Satellite broadband | everything you need to know

Satellite broadband is a hugely accessible way for those in the UK's more isolated locations to receive ADSL like broadband speeds. 

As the technology has developed, satellite broadband has emerged as a viable alternative to a traditional ADSL or fibre-optic set up for those living out in Britain’s scenic countryside who struggle to receive even just a 5Mb connection. 

This guide will take you through all you need to know about the incredibly convenient technology so you can decide whether or not it’s right for you. 

What is satellite broadband?

Broadband which is delivered straight into your home by an orbiting satellite.

How does satellite broadband work?

Satellite broadband providers like Avonline and Hyspeed each have a satellite orbiting the earth way up in space which works to automatically establish a two-way connection with your own satellite dish whenever you put in a request for data.

You’ll have this dish along with a special satellite modem expertly installed and connected together by your chosen provider when you first purchase a package.

How fast is satellite broadband?

Most of the UK’s satellite broadband packages offer a top speed of around 20Mb which is pretty much on par with what you’d expect from a standard ADSL service.

While you sadly won’t be able to enjoy online gaming or glossy 4K streaming, satellite broadband can easily support light to medium levels of other popular online activities like SD streaming, online shopping, emailing and browsing social media.

Is satellite broadband good for gaming?

No, the high levels of latency which satellite broadband produces makes it an incredibly poor choice for gamers.

Latency, which is often used interchangeably with the term ping, is defined here as the time in which it takes for your device to send data to the game’s server and how quickly that’s able to send it back.

The fact that the internet signal being used to transmit this data is travelling over such a large distance means the latency is significantly higher than what it would be with a normal superfast fibre or ADSL set-up.

High levels of latency manifest themselves in online gaming as lag, so a very low or stuttering frame rate and a noticeable delay between your actions and the reactions of the server, which can obviously have a huge impact on your ability to play properly.

What are the main benefits of satellite broadband?

Satellite broadband can be beamed down to absolutely anywhere in the UK which makes it so much more accessible than traditional cable broadband and open to anyone who’s willing to have a fairly small satellite installed.

It’s perfect for those in more isolated, rural locations who struggle to receive a speedy connection due to them being too far away from a green street cabinet or major telecommunications companies having deemed it’s not economically viable to undertake a pricey fibre installation.

Speeds, while admittedly not as good as what’s offered by the top ultrafast fibre packages, are still pretty good and easily capable of supporting an average sized household as they stream in SD, shop, email and browse through social media.

There’s also no need to have a phone line installed, so you don’t have to worry about paying extra for line rental costs.

What are the main drawbacks of satellite broadband?

As explained above, the high levels of latency satellite broadband produces mean it’s really not suitable for online gaming and while Skype and other such video calling services are definitely usable, their quality will be fairly low.

Satellite broadband is quite a bit more expensive than cabled broadband, requiring you to pay an upfront cost which can range from around £40 to over £100 depending on the size of your package and an installation fee of well over £100.

The equipment can either be bought outright or rented for a monthly fee, the price of which again can vary quite dramatically from over £200 to a recurring £60 on a 12 month contract.

It’s unfortunately quite rare for a satellite broadband package to come with unlimited data usage. The majority of them come with a finite monthly data allowance, bad news for heavy Netflix streamers, which you annoyingly can’t replenish before the end of that month.

Extreme weather conditions like heavy rain or snowfall can also severely interfere with your connection and cause everything to slow right down.

So should I get satellite broadband?

If you live in a remote rural location and there really is no other way you’d be able to receive internet, then we would recommend that you look into satellite broadband.

The fact it can be very expensive, has quite limited data usage policies and produces high levels of latency however, means satellite broadband should really only be looked at as a last resort and if you’ve got the ability to use another service, you definitely should.

What are the best alternatives to satellite broadband?

Some ISPs have started to offer what’s known as fixed wireless broadband which sees them use a transmitter positioned in a high-up, fairly central location like the top of a Church spire to broadcast internet signals out via radio waves to all properties in sight.

While this last point admittedly makes fixed wireless a little bit limited, there’s no latency issues and speeds are generally able to reach an impressive 30Mb and above.

3G and 4G coverage does have the tendency to be a bit spotty out in countryside but if you’re lucky enough to live in an area where it’s pretty reliable, mobile broadband makes for a nicely affordable and versatile option. 

Choose from dongles which plug directly into your laptop or small, easily portable routers which are capable of supporting up to ten smart devices at once and boast a fairly long battery life.

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