For businesses in rural or remote areas without access to landline internet, cable, or fiber, satellite technology is a lifesaver. If you’re a satellite internet subscriber, your office will be equipped with a receiver dish pointed to the southern skies. You’ll get your data from earth-orbiting stations operated by ISPs. The satellites transmit data to the dish using radio frequencies that are converted into internet signals by a modem inside your office.
For families satellite internet works in the same way as satellite tv, with three components: a home satellite dish, modem, and an orbiting satellite that receives and transmits data. In rural areas where getting internet can be difficult, satellite internet providers can offer high-speed, reliable internet comparable to cable and fiber-optic services, without using your telephone line.
Current satellite internet technology can’t deliver connection speeds as fast as DSL or cable, and it’s nowhere near as fast as fiber. Why not? The stations orbit Earth at distances reaching 23,000 miles away—nearly 10 times the width of the continental United States. Data taking such a massive trip simply can’t travel fast enough.
These far-reaching distances also lead to reliability problems. Satellite internet suffers from high latency, resulting in delays between connection points. What’s more, because satellite bandwidth is a precious resource, ISPs place limits on the amount of data you can use during certain periods of the day. You may have limited data during peak daytime use, for example, but more flexibility after hours.
The cost for satellite internet is also much higher for the speeds delivered. Low-speed plans cost around $60, but the fastest plans could cost you several hundreds of dollars per month.