What can you expect from satellite internet?
If you suffer from slow or no broadband at all and you find yourself looking for an alternative internet provider to BT and you hear about satellite broadband, what you can reasonably expect?
It is important to refer to satellite internet as an alternative and not a comparison. Satellite broadband is not designed to be compared with traditional landline based internet services or cable and fibre optic, nor is it designed to compete with the likes of BT and Virgin or even some 4G providers when it comes to the variety of data packages there are. The technology is vastly different in the way in which it delivers internet content and in the majority of cases, especially for domestic users, the service is contended, which means that it is shared amongst other users which can cause speed issues at peak times.
There are of course a range of packages that have a better contention ratio and therefore a greater slice of the internet speed pie. These are more commonly referred to as professional packages and more suited to commercial clients. Having said this there is no reason why you can't have a professional package as a domestic customer.
There are also uncontended packages that the likes of the BBC and other broadcasters use when delivering live news or sport content to your TV screens. These sort of packages come at a premium and beyond the reasonable reach of day to day internet users.
This is why it is important to take satellite broadband on its merits and not to compare it with traditional internet providers. If you have been used to a fibre connection in the past, or even a fast ADSL connection and find yourself in an area with slow or no broadband then you will notice the difference in the way internet content is delivered.
When you make a request for a website, details are sent to the satellite in the sky and relayed back down to earth to the network operations center (NOC). The NOC accesses the data from the internet and relays it back to the satellite before sending it to your computer or device. Due to the distance the data has to travel, inevitably there is a delay in receiving the data that ultimately translates to a website you view on your computer screen. This delay is commonly referred to as latency and can take some getting used to, especially if you have been blessed with fast internet in the past.
The latency issue will cause problems with live interactive online gaming because of the delay is receiving the data. This will upset the new generation of gamers, but it is the nature of the beast unfortunately.
Download speeds can vary with a contended service. There is only so much to go around at one time. Whilst download speeds are advertised as up to 20+ Mbps, during peak times this may be less. However, the satellite companies are aware of these issues and implementing new technologies to address them. You need to weigh up if it's worth sticking with a lower speed with the option of unlimited data or going for a higher speed with a limitation on the amount of data you can use without getting penalised. These days most people have access to smartphones or tablets that require software updates. Some devices are set to automatically download over WiFi so be mindful of what is going on in the background. All of these things and the likes of streaming video and music can eat into your data allowance very quickly. This is something to seriously consider, especially with a house full of teenagers!
Satellite internet is still very versatile and can provide you with an internet service that you would otherwise be without. Let's face it, a vast amount of everyday “stuff” is done online, from banking to shopping and catching up with friends on social media. If you're in a location where you simply can't access the internet then this may be the perfect solution for you. It is particularly suited to remote or rural locations and communities that are unlikely to receive a fast traditional broadband service from the likes of BT, but you have to be mindful of its limitations.
On the plus side satellite broadband is completely independent. There is no reliance on BT or a copper phone line but is compatible with many VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) providers enabling you to still have a home telephone running via satellite internet, without the line rental charges. This also gives satellite internet flexibility. For the time it takes to erect and point the satellite equipment you can literally set up home in the middle of a field in the middle of nowhere and have access to a home phone and broadband in a matter of minutes. With the best will in the world the mainstream providers are unable to do this. Plus, if you decide to move house, you can simply take it with you.
All in all satellite broadband provides a viable alternative to traditional internet providers who are unable to provide a basic level of internet speed, as recommended by the government, of 2Mbps download. This is what is required in order to conduct everyday internet tasks such as email and browsing.
Technology is advancing every day and today's satellite broadband services are just the beginning. It is flexible and adaptable and whilst the speeds can vary it does work and is providing people across the globe with access to the internet in places where previously it would have been impossible.