Who would have thought that we’ll someday be talking to a person in another country with the help of an object floating thousands of miles away from us? This is what the future looks like. The advent of satellite internet has enabled users all over the world to stay connected no matter where they are.
From checking your emails from the remotest parts of the earth to staying updated with the latest news from anywhere in the world has never been easier. This is a godsend for people living in rural areas where traditional cable and fiber internet don’t have access. However, satellite internet also has its limitations, which limit its wide-scale adoption and make it suitable for only a select number of entities. Here is what’s stopping the satellite internet to become the preferred choice of internet.
Unlike traditional ISPs with a ton of gateways, a satellite internet provider is limited by the amount of bandwidth it can process. The speed of a satellite internet connection depends on the number of people connected to it at any time. Imagine if a few people started downloading huge files like ultra-high-quality games and movies. This will max out the satellite’s ability to provide optimal speed to other users, which is not an ideal situation.
Satellite ISPs employ data caps to prevent this kind of thing from happening. Moreover, some satellite internet providers don’t own the satellites and use third-party communications satellites, which increases their overhead costs.
A basic communications satellite can cost several million dollars. Similarly, running a satellite is significantly more expensive than running a local network since it involves additional equipment. Then, there is the cost of setting up equipment on the receiver’s end like receiver, dish, modem, etc. These factors drive the price of a satellite internet connection higher than what you’re used to seeing on cable ISPs.
It costs more for a satellite internet provider to provide 1 Gb of data to a consumer than it costs a cable or fiber ISP. These additional costs are passed onto the customers.
Typical satellites providing internet reside at high altitudes of around 22,000 miles. Although this number is not fixed and they can operate at lower altitudes, this number stands true for most geostationary internet satellites. This is the main reason why most satellite connections have high latency. The data has to be sent thousands of miles up into the sky and then relayed back to your device.
The amount of distance can greatly influence the speed of your internet connection. This makes it impractical for applications that require low latency like gaming and video conferencing. Some companies like Starlink claim that their satellites orbit at 550 kilometers, which would mean low latency. Admittedly, you might get low latency with such services. However, a cable or fiber internet will still be much faster than a satellite connection.
Fair access policy
Most satellite internet providers have a fair access policy in place where they restrict your usage if you keep using more bandwidth for an extended period. There’s also a difference between peak and off-peak hours. Peak hours are when more users are connected to the internet. This typically happens during the evenings since many people get off work at that time. This is when your provider will throttle your speed to effectively cover all requests.
Impact of bad weather
Bad weather can be detrimental to your satellite internet connection. This is because water molecules in the air can interfere with the data being transmitted. These satellites work on radio waves, which works best in the open air with minimal interference.
Satellite internet connections typically have high latency, making it hard for a VPN to operate on the satellite network. VPNs run best on networks with high bandwidth and low latency to function properly. It’s not like the VPN won’t even start and you can’t log in. You can. However, the speeds will be very low making it ineffective.
If your internet usage requires you to routinely use a VPN, satellite internet might not be the best fit for your needs.
Another reason why satellite internet connections are not feasible for most users is the length of contracts these providers offer. This is largely due to the type of business model and operating costs they incur. Satellite internet providers rely on the fact that their customers will stay with their brand long-term.
This is what you should keep in mind before you sign up with a satellite internet provider. It’s not bad by any means if used for the right application. For example, if you live in an area where you don’t get cable internet coverage, satellite internet can be a good alternative. Be sure to do your own research before you sign up for a service.