will be around 20:1.
- Do I have an unobstructed view of the southern sky? Your satellite dish, whichever provider you choose, will need to be able to “see” the satellite(s) it will be communicating with. Make sure your property doesn’t have any trees or structures blocking that view.
- How and when can I contact technical support? Find out what hours they are available, and whether there is additional cost for making use of their services.
- Compare – Gather a list of satellite internet providers who service your area and look over the plans they’re offering. Call and ask how long it will take to get installed, whether they are running any specials and, if you prefer not to have the dish on your roof, whether they provide for installation alternatives.
10 Frequently Asked Questions About Satellite Internet
For most internet users, satellite service is not a primary option, since we live in areas where there are faster, and more affordable alternatives. Others, however, are out where the deer and the antelope play. To help sort out the basics for those fine folks, we’re going to examine some FAQ’s about satellite internet, and provide answers as well. So without further ado, here is a list of ten frequently asked questions about satellite internet.
- How does it work? Simply put, your computer is communicating with the internet through a modem, using satellites about 22,000 miles out in space, which take that data, relay info to gateways on the ground, then back to your PC. Some providers will use phone lines for the upstream data to conserve bandwidth.
- How fast is it? To put it in perspective: much faster than dial-up, but not nearly as fast as cable, about on a par with entry level DSL. Speeds will vary based on internet traffic in your area. Advertised download speeds range from about 500Kbps to 2.0 Mbps, depending on the plan you choose.
- What equipment do I need? For the most part, everything but the PC is provided by the satellite dealer. You’ll be set up with the proper modem, a satellite dish and the cabling to get you connected to the ‘net.
- Do I need a phone line? No. Most satellite providers utilize a 2-way system and do not use your phone line; so you don’t need to ever interrupt your phone line for internet access.
- What is FAP? Fair Access Policy is a method by which satellite providers can ensure equal access to the web for all of its customers. Bandwidth is shared within a geographic area, and the FAP helps to keep it available to all users in the area by placing limits on usage.
- How does FAP affect me? Unless you’re a heavy internet user, chances are it won’t. The FAP usually only affects those who download large files frequently or stream lots of video or movies. If you do exceed the limit, you’ll simply experience slower connection speeds for a brief period (usually about 24 hours).
- How much does it cost? Pricing varies with each provider. You can expect monthly plans to range somewhere between $40 and $100, depending upon the level you choose.
- Can I run a VPN over my satellite connection? Satellite providers will discourage this as the technology they use to transmit data isn’t compatible with a VPN. Consequently, your speeds will be reduced by as much as 75% when attempting to use a VPN. Some satellite providers have business solutions, however, that alleviate this issue.
- Can I use my satellite TV dish for internet service? No. Satellite internet uses microwave frequencies and different satellites than TV does, so you need a separate dish for internet.
- Can I install it myself? FCC regulations require that a satellite dish that both transmits and receives be installed by certified personnel.