What is satellite internet?

What is satellite internet and who are some of the providers?

Internet service choices are limited in less-populated areas where phone and cable TV does not support IP communication protocols. Satellite internet service offers speeds approximately 10 times faster than a dial-up modem. Interactive communication is established through a two-way satellite dish mounted on the roof of a house or building. In 2013, the best providers of satellite internet service were:

  1. DISH network
  2. Exede
  3. HughesNet
  4. WildBlue

Each of these providers has ground-to-space connections with satellites that orbit the earth in geosynchronous orbit 22,300 miles above the equator. Continuous connections are possible since the satellite dish on the house is always in line with the satellite in space.

Satellite Internet systems are comprised of components that resemble other types of Internet services.

The home satellite dish, which is two-feet by three-feet across;
Two modems in the house since one provides uplinks and the other downlinks;
A home computer connected to the modems;
An orbiting satellite that communicates with the service provider;
The Internet service provider’s communication center, which is attached to enormous satellite dishes.
Customers of satellite Internet service must be located where an unobstructed view of the southern sky is available. As locations move north, the line of sight is easier to obstruct with trees, buildings and hills. The angle toward the southern sky becomes shallower in locations closer to the northern U.S. border.


Basic Satellite Internet service ranges in price from $40 to $60 per month. Speed and bandwidth determines how much the customer will pay. Fees for activation fall within the range from $100-$150.


Providers of satellite Internet service strive to offer download speeds between 1 Mbps and 15 Mbps. Performance requirements on most personal computers require speeds above 5 Mbps. Users will be happier when screens refresh quickly, and downloading music and movies is fast.

Upload speeds are slower since the signal is packaged from residential equipment. A typical range from 400 Kbps to 5 Mbps is standard in the industry. Internet game users will find these speeds unacceptable for intense play levels.


Usage of the satellite Internet service is measured in bandwidth throughout the monthly billing cycle. Standard usage averages less than 5 gigabytes in 30 days. This translates into 1,250 MP3 song files. Few users will surpass this level without using the computer non-stop every day all month long. In addition, each user account will have 10 email accounts through the provider’s email system.

Satellite Internet service might provide the best solution for people in remote areas of the country. Contact with each of the providers listed above would be prudent if the existing cable and DSL providers are not offering Internet connections to the location.