The Advantages and Disadvantages of Satellite Internet

Updated July 19, 2017

Cable and DSL internet access are both well known by most computer users, as those in urban areas typically have access to one or both of these types of internet connections. However, satellite internet access may be less known. Satellite internet access is one of the few high speed internet options available to rural users, and it has both advantages and disadvantages compared to other internet connection types.


The biggest advantage of satellite internet access is its availability compared to other internet connection types. Satellite internet access is a way for those who do not have access to terrestrial broadband connections such as cable or DSL to have access to high-speed internet access. Satellite also is one of the only ways to receive internet service in areas where telephone lines are not available.


Satellite internet access is much faster than dial-up, with entry-level service tiers typically providing approximately 1 mbps download speeds--nearly 18 times faster than a dial-up modem. Faster speeds are generally available at higher service tiers. In general, the highest speeds available to home satellite internet customers are slightly slower than the highest speeds offered by cable and DSL providers. Additionally, many satellite providers limit the amount of data that can be downloaded during short time periods to curb frequent large file transfers.


Satellite internet connections are high-latency, meaning that a great deal of time is required for packets of information to travel to the satellite and back. The total delay can amount to about one second from the time that you send a request to the internet to the time that a reply is received. Satellite internet providers use various technologies to make this delay less noticeable to the end user and create an acceptable experience for browsing the Web. However, the latency makes a satellite internet connection unsuitable for high-speed gaming.


Home-based satellite internet connections are generally no less reliable than terrestrial broadband. However, all satellite communication is subject to interruption during periods of heavy snow or rainfall. Talk to other customers about their experiences if you live in an area where either of these are common. The likelihood of weather-related interruptions is lessened with a larger satellite dish, which some providers offer.


The cost of entry for a satellite internet connection is quite high. The equipment costs several hundred dollars to purchase, and some types of installations incur additional fees. Additionally, the monthly cost for satellite internet tends to be slightly higher than the cost of cable or DSL. There are ways of reducing the up-front cost. The equipment can be leased rather than purchased, and discounts or rebates may be available. Sometimes, installation fees are included in the lease price.

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About the Author

Jason Artman has been a technical writer since entering the field in 1999 while attending Michigan State University. Artman has published numerous articles for various websites, covering a diverse array of computer-related topics including hardware, software, games and gadgets.