Some important Facts You Need to Know about Satellite Internet

Like all of us, you have probably been bombarded with junk mail from satellite TV companies and dealers advertising “new” satellite Internet service. For many years, Direct Communications sold satellite Internet service as a last-resort product for customers simply too far away to receive any other kind of service. More recently, we decided to stop offering the product altogether, as fixed and mobile wireless data options and coverage increased, and customer bandwidth demand for services like streaming video made satellite a very unattractive solution for most people.

There are two fundamental problems with satellite Internet that will not go away, no matter how much the satellite TV dealers try to market their Internet product as a viable solution, tell you it’s “new and improved,” and try to get customers to bundle an inferior satellite internet with satellite TV. Don’t be fooled–satellite should only be used if there is no other possible way on earth you can get Internet service to your home–while it still has a place for homes in very remote locations (off-the-grid basically) it is a very inferior way to deliver internet service, and cannot meet the needs of most modern Internet users.

frustrated-internet-userProblem #1: Satellites are in space. 

This isn’t a problem for delivering a one-way, linear TV service, but sending Internet packets of data back and forth, thousands of miles into the sky and then back down again wirelessly, creates some serious time lag issues. (According to http://www.hughesnet.com/index.cfm?page=Satellite-Internet-101 “A request for a Web page is sent from your computer to a satellite about 22,000 miles out in space.”)  Expect to wait several seconds for a response from the remote website server each time you click. This can be very tedious at the best of times even just browsing, and extremely frustrating any time you are trying to do anything interactive online like chat, game, or shop.

Problem #2: Data Caps

Beware–if you are used to unlimited Internet usage, switching to satellite Internet will make you very frustrated and angry.

Even on the top available satellite Internet plan, ($80 per month) you still only get 30 GB of data to use each month. This will be a serious problem for almost all normal internet users, because if you use all of that data before the month is up, you must either pay extra to buy more data or have your Internet speed significantly reduced. Some providers advertise 15 GB of “bonus data” in their plans, but NOTE: this may only be used between 2am and 8 am.

If you get near the cap, they’ll send you a warning notice. If you exceed it, they’ll throttle your speed to down 128k (dial-up). You can add additional data in 1GB increments for $10 each.

All of the satellite companies enforce data caps or throttling policies, and they will tell you up front not to stream video online.  Now, consider this: Streaming in 1080p on Netflix takes up 4.7GB/hour. That means the average HD movie download uses over 10GB of data. If you watched just one movie online a night, that would use up 300GB of data a month. But, you are not just watching movies, are you? You are banking, surfing, emailing, downloading photos and videos from your family. Your kids are streaming kids shows all day long on Netflix,  and probably streaming music all day long at home. If you are using Satellite Internet, you could easily burn through an entire monthly data allotment in one day. Over half of Directcom customers use about 250 GB per month of data per household, and our top 10% of streamers average over 460GB per month. We calculate that our average customer would be paying an extra $15 a month in data overages with the leading wireless ISP in the area, and over $1000 a month using 4G from the leading cell phone providers.

For more info on whether satellite would be a good fit for your location see recommendations at  http://www.dish.com/entertainment/internet-phone/satellite-internet/

For example, the Dish corporate website clearly states that satellite internet is not meant to be a substitute for regular wired internet service:

“The Internet provider at my current location is cable/fiber.  Is dishNET Satellite a good solution for me?

NO, As a satellite-based service, dishNET Satellite Internet has monthly Data Allowance limits which are much lower
than cable and fiber-based Internet providers. Additionally, with satellite-based systems signal latency (delay) occurs,
which may negatively affect some activities such as real-time gaming and VoIP.

I enjoy watching TV shows and movies online with my current provider. Is dishNET Satellite a good solution
for me?

