At the moment I install satellite based internets into peoples houses. Half the time it is someone who really needs it gets it, but a lot of people haphazardly buy satellite internet based on what a sales person on the phone sold them. Sometimes attempting to bundle packages for a discount. (Hint: There isn’t a discount if you shop around.) So I will go over in a simple and quick (Belive me, there is a lot more to this subject than I cover) review of things that some people expect to be able to do with their internet. There are a few tasks people who come from unmetered bandwidth will encounter. I will list some limitations in the order that people seem to need them; this should help inform people about what they are getting.
What am I actually getting when I buy a satellite internet connection?
Satellite internet is a great product for what it is. It can be installed anywhere in the continental United States that has a unobstructed view of the southern sky. This means we can put internet into remote/off grid locations. It has some limitations such as limited bandwidth allotments, high latency ping time and no public IP address. Satellite provided internet, such as HughesNet or Exede are good products, but they are simply not capable of competing with a properly working ground based internet service.
A lot of people move into rural areas and expect to be able to get internet that compares to their previous FIOS connection. Often times they don’t have any other options for internet. Luckily for these users Satellite Internet can solve this problem, unfortunately, satellite internet is not as nice or as a fast as a ground based connection. Lets go over some of the common setbacks people run into. If you live in an area that has no other options then satllite is probably your best option but if you have choices then you should research them first. Ask your neighbors what they have. You should be able to get an idea for the level of service provided in your area.
Monthly Bandwidth Limitations.
Lets go over the first major concern people have and that is the monthly data bandwidth cap. Your bandwidth cap is the total amount of data transferred over your internet connection during a billing period. This is measured in the same way your cell phone measures data usage. You may or may not be aware of data capped internet but you do not get unlimited bandwidth. Depending on the package you get you will get around 10, 15, 20, or 50 gigabytes of data transfer a month. This may seem like a lot but with the amount of video being streamed it is not very much. Other services such as cell phone hotspots can rake up a large bill but satellite providers rate limit you for your billing period instead of charging you more. This means streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu or Youtube will not work very well.
Bandwidth Cap is different than how fast the connection is. Bandwidth Caps are based on how much data you transfer over your internet connection. Most internet in the united states has total bandwidth caps. Depending on the service it can be as much as 250-500 gigabytes a month or it could be as little as 1 to 2 gigabytes a month if you are using a cell phone based internet.
Satellite Internet typically has more affordable bandwidth when compared to cell phone internet options, but other ground based services typically have more bandwidth than satellite internet.
An hour of high definition Netflix uses over a gigabyte of data. This means that if you have a 20 gigabyte package you have around 20 hours of streaming ability. Take the amount of days in a month and divide by 20, you’ll realize that this is less than one hour a day per month that you can stream. People who come from populated areas with high alottment bandwidths often do not understand what their bandwidth usage is and therefor expect more out of the satellite internet than they should. Often times sales people add to misconceptions of what the product is.
High Latency and What That Means to You.
Communication satellites such as the ones used for HughesNet and Exede have satellites positioned in what is called a geosynchronous orbit. This means the satellite orbits earth at the same rate at wich the earth turns; staying fixed in the sky above any location. The satellite is approximately 26,199 miles above the earth. This means a round trip travels approximately 104,796 miles; (Or 26,199 miles x 4) at the speed of light this can take roughly 600 milliseconds. In normal web browsing a 6/10ths of a second of lag isn’t very noticeable, but when playing first person shooter video games this is way too long. Some VPNs will also not work because of the inherent latency of satellite internet.
What does high latency mean to me? Well normal with normal web browsing, nothing, but if you video games or use a low latency connection such as trying to shoot at an opponent will not work. Ground lines will have a latency of 60-100 milliseconds, satellite will have a latency of 600-800 milliseconds. This means that your opponent has moved out of the way of where you shot, this makes the game unplayable.
VPNs, VoIP and software such as Tor do not work very well with a high latency connection. So do not expect to be able to use that software to its full extent. There might also be other software that does not work, so be sure to research on google to see if other people can use the software on satellite internet.
No public IPv4 addresses.
On HughesNet you do not get a public IP address that you can connect to from an outside connection. HughesNet supports IPv6 so you can use a one of the public IPv6 address to connect, but you cannot use IPv4 to connect to your network. The HughesNet Modem performs NAT and translates your connection to devices on your network. It also splits connections between all your devices. This means if you want to allow outside connections to say, your home camera system, you will not be able to communicate with it using (IPv4)[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPv4]. Some DVR software allows you to connect while you are on the local network or you sign up for a service that forwards users to your connection. Software that relies on a publicly facing (IPv4)[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPv4] address will not work. Most people never use this so it isn’t that big of an issue. But if you serve data or allow people to connect to you, you will be limited.
Hughesnet Voice/VoIP service.
Something that I run into occasionally but not often is people who want to use faxes on the HughesNet VoIP. Voice works great but you cannot use a fax or other modem type device on the HughesNet VoIP. This isn’t a problem for most people but some want to fax and you can’t fax.
E911 service might also be a little iffy because it relies on your internet working and having power. You can battery backup these if you are worried, but unlike a POTS line it will not work without electricity.
The HughesNet provided VoIP service is very solid and works very well, it is an excellent option for people who have no cell phone signal and need a stable phone connection. Communications such as Skype or Vonage may not work as expected.
So in short, if you video game, use lots of bandwidth, or need a publicly faceable IP addresses, satellite might not be your first option. However, satellite may be the only option for those who have no other options.
Sadly, I see a lot of people talk to high pressured sales persons who telemarketer call them. This isn’t bad, but what is bad is the sales person will promise the world to a potential customer when what they want to do cannot be done practically.
What also escapes me is when people are surprised a sales person told them things they wanted to hear rather than the actual facts. Think a little about it, do some research. (I Hope that is how you ended up here) Learn about what you’re going to buy before buying it. Its a 24 month commitment, so be sure it is what you want.