Satellite Internet Access

What Does Satellite Internet Access Mean?

Satellite Internet access refers to Internet access provided through satellites. In other words, it is a telecommunications network provided by orbital communication stations. Signals from these satellites allow a user with a dish to have a high speed internet connection.


Satellite Internet access is generally provided either through low earth orbit (LEO) satellites or geostationary satellites. Signals of geostationary satellite usually are not accessible in some polar regions of the world. Various types of satellite Internet access service packages offer explicit performance features and technical limitations for different applications. If the sky is clear, then the user can easily access the internet and can download files, send and receive emails, get streaming media, and access the web.

Satellite Internet access is useful in remote regions and newly developed areas. It can provide high speed Internet service where conventional cable or DSL is either not available or not functioning well. However, it is complex to install and expensive compared to a DSL or cable connection. The satellite Internet speed is similar to DSL and cable services. However, the service differs in that it is an always-on connection.

Techopedia Explains Satellite Internet Access

The traditional satellite dish offeres limited performance, as it provides only one way service by using a dial up modem and telephone line. Updated satellite Internet access supports two way service.

The capacity of satellite Internet access can be calculated in bandwidth (MHz) amount, downlink power (dBW) and uplink G/T (dBK). The capacity is also affected by the size of dish used.
The broadband service is offered to end users by providing them with the necessary indoor and outdoor equipment for a monthly subscription fee.

The customer outdoor equipment usually includes a small dish with a diameter 60cm to 3.7 meters. A receiver and transmit module is attached to the dish. The indoor equipment includes the indoor receive unit (IRU) and the indoor transmit unit (ITU), which are used to extract data from the broadband signals for the user’s PC and also convert the data for transmission.

There are some limitations to satellite Internet access:

  • Latency: Latency refers to the time taken by the data to travel from your computer to the Internet and back via the satellite. Latency for the DSL and cable modem access is around 50-150ms and for the satellite Internet connection is 500-600ms. Hence, satellite Internet access may be unsuitable for interactive applications that require real time user input, like online games, video conferencing and so on.
  • Rain fade: Satellite transmission is also affected by rain, snow, and other precipitation problems.
  • Clear sky sight: A southern clear line of sight between the satellite and dish is a prerequisite in order to uniformly communicate over satellite.
  • Fresnel zone: The partial and inappropriate propagation of radio signals can also adversely affect the transmission over the satellite Internet access.

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Margaret Rouse

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.