Learn How Satellite Internet Works

Do you live in a rural area without cable TV or telephone service? Are you looking for broadband high-speed internet, but can't get DSL or cable internet in your area? Satellite internet is available to nearly everyone, even those living in the most remote areas. All you need is electricity, a small satellite dish, and an uninterrupted view of the sky.

What is Satellite Internet?

Satellite internet is the most widely available high-speed internet service. DSL uses existing telephone lines to deliver internet to customers. If there are no telephone poles where you live, DSL isn't available to you. Cable internet uses existing cable lines, which also deliver cable TV, and pose the same limitations as DSL. DSL and cable work better the closer you are to the internet service provider. Satellite internet uses the satellites orbiting Earth to deliver internet. No existing wires or cables are required, just a satellite dish at your house.

How does Satellite Internet Work?

High speed satellite internet uses three satellite dishes to deliver internet. The first dish is located at your house. It is placed outside in an area that receives an unobstructed view of the sky. This smaller dish sends a signal to a satellite that is orbiting Earth, which provides a two-way communication between your dish and the dish located at one of the satellite internet providers' hubs. When you want to access a webpage, your dish sends the request to the orbiting satellite. The orbiting satellite transmits the signal to the dish located at your Internet service provider, where the webpage is connected. The signal is then transmitted back to the orbiting satellite, and then sent to your personal dish. You are now able to visit the webpage.

Is Satellite Internet Good?

The communication between satellites is nearly instantaneous; the entire process takes only a few seconds. Depending on the satellite internet provider, download speeds can reach up to 35 Mbps. While download speeds can reach up to 35 Mbps with satellite, it doesn't mean it will always be that fast. Speeds are more likely to average around 10 to 15 Mbps. Satellite internet connections may be less stable in bad weather; clouds and rain can block the signals from the satellite.

How Do Satellite Internet Speeds Compare with DSL?

Satellite internet speeds are slower, but still competitive with DSL and cable internet service. Satellite internet is almost 10 times faster than dial-up service. DSL speeds can reach up to 40 Mbps, but will typically average around 20-25 Mbps. Cable internet is faster than DSL; speeds can reach over 100 Mbps, typically averaging around 50 Mbps. The fastest and most reliable high-speed internet is fiber optic, but it has less availability than DSL or cable, and is typically more expensive. Speeds can reach up to 1,000 Mbps. If you live in a rural area where DSL, cable, or fiber optic aren't available, or if you live far from the internet service provider, satellite internet is your fastest broadband internet option.

Two of the top satellite internet service providers are HughesNet® and Exede®. HughesNet® determines prices by the amount of data used, while Exede® plans focus on speed.

HughesNet® has the fastest satellite internet. All plans include 35 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload speeds. Plans start at $49.99/month for 10 GB of data and end at $99.99/month for 50 GB of data. Customers are given an extra 50 GB of data during off hours from 2 a.m. to 8 a.m. There are no data caps; speeds are just slowed until the next billing cycle.

Is Satellite Internet Unlimited?

Exede® has slower speeds, but offers satellite internet unlimited. There are no data overages, and customers will not have slower speeds until 150 GB of data is reached. Plans start at $70/month for 12 Mbps download speeds and end at $150/month for 30 Mbps download speeds.

Can I Use Satellite Internet for Gaming?

HughesNet® has more favorable satellite internet reviews for its speed and more affordable starting plans. Exede® offers better satellite internet for gaming with its higher-level plans. The speeds are comparable with HughesNet® and offer nearly triple the data usage before speeds are reduced. Both companies offer signup incentives, including price reductions, free installation, and bundling discounts. HughesNet® and Exede® require a 24-month commitment for their advertised prices, and implement penalties for ending a contract early.