The Pros and Cons of Satellite Internet

If you need consistent internet access where wired internet service providers are not usually present, you may be in need of satellite internet. If you have a choice between satellite and another type of internet technology, you may be stuck deciding which is better. This resource is here to help you choose.

Table of Contents

  • What Is Satellite Internet?
  • Who Should Consider Satellite Internet?
  • Pros of Satellite Internet
  • Cons of Satellite Internet
  • Satellite Internet Pros and Cons at a Glance
  • List of Satellite Internet Providers
  • FAQs

Summary

A satellite connection is an option for internet users who live in a place where a typical internet service is not available. Customers considering this option may want to thoroughly investigate their choices before committing to the service. This post outlines the finer details of satellite internet to help you decide if this service is a good choice for you.

What Is Satellite Internet?

These days, most internet connections are made through a physical cable. Satellite internet, on the other hand, uses satellites (of course) from which service providers can bounce data back down to a dish on your house back on Earth. The cool part about this is that many providers use satellites that are in a geosynchronous orbit, which means that they stay located over the same place on Earth even as it’s turning. Since they move right along with specific points on our planet, you can generally expect continued contact from the satellite that bounces data to your home.

Why Choose Satellite Internet

Although most internet users today opt for cable, fiber or wireless internet, satellite remains a viable contender for folks who live in places where these services may not reach. In addition to having the ability to cover hard-to-reach areas, satellite technology is growing more and more each year. It’s worth considering whether satellite internet may be an option for you since companies like Viasat, HughesNet and Starlink continue to innovate the industry. Read on about the pros and cons of this service before you decide, or visit our related post about different types of internet to learn more about other ways to be connected to the Web.

Should you get satellite internet

Who Should Consider Satellite Internet?

For many people, satellite internet is not a feasible choice. For others, it is the choice. People who might seriously consider a satellite connection might be:

  • People in rural or remote areas where landlines are available less often might need satellite service. Since satellite doesn’t need cable infrastructures nearby, folks in secluded areas don’t need to worry about whether cables reach them or not.
  • People who live in any place where DSL, cable, fiber or other internet options are not available choices.
  • People in regions prone to natural disasters can also benefit from satellite connectivity. Although bad weather can interrupt your service, connections can resume soon after the weather clears because there are no cables or lines to repair.

Satellite Internet Pros and Cons at a Glance

Pros
  • Boasts availability pretty much everywhere
  • Has the potential for exceeding promised speeds
  • Can be a cheaper and more logical choice than a mobile hotspot
  • Recovers quickly after a natural disaster
Cons
  • Plans have lower bandwidth speeds
  • Service usually has high latency
  • Plans usually have long minimum contracts
  • Data caps may limit how much you can do online
  • Service is susceptible to interruptions during bad weather
  • VPN usage is generally not supported
Satellite for Internet

Pros of Satellite Internet

Even though satellite internet is usually more expensive than other typical internet connections, there are still multiple advantages to using a satellite service.

Availability
Since there are no cables to lay down for this service, there are more places where satellite internet can be provided.

Faster Speed Potential
FCC reports have indicated that, even at peak hours, satellite users can get the fastest internet they were promised and then some.

Cost-Effectiveness and Logic
A mobile data plan may work in some places, but satellite internet will still reach places where mobile data plans cannot. Additionally, depending on the location, a satellite plan may be cheaper.

Recovery Time
When natural disasters destroy the physical internet cables, it will take time for customers to regain their connection while the cables are repaired. With satellite, no cables need repairing! If bad weather interrupts satellite service, it will resume once the weather clears.

Cons of Satellite Internet

Although satellite presents a great solution for internet users who need a reliable connection in their specific location, it does come with some caveats.

Bandwidth Speeds
You will not be finding comparatively high connection speeds in any satellite service. While ground-wired internet speeds can run up to 1,000 Mbps, satellite internet does not currently exceed about 100 Mbps. Although that is enough for most general tasks, it’s not enough for simultaneous heavy internet usage from multiple devices.

Latency
Internet latency is measured in milliseconds and refers to the time it takes for data to travel from its original source to its destination. With satellite internet, data must be transmitted from the service provider up to the satellite and then back down to your home. Therefore, due to the nature of satellite internet, the latency for this service is naturally higher.

Contracts
When you sign on with a satellite internet service, you will most likely have to agree to a contract that lasts quite a while. This may not be an ideal agreement for anyone who is just looking to try out the service.

Data Caps
Although the data caps may be higher than they probably would be with a mobile hotspot, having any limit to your data at all is worth mentioning. Even if you aren’t charged for going over your data limit, you’ll likely see some sort of repercussions if you hit your “soft” data cap. Consequences for hitting a certain point (as outlined in your plan) likely include service throttling or prioritizing your service behind that of customers who have not yet met that limit. For more information, please visit our post about data caps on internet services.

Bad Weather Interruptions
Although we have mentioned post-disaster recovery as a pro in this post, it is worth mentioning that bad weather can interrupt satellite service. When storms or other natural disasters block the path of the satellite data, you might not have an internet connection. The upside is that bad weather eventually clears, which means that you will eventually get your service back. Just make sure that your satellite dish is aligned to its peak signal angle to make your system more reliable and recoverable.

VPN Usage
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a service that can help internet users anonymize their online presence. Satellite services generally do not have enough bandwidth to power a VPN. Although it is technically possible to make it work, the performance of the VPN may be limited. You can check with your satellite provider to see if their service is compatible with any VPN options. If you want to know more, you can visit our related informational post about how to use a VPN.

List of Satellite Internet Providers

Viasat

One satellite provider you might select is Viasat. It is one of the services that dominates the satellite internet market today. They can offer customers speeds of up to 100 Mbps, which is often enough to meet most users’ everyday needs.

Starlink

As a newer satellite company, Starlink is still building its arsenal of low-Earth orbit satellites. Their plan is to launch reusable rockets and satellites into space to help subscribers access up to 150 Mbps—faster than any current satellite service available.

HughesNet

This satellite service is another industry-dominating provider at the moment, and its plans are best for a budget. Although their prices are more cost-effective, they do not offer bandwidth speeds as high as other providers.

Frequently asked questions

What is satellite internet?

Satellite internet uses satellites (of course) from which service providers can bounce data back down to a dish on your house back on Earth.

What does latency mean?

Internet latency is measured in milliseconds and refers to the time it takes for data to travel from its original source to its destination. Due to the nature of satellite internet, the latency for this service is naturally higher. Another term for the measurement of this delay is “ping time.”

Does satellite internet ever stop working?

One of the biggest reasons for satellite service interruptions is particularly bad weather (i.e. a severe thunderstorm, a hurricane or tornadoes). Other reasons for service failure can be summed up with a reminder that a satellite is still a physical item that can suffer accidents and software failures (although these two situations are rare).

How fast is satellite internet?

Currently, the fastest speeds available in satellite internet hover between 100 Mbps and 150 Mbps. You can expect at least 12 Mbps from satellite internet providers, though.

Who is satellite internet ideal for?

Although satellite internet can technically reach most places on Earth and can therefore provide service to the people in those places, the internet users who would benefit most from satellite service may be people who live in places where typical internet connections do not reach (i.e. remote or rural locations) and people who live in areas where natural disasters are known to happen.

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