So, you have decided that satellite Internet is right for you. Congratulations! Do not be so quick to run off and sign the first contract you find that has the words satellite Internet printed across the top or you may find that you are not getting the best value for your hard-earned dollar. If you are like us and like to stretch every penny as far as you can, then you need to learn how to shop for satellite Internet or you may end up getting more than you bargained for, especially in regards to the bill! Here are some helpful tips to help you decide what you need and what you don’t before you sign on the dotted line:
High Orbit Satellite Internet or Low Orbit Satellite Internet
There is a very large difference in performance and pricing between high orbit and low orbit satellite Internet. When you are looking at the different pricing plans, be sure to ask which plans are for which orbits, and you need to understand why this is important. The culprit is really a physics limitation of how fast energy can travel. It might seem like it is fast, but the rough speed of 186,000 miles per second (yes that is right, 186k per second is not a misprint) is just not that fast when considering the distances involved and how the normal Internet operates.
High orbit geosynchronous satellites orbit the Earth at over 20,000 miles in such a way that they appear to be stationary from our point on the ground. Of course, the planet is actually spinning, which means that they orbital relay stations are also spinning in perfect tandem with the planet, but they are extremely far away. Signals lose quality over distances, so the first problem is one of distance and signal strength. The second is the more serious challenge: latency.
The problem here is that a signal going up 20,000+ miles then back down to a data nexus another 20,000+ miles has traveled more than 40,000 miles already. If some response is needed, such as an email being retrieved, the response will take another 40,000+ journey meaning that from request to respond, we are looking at a minimum distance of 80,000 miles and some change! Figuring what we know about fast the signals travel, we can calculate that approximately ½ of a second has elapsed from the time that the request for the email was sent before the first bytes of the email arrive. This creates a high latency environment.
Some technologies simply will not work or will work in an unreliable way with too much latency. For example, many virtual private network (VPN) technologies that allow users to connect to corporate servers will not function in a high-latency environment. Other applications simply perform poorly with high latency.
There is an upside to the latency: coverage. Simply put, a single high orbit satellite has more coverage than a lower orbit satellite, and thus can serve more customers. This translates out to better profits. So weigh your realistic needs carefully before determine just how fast you need to go.
Look For Bundles
Satellite technology pushes more than just data. You might find bundles offering satellite TV, and perhaps even satellite phone service. Considering that you are probably going to be out in the middle of a virtual barren broadband-scape, these other pieces of technology may not be a bad idea. You can always try placing digital calls over services like Skype or watching YouTube or even Netflix over your connection, but the experience may not be as great as it would be if you have hardware designed to receive digital television or to make satellite phone calls.
Satellite Internet Hardware
Do not let satellite Internet hardware prices fool you, but also look at your needs. Are you someone that will use the system at home, then in the RV, then on the lake? If so, you need a modular satellite Internet system and mounts for the house, the RV, and the boat. It would also be handy to have a self-homing motor system to make finding the optimal signal a real breeze. Just push one button and let the hardware find the right angle and azimuth for you! Don’t go spending crazy and buy one device for each!