NO, If your current provider supports these services, we do not recommend switching to dishNET. While dishNET
Satellite will support video streaming, it is best to limit these activities to short video clips like those found on YouTube®
or rich content sites operated by ESPN and the like. Streaming video uses a large amount of data. If you use dishNET
Satellite to stream video from services like Netflix® or Hulu® you will quickly consume your monthly Data Allowance,
resulting in your speed being reduced.”

Local satellite dealers may still try to sell you this service. Don’t be fooled, and don’t pay extra. Trust Directcom Fiber Optic Broadband for all your family’s entertainment and connectivity needs. No Caps. No Throttling. No Limits!

So, why are companies like Dish trying so hard to sell you satellite Internet service?

A lot of the junk mail is coming from local dealers wanting a sale no matter whether it’s a good fit for you. But, in the bigger picture, the writing is on the wall for traditional satellite TV service, with more and more people moving to online entertainment sources like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, YouTube etc. With their TV subscriber base decreasing each year, satellite companies are very aggressively seeking for new sources of revenue. They know the Internet is the future of entertainment. This could be why Dish bought up several satellite Internet companies recently, and has been aggressively purchasing wireless bandwidth all over the country.  Dish recently announced a streaming TV service called Sling TV, which skips satellite altogether and allows people watch all their TV purely online. We applaud these moves and hope to see more convenient online video options for consumers, but you will need an unlimited bandwidth plan to enjoy all this streaming video.

About Brigham Griffin
Brigham Griffin, Marketing Director for Direct Communications, resides in rural Idaho, and has been with the company since 2005. Brigham has an MBA from the University of Utah, and a BA in Communications from Brigham Young University. He also serves as an adjunct professor of marketing at Idaho State University.

5 Responses to Some important Facts You Need to Know about Satellite Internet

  1. Bud Parker says:

    I have been a customer of HughesNet and now Dish. No cable or landline service exists in rural America. One issue about throttling bandwidth that never gets any press is, “Why?” It there only an infinitesimally small quantity of data to cover hundreds of thousands of customers? Are thousands of customers all trying to quench their bandwidth thirst from one micro quantity of data?

    • Bud Parker says:

      I suspect that since you can “purchase” more data that the remarkably small quantity on the basic plan is simple a loss leader to extract as much money from their customers as they can.

      • Dan Gersco says:

        If you have a Hughesnet plan with Bonus Bytes and you watch Netflix, you can use NightShift (www.gonightshift.com) to preload the video during off-peak hours. That should make your data last longer. There are other services that you can use to set download times too for YouTube at least.

    • That’s a great question. You would have to ask the satellite companies or an electrical engineer for real data on this issue. I suppose one issue could be that here on earth, it’s easy to upgrade the electronics on either end of the fiber optic line and keep growing your bandwidth delivery capabilities as your customer needs grow. Once you have launched a satellite, there is no upgrading–you can’t send out a tech to swap out any cards, so you have to ration carefully. There are probably all kinds of wavelength, distance, spectrum and other physics issues they have to deal with that limit the capabilities.

      I feel I must add a correction to your “no landline service exists in rural America” comment though–there are thousands of small rural independents like Direct Communications that provide landline service to rural America. That is all we do. We build fiber optic networks to farms and small rural towns and all the anchor institutions that make life in rural America possible. We need the support of government and the FCC to keep this program to build fiber to rural America going. Check out a little infographic about our rural broadband industry at https://www.ntca.org/images/stories/NTCA_images/RuralBroadband/NTCAOnePager091514.pdf

  2. Paula Gebo says:

    I enjoyed this article and it is the first time I really understand my satellite usage limitation. I live in the mtn. of Colorado and cannot get tv with anything but satellite. I did try to use Nightshift however could not understand how to connect everything to get past the security on the satellite rmodem and router – so – we just record network shows with Tivo and buy direct tv in addition to our satellite (exede) for internet. It is a lousy patch into reality however it is all we have. Apparently if one lives in the USA it is more important for companies to be able to make money than provide service.

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