Satellite broadband is Internet connectivity provided by satellite, rather than dial-up, DSL (digital subscriber line) or cable service. It is linked to a dish network subscriber service and provides speeds similar to other broadband technologies.
Broadband service is the premiere way to connect to the Internet. Unfortunately, not everyone can get DSL or cable service, particularly in rural areas. To be eligible for DSL, the subscriber must be within 18,000 feet (5,486.4 meters) of the phone center, though some telecommunications companies do accommodate greater distances. Companies that provide cable TV offer Internet service, but this also does not cover all areas.
For those left out, satellite broadband can be the answer. The Internet feed is beamed from satellite to a dish installed at the subscriber's home. This type of broadband can deliver speeds of 2 megabits per second (mbps) downstream, and 1 mbps upstream. Compare this to dial-up service that tops out at about 53 kilobits per second. That's about 39 times slower than satellite-based broadband.
Like every technology, satellite broadband also has its disadvantages. It is more expensive to set up than DSL or cable, and weather can affect the signal. Another disadvantage is signal delay, known as high latency.
Every time a subscriber sends a command to fetch a Web page, the request must travel 22,300 miles (35,888 km) to a satellite in geostationary orbit. From there, the signal travels another 22,300 miles back to earth, to the satellite service provider, where it is routed to the internet, data is exchanged, and is then sent 22,300 miles back to the satellite. Once the satellite receives the information, the page data must travel the final 22,300 miles back to the user. The subscriber pays for that 89,200 mile (143,553 km) round trip for each request in delayed milliseconds. Some sources indicate the average latency is 500-700 ms. This unavoidable 'delay' makes satellite broadband a poor choice for activities like multiplayer online gaming.
While this technology is far faster than dial-up, it is still one of the slower broadband technologies. The slowest DSL service is equivalent to satellite broadband, minus the high latency, and faster DSL can reach speeds far greater. Cable is also a faster technology, though cable speeds can be affected by local traffic loads.
In the U.S. the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires professional installation of a satellite broadband dish, which can make it a costly affair of several hundred dollars. Monthly subscription fees have also been traditionally higher than DSL or cable Internet services. However, prices are decreasing with time.