Satellite Broadband

What Does Satellite Broadband Mean?

Satellite broadband is network connectivity provided through low-earth-orbit (LEO) or geostationary satellites, with the latter providing much faster data rates. Satellite broadband enables Internet access via satellite in two steps:

  1. A personal computer broadcasts requests via satellite modem to a satellite dish placed on top of a home or business.
  2. The dish sends and receives signals from the orbiting satellite. If the dish is able to get a clear view of the southern sky (over the United States), a user can receive satellite Internet access.

Satellite broadband is also known as satellite Internet access.

Techopedia Explains Satellite Broadband

Satellite communication offers a wide variety of features as well as some technical limitations compared to traditional broadband Internet services. Satellites placed in geostationary orbit can deliver Internet speeds of about 0.5 Mbps. However, the speed is limited to 80 Kbps on transmissions from the user. In rural areas, this speed is typically more than what is available through other means.

Satellite broadband also offers additional features such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), standard and high-definition TV (HDTV), video on demand and datacast.

Satellite broadband also has some major drawbacks:

  • Signal Latency: The distance that a signal needs to travel from a user’s satellite station can result in significant delays, and latency that is three times higher than other Internet service providers. This makes satellite broadband less-than-ideal for use with real-time applications like Skype.
  • Rain Fade: Rain, snow and moisture greatly affect satellite communication. Lower frequency bands are less vulnerable compared to higher frequency bands, which can affect the type of band used in areas where heavy rain is a concern.
  • Line of sight: Satellite communication requires a clear view between the dish and the satellite. As such, signals may be scattered as a result of the presence of trees and other vegetation. Signals can also be sensitive to minor obstructions such as tree foliage when the radio frequency drops to below 900 MHz.

The greatest advantage of satellite broadband is that it can be quickly established on a mobile device that is less prone to attacks or a natural disaster.


Related Terms

Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

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.