While most computers receive their Internet connections directly from phone or cable lines, people in very remote areas often receive their Internet service from satellites. With satellite Internet connections, a satellite receives a signal from a land-based Internet connection. The satellite then transits this signal down to a personal satellite dish and special modem. Although vital for certain users without other options, the technology has a number of downsides.
Available Almost Anywhere
The biggest advantage of satellite Internet is that it is available virtually anywhere. Whereas other computers must be relatively close to a land line--either directly connected via a cord or close enough to receive short-range signals from a router--computers using satellite can be hundreds of miles away from the nearest cable or telephone line.
Faster Than Dial-Up Internet
Satellite Internet is also faster than dial-up connections. According to HughesNet High-Speed Internet, providers of broadband satellite service, satellite Internet can be up to 50 times faster than dial-up Internet. Most satellite connections, however, are slower than this.
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Satellite Internet can be extremely expensive. According to EduBook, HughesNet offered a connection with download speeds of 1.0 megabits per second and upload up 128 kilobits per second for $59.99 as of late 2009. However, for a connection with download speeds of up to 5.0 mbps and upload as fast as 300 kbps the cost was $349.99. By comparison, the average broadband landline connection is 3.8 mbps--upload and download--and cost less than $50 during the same time period.
Slower Than Broadband or Cable
Even the faster broadband satellite Internet connection is still significantly slower than cable and broadband, with a cap of approximately 300 kbps for downloading information--significantly slower than most cable connections.
Satellite Internet also lacks the reliability of land-line connections. The signals from satellites can be blocked by inclement weather--a phenomenon known as "rain fade"--as well as other kinds of interference, such as sunspots. Connections secured through wires generally suffer fewer outages.
According to EduBook, every satellite Internet provider places limits on how much data a user may download or upload over a specified time period. If you exceed this limit--say, 100 megabytes of downloading in a single day--your access slows to a speed comparable with download. Full access may not be restored until your next billing period.
Although usable almost anywhere, satellite Internet can also be blocked by physical obstacles. The further a computer connecting by satellite is from the equator, the farther down toward the horizon it will have to point its receiver. The farther down a receiver is pointed, the more easily it can be blocked by trees, mountains and other large objects.