Things to Consider Before You Get Satellite Internet

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In the mid-2000s, satellite internet was available everywhere but lacked the speeds needed for data-heavy activities. Since then, it’s come a long way. Even though it was a significant upgrade from dial-up services, satellite internet was still in its infancy. What it didn’t offer in terms of speed was made up by its availability in almost every area.

As suburban and urban areas moved toward DSL connection with service through their phone lines (and later fiber and cable), people outside those areas were left in a digital divide. 

The infrastructure needed to get a wired connection to every area wasn’t plausible for places with low population densities. And even today, homeowners outside of cable and fiber zones have to pay thousands to get it brought to their residence if there isn’t an existing line.

Unlike DSL and fiber services, satellite only requires a dish or antenna on your home to get a connection. Satellite internet is a reliable option for people without access to wired services and offers speeds that rival most DSL and fiber companies.

What are your internet speed & bandwidth requirements?

Internet speed is crucial, particularly for avid streamers and people who work from home. So when you’re considering satellite internet, you need to keep in mind the speeds you need. The leading satellite internet providers offer speeds from 25 Mbps to 200 Mbps.

First, let’s look at the differences between download speed and upload speeds:

  • Download speed affects how fast you can access things on the internet. For example, faster download speeds mean you can load websites and emails quicker, stream without disruptions, etc.
  • Upload speed affects how fast you can send data over the internet. For example, faster upload speeds mean that you can attach PDFs faster, display higher-quality video during Zoom meetings, etc.

The satellite internet speed you’ll need depends on three things:

  1. How many connected devices and users will be on the internet simultaneously
  2. The activities you perform on the internet
  3. Your tolerance for competing for bandwidth with others in your household

Now, let’s look at some common internet speeds and what they are best for:

  • Under 25 Mbps: Light use, like email, social media, etc.
  • 25 Mbps: Music streaming, occasional video streaming, and calls
  • 25-50 Mbps: Working from home, light video streaming, and calling
  • 50 Mbps: Light gaming, video calling, and streaming in HD
  • 100 Mbps: Working, streaming, and gaming from multiple devices
  • 200 Mbps: Working from home, streaming 4K, connecting multiple devices

Do you struggle with latency issues?

While satellite internet gets a bad reputation for having high latency, it’s not always an issue, and depending on how you use your internet, you might not even notice the latency. 

Latency refers to the time it takes for data to go from your device to your internet service provider (ISP) to the page or content you want to access and back to your device. Because satellite internet delivers your connection using satellites way above Earth’s orbit, it can take some time. This distance is why satellite internet can have higher latency than services like DSL or fiber.

However, high latency primarily affects things like online gaming, where a slight delay in pushing a key and the game registering your action can make a significant difference.

With video streaming or working from home, it’s less of an issue, and high latency doesn’t affect much other than if you’re live streaming from your computer.

Latency & Gaming

Online gaming is where high latency can be an issue. However, it also depends on the game. For example, sports and FPS games suffer greatly from high latency and aren’t ideal for playing over satellite internet. On the other hand, turn-based and more casual games aren’t impacted much by slightly higher latency.

Latency & Web Browsing

If you’ve ever tried to load a website over a slow connection, you’ve seen how long it can take. With faster connections, you’ll likely never notice the loading times.

Internet service providers were challenged to overcome their latency delays to load websites faster in the early satellite internet days. So Viasat satellite internet began developing software to improve latency and load times via satellite. 

They created the Viasat Browser to help satellite internet customers browse the web without worrying about loading times and latency, keeping the security and privacy while improving overall speed and load time.

Latency & Video Streaming

With video streaming, a lot of data gets transferred between networks, and we see a lot of questions in regards to latency with satellite internet. When you stream a video, the latency is primarily a concern when you start the stream—you can compare it to a short and long garden hose: the short one starts shooting out water more quickly, but once the water makes it through the other hose, they are equal.

The two leading satellite ISPs (HughesNet and Viasat) have found ways to improve this latency and deliver data efficiently, minimizing data usage and startup times. So, satellite internet is about equal to other options for streaming your favorite shows and movies.

