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Satellite Internet

Satellite Internet is delivered wirelessly via a one-way or two-way satellite.

Satellite Internet is much faster than a dial-up service. [©Jupiter Images, 2010]
©Jupiter Images, 2010
Satellite Internet is much faster than a dial-up service.

Satellite Internet

Communication satellites -- satellites that provide links for television, radio and telephone services worldwide -- are now also used to provide satellite Internet. Unlike other forms of Internet access, such as dial-up, cable or digital subscriber line (DSL), satellite Internet is delivered to homes or businesses wirelessly from Internet service providers. The Internet is first broadcast from the provider to a communication's satellite orbiting the earth, and is then relayed to satellite dishes. A cable is used to bring the Internet inside from the dish.

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the typical download speed of satellite Internet is 1 million bits per second (Mbps) for downloading (receiving) and 200,000 bits per second (200 kbps) for uploading (sending). While this is slower than the typical cable or DSL connection, it is still much faster than dial-up Internet access, which provides a maximum download speed of 56 kbps. Thus, satellite Internet is a good option for people in rural areas who are unable to receive cable or DSL signals.

Types of Satellite Internet

There are two basic types of satellite Internet: one-way satellite Internet and two-way satellite Internet. One-way satellite Internet receives Internet downstream from the satellite, but requires a dial-up modem to send upstream data back to the satellite. Two-way satellite Internet sends and receives data strictly via satellite, eliminating the need for a phone line. Both types have similar download speeds, but because one-way relies on a dial-up connection with a maximum speed of 56 kbps, sending data that way can be considerably slower.

Advantages of Satellite Internet

The International Telecom Union recognizes several benefits of satellite Internet, one of which is satellite Internet's widespread availability. Because satellite Internet does not require a wired network grid, it can deliver high-speed Internet to remote areas across the globe even those areas where terrain makes DSL or cable Internet access impossible. Also, because the data communication is simpler than an intricate network grid of cables, there are fewer points where service failures can occur.

Along with its widespread availability, the other primary benefit of satellite Internet is its speed, which is must faster than dial-ups. Due to the increased rapidity of satellite Internet, surfing the Web is faster, as are other multimedia applications, such as video streaming.

Disadvantages of Satellite Internet

While satellite Internet may be more advantageous than dial-up for people in remote areas, it also has its disadvantages. According to the FCC, a primary drawback is the cost of obtaining all of the necessary hardware for a satellite connection. A satellite dish and satellite modem can cost around $500.

A clear line of sight between the satellite dish and the communications satellite, without interference by buildings or foliage, must also be established. Additionally, some homeowner associations have rules about whether a satellite dish can be visible from the street or not. Thus, it may be difficult or even impossible to find a clear enough line of sight while also adhering to homeowner association regulations.

Reliability can be another issue. Satellite Internet is prone to outages during severe weather conditions. In some cases, various providers will supply a dial-up connection as a backup for instances such as these.

Also, because of the distance between the dish and the satellite, latency can sometimes be a hindrance. This affects real-time communication and gaming because the lag-time between the moment when the communication is sent and when it is received can be approximately one second.

While cable and DSL may be faster, cheaper and more reliable than satellite Internet, satellite Internet is the only dial-up alternative that many people in remote areas have access to. While typically more expensive than dial-up, satellite Internet delivers high-speed connections that would otherwise be impossible with dial-up.

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