How Does Satellite Internet Work?

How Does Satellite Internet Work?

Satellite internet is a wireless connection that uses satellite dishes. You need at least one where the provider is located, one in space as well as one on your property. Satellite internet transmits and receives data from a small satellite dish on Earth.

Satellite internet is ideal for internet users in rural areas who may want broadband access. Broadband access is a bandwidth data transmission that can carry over multiple signals. Telephone lines and cable systems are not used by satellite internet. Satellites come from rockets and are launched into space.

It then orbits Earth once it is balanced by Earth’s gravity. The satellites can orbit at distinct speeds, paths, and heights. The two most popular orbits are polar and geostationary.

What is a Satellite?

Satellites are machines that are in orbit and they travel around planets and stars. Satellites can be natural like the Earth and Moon, or they can be human-made. Human-made satellites are used for a variety of reasons such as taking pictures of planets to help meteorologists to track hurricanes or predict overall weather.

Although they are used to take pictures, they are used primarily for communication to transmit television signals and phone calls. If you ever are wondering how your GPS works, they use satellites to help figure out the exact location.

What Do Satellites Do?

Satellites have an antenna and a power source, which is usually either a battery or a solar panel.

The antenna in satellites sends and receives information to and from Earth. There are a plethora of satellites that are used for different functions. Often, satellite internet is a preferred choice because it is significantly faster than dial-up access.

Types of Satellites: Two-Way

Satellite internet can be a two way. This means it keys on compression to decrease the size of data, so the transmission uses less bandwidth. The data is then transmitted using multiple channels, which all are used by one satellite at the same time. The satellite internet consists of a three by two-foot dish, uplink, and downlink as well as coaxial cables.

Many companies offer two-way satellite internet like Starband, Teledesic, and Tachyon. Two-way satellite internet is two forms of data communication for uploading and downloading. The upload speed usually is slower than the download speed.

This communication is similar to a cable connection, except the two way communication gets transferred to a satellite dish. It uses Internet Protocol. A majority of channels for communication can be given on one satellite at the same time.

What are Polar and Geostationary Satellites?

Polar-orbiting satellites can go from north to south. It can also go from pole to pole. It scans the whole globe a strip at a time. These satellites are a type of sun-synchronous satellite. It means that it always keeps a consistent angle to the Sun at all times. Since the orbital plane has the Earth’s axis, the satellite passes over the Earth’s poles much lower.

These orbits are non-circular but elliptical. Polar satellites will pass over the same place on Earth at the same time during the day. As the satellite orbits, it moves over every position on the surface of Earth.

Geostationary satellites travel from east to west over the equator. It is in sync with the Earth spinning since it goes the same direction and rate. On Earth, the satellite looks like it is standing still since it is always in the same location above.

The overall process for this is rather simple; your computer would send a request signal through the dish, to space, and the provider’s dish. These satellites have a circular orbit. The lower the satellite goes, the faster it will finish the orbit. The time needed for this is exactly 24 hours.

The service area of a geostationary satellite is from 75 degrees north to 75 degrees south latitude. The most occupied parts of the Earth could be covered using three satellites, which is why these are ideal for broadcasting and communication.

What is Latency in a Satellite Connection?

Latency is how long it takes one piece of information to make a trip back and forth over a satellite connection. These machines travel at the speed of light, and it must move the distance four times. It goes from the computer to the satellite, then satellite to the internet, internet to satellite and last satellite to the computer.

The time it takes is also called latency. Latency is also known as “ping time.” The length of latency is the main difference between a terrestrial-based network and a geostationary network. The round trip latency of a geostationary satellite can be 12 times more than a terrestrial network.

Overall, latency can be described as the time it takes to ask for data to the time it takes to get a response. For the most part, the communication for this is one way.

Wifi vs. Satellite

Wifi is a wireless networking protocol. It allows devices to communicate without having direct cable connections. More than likely, you have heard of the term wifi, whether you have it at home or have used it out in public. For wifi to work, there has to be a device of any kind that can transmit a wireless signal. It can be a computer or phone.

In most homes, an internet connection comes from an ISP. An ISP is an internet service provider and is a company that provides internet access. The ISP delivers the service to devices that are in proximity to receive the wireless signal. Another way to get wifi is through a hotspot.

Many phone companies offer hotspots that allow a phone or computer to share its wireless internet connection. For wifi, it does not matter what the source of connection is because the outcome is always the same.

More than likely, there are already phone lines that exist where you live. To access this wireless internet, a wireless router is needed and has to connect to a phone port. Your computers need wireless cards to access signals.

Most modern devices have wifi, and laptops and computers have pre-installed wireless cards. If you set up a wireless router in your home, the access to that wifi ultimately depends on the strength of the signal. Have you ever noticed that your phone was connected to your neighbor’s wifi?

That is because wifi can exist a little bit further, but it is more common for devices to be able to serve just a household. When it comes to speed, it depends on who the provider is. Some providers are known for their fast internet service while others not so much.

As stated above, for satellites, they need a satellite dish. The majority of internet providers will allow you to rent or purchase a dish. Satellite internet only works with satellite signals. When it comes to accessing your internet, it can vary depending on weather conditions.

There’s a chance that your internet can be blocked and unreliable due to if the weather is terrible. Although these are the cons of satellite internet, there are many pros too. An advantage of satellite internet is that it is faster than dial-up internet depending on the package you purchase.

You also don’t need a phone line for satellite internet usage. Lastly, it can handle high bandwidth usage, meaning multiple users can use it. When it comes to wifi if there are too many users, it can give off a weaker signal.

Final Thoughts on Satellite Internet

When it comes to deciding whether to use satellite internet or not, all you need to keep in mind is one important thing, your location. It all depends on your site and where you live. You may not have the choice between traditional wireless internet or satellite internet. If that is the case, you should choose whichever option is provided for where you live.

There are areas where other internet options like cable are not available. If you live in an area where there are poor weather conditions is common, you should reconsider using satellites, but if your weather is consistent, you should experience little to no problems.

You may also have the option for both wireless and satellite. Choose whichever would be easier to install, as well as the most affordable option. If you do choose to get the satellite, you still may be required to have a dial-up connection for the data that is sent to the internet.

If you live in a rural area and want broadband access to the internet, then satellite internet is an excellent option for you. Your best bet is to reach out to a provider in your location who offers satellite services.

Blair Campbell

Founder of GetInternet. Blair studied computer science at the California Institute of Technology Computing and Mathematical Sciences program, but he enjoys writing on the side. He grew up in southern California and now lives in Denver, Colorado.