Latency & Video/Voice Calls

The latency associated with satellite internet can have a small effect during video and voice calls online. While talking over satellite internet, you might notice a slight delay. Still, it’s not too difficult to adjust to—plus, Viasat offers a VoIP service with their plans, reducing the latency during video and voice calls even more.

Overall, it’s not necessarily an issue to worry about when considering satellite internet.

What are your hardware needs?

Two crucial things to consider about satellite internet are your internet speed and router/modem.

Satellite Internet Speed

First, let’s talk about speed:

  1. Is 25 Mbps enough for general use and working from home?

25 Mbps, like HughesNet satellite internet, is enough for some households. If only one or two people are online simultaneously, it’s perfect. However, if you have a household of more than two or perform heavy tasks online, you might want to look for faster speeds.

  1. Is 50 Mbps enough for general use and working from home?

Speeds of 50 Mbps are enough for most households. If you need to work while your partner and children watch TV, this speed will allow for it. However, if your work consists of constant video or voice calls, you might notice some delay.

  1. Is 100 Mbps enough for general use and working from home?

100 Mbps is perfect for households with one or more people working from home that also love to be online during their spare time. This speed can handle your work and entertainment while still allowing for smart home systems growing in popularity.

Satellite Internet Equipment

Now, let’s talk about equipment—most satellite ISPs come with two options: buying or renting your equipment.

Should I Buy My Router/Modem?

Pros of Buying Your Router/ModemCons of Buying Your Router/Modem
You can use a more powerful router.You have limited compatible choices.
You get options for a stronger wireless network.You might not save much compared to renting.
You can more easily switch internet service providers.You have to replace or repair equipment if it stops working.
Pros of Buying Your Router/ModemYou can use a more powerful router.
Cons of Buying Your Router/ModemYou have limited compatible choices.
Pros of Buying Your Router/ModemYou get options for a stronger wireless network.
Cons of Buying Your Router/ModemYou might not save much compared to renting.
Pros of Buying Your Router/ModemYou can more easily switch internet service providers.
Cons of Buying Your Router/ModemYou have to replace or repair equipment if it stops working.

Should I Rent My Router/Modem?

Pros of Renting Your Router/ModemCons of Renting Your Router/Modem
You get everything you need in one package.Your monthly bill costs more.
You know the equipment is compatible.Rental prices can increase.
You get guaranteed technical support.You have to return the equipment eventually.
Pros of Renting Your Router/ModemYou get everything you need in one package.
Cons of Renting Your Router/ModemYour monthly bill costs more.
Pros of Renting Your Router/ModemYou know the equipment is compatible.
Cons of Renting Your Router/ModemRental prices can increase.
Pros of Renting Your Router/ModemYou get guaranteed technical support.
Cons of Renting Your Router/ModemYou have to return the equipment eventually.

Who should not get satellite internet?

Satellite internet offers advantages to many people, but it may not be right for some households. For example, if you’re into heavy online gaming, the higher latency can be an issue. You should also consider that satellite internet requires an unobstructed line of sight to your provider’s satellites, and if anything gets in the way, it can slow down or cut off your signal.

Satellite internet also comes at prices typically higher than other options, mostly because it’s the only option in rural and isolated areas.

Who should get satellite internet?

Satellite internet is the best (and only) choice in some areas. For people living in rural and remote areas, satellite internet is the way to go—running cables for DSL or fiber can be extremely expensive and generally is not worth it. Mobile hotspot connections can be spotty in these areas, eliminating that option.

Purchasing Satellite Internet

The greatest strength of satellite internet is its wide availability—it works almost anywhere. Plus, satellite internet speeds have risen greatly over the years, with providers like Viasat offering speeds up to 100 Mbps.

Another factor to consider is that, in the event of a natural disaster, satellite internet is more resistant and can recover quickly, meaning that you won’t be out of service for nearly as long as if a DSL or fiber line got damaged.

Start your search for the best satellite options near you today. Enter your zip code to get current deals available at your address and compare them against other types of providers to find the right fit for your needs.