When it comes to choosing an internet service provider, the number of factors to consider can feel overwhelming. It can turn into frustration quickly though if your options are limited to begin with. For people living in rural and remote areas, it can sometimes feel like there are no good options. As satellite internet continues to advance though, better options are arriving for more people every day. Two of those providers, Viasat and Starlink, are pushing the edge of what’s possible on satellite internet to new limits.
Viasat is planning to launch 3 brand new next generation satellites in 2022 that aim to drastically improve the Viasat network and expand what Viasat can offer customers. Each of these satellites has a network capacity of 1 Terabyte per second. One of these satellites by itself has twice the capacity of the entire fleet of satellites Viasat currently has in orbit. Altogether, the network will have 7 times more capacity than it did before, allowing Viasat to become available all over the world, while also improving the connection for every customer.
Starlink is also pushing the boundaries of what satellite internet can do, but in a different way. Instead of having a few satellites in the traditional geostationary orbit 22,300 miles above the Earth, Starlink has its satellites in a low-earth orbit only about 300 miles above the Earth! The advantage of this is that it eliminates the high latency usually associated with satellite internet and allows for greater redundancy in the network. High latency isn’t something that effects most people. It isn’t related to speed and only really affects activities requiring precision timing, like some online gaming for example.
The disadvantage of the low orbit approach is that it requires a much greater number of satellites to match the coverage area of geostationary orbit satellites. Starlink has plans to launch somewhere around 42,000 satellites into orbit to complete its constellation, but so far has less than 2,000. That’s why Starlink is still only available in select areas where they have focused the initial satellite launches. It may take some time before Starlink is able to compete with other providers like Viasat in terms of availability.
Both approaches to satellite internet have advantages and disadvantages. Which one is right for you will likely depend on your personal internet requirements and where you live. Either way, it looks like there is a lot to look forward to as both companies compete to bring highspeed internet access to more people than ever before.
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