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How Does Satellite Internet Work? | Is This Type of Network Good Enough For You?

If you live outside of the big cities in a semi-rural or rural area then you are probably looking at satellite as your only option for internet connection. If that is the case you are probably curious to know how it works. You might also already have satellite and are wondering how to reduce latency on satellite internet or are looking for a deeper understanding of the satellite systems to help with troubleshooting. Whatever your needs, I have compiled all of the information you need about satellite internet below!

How Does Satellite Internet Work?

Well, it all starts with its namesake, the satellite. Orbiting the earth in a geosynchronous orbit, which essentially means that the subject orbits the earth at the same speed the earth rotates so as to appear fixed in place, is a satellite that can be used to transmit internet signal.

If you are trying to connect to the internet using satellite internet then your computer will send a request for data up through your computer’s connection to your satellite dish. The dish will transmit your request for data to the satellite, which will then request that information from your Internet Service Provider (ISP). The ISP will send the data back to the satellite, which will then send it all the way back to you, retracing its previous route to your modem and then your computer.

If you want to have dish wifi in your home then you may also have a router connected to your modem which is designed to take data signals from satellite modems and broadcast them so that anyone within range can pick them up and connect to your network. This is often called a satellite wifi hotspot.

One of the most important parts of getting any kind of internet connection, but especially satellite internet, is ensuring that you have the right ISP. To help you make sure that you have the right satellite internet provider for you, you can look here at some reviews of many of the more popular internet service providers.

how does satellite internet work

Satellite Internet Service Plans

Getting satellite internet should always start with reading satellite internet reviews. You want to read up on your options before you sign up for a service or some good satellite internet plans to make sure you are going to be working with the best ISP for you. Once you have decided on a service provider it should be a simple matter of calling them, possibly signing a contract, and then having a tech come to install the necessary equipment in and on your home.

When the tech comes to your home, you might ask them “how does dish internet work” just to see if they know what they’re talking about. Either way, it shouldn’t take too long for them to install the dish on your home and the modem inside your house for you to get a satellite signal. Once they have, all you have to do is connect your device of choice to your satellite modem and you will have a satellite internet access. To compare the way it works, you can read how does cable internet work.

Some things to look out for when choosing between ISPs are contracts and data caps or if they offer unlimited data. A lot of ISPs like to make you sign a contract before they will provide any satellite service to you so that they can ensure that you have to use their service for a certain amount of time. 

This is also an opportunity for them to get you to agree to ridiculous fees and charges so make sure you are reading the contract very carefully before you sign it. There is no way for you to get out of those charges, but if you know about them and understand them beforehand then you can avoid them and they won’t be an issue. 

ISPs also tend to cap the amount of data you can use per month, forcing you to subscribe for more data. This means that once you use a certain amount of data they will either cripple your internet connection for the rest of the period, stop it altogether or possibly charge you a lot of extra money for your service that month. It all depends on what is stated in the contract which is why you need to make sure you are reading it carefully.

Don’t make the same mistakes I have. ISPs are a business; they only care about helping you as long as they can keep getting your money. They want you to silently accept whatever service they will give you, make no complaints if they aren’t giving you what they promised, and charge you as much as they like. Don’t let them push you around. They need you more than you need them and it took me a long time to realize that.

This is not to say that you should go making wild demands of your ISP as I have had a lot of success with the polite and calm approach, but you shouldn’t let them walk all over you either.

Satellite Internet Service Speeds

Satellite internet speeds can vary greatly. Depending on where you live and which service provider you go with you can get speeds as low as 12 megabits per second (Mbps) or as high as 100 Mbps download speeds. 

What kind of speed you need is dependent on what you use the internet for and how many people will be using it in your home. If you spend a lot of time streaming movies or television shows online then you will want to look for an internet with faster speeds. If you are a gamer or streamer then a high-speed service is required as well. Personally, I spend a lot of time gaming and streaming shows online and I wouldn’t have any problems with 100 Mbps.

If you only use the internet to interact with social media and check your email, a slower service or an internet with slower speeds should be sufficient. The more people in your home that will be trying to use the internet at once, the more speed you will need to ensure that your service doesn’t get especially slowed down.

Satellite Internet Equipment

Satellite internet is very similar to satellite television. Both of them require that you mount a satellite dish on your home, but satellite internet also requires that you install a modem inside and possibly a router if you want to have a wifi network.

The satellite dish is usually installed on the roof of your home but as long as it has an uninterrupted view of the sky where your satellite connection is it doesn't really matter where the dish is. Unfortunately, the dish is susceptible to inclement weather, so if you live in a location that gets a lot of snow as I do, you will have to periodically clean off your satellite to ensure that your service isn’t being interrupted or disrupted too badly.

The modem is no different from any other internet connection service and shouldn’t be a surprise to you if you have had an internet connection before, likewise with the router. These are standard internet connection service requirements and are common enough that most people have seen one at the very least.

Satellite Performance vs Other Types of Internet

On paper,  satellite technology or dish network internet seems like the best service to go with because it is wireless and can provide a connection from almost anywhere but using dish internet does come with a few downsides. Not all internet connection services are created equal and, unfortunately, satellite broadband gets the short end of the stick. 

You might see advertisements claiming “high speed satellite internet” but the truth of the matter is that satellite can’t compete with most other internet service options when it comes to speed. Satellite works by transmitting data through the air, which makes it much more prone to disruption. Because satellites have to transmit data through so many different connections, it is almost guaranteed that you will have a higher latency than if you were using a different internet connection service.

That said, despite what dish internet reviews might say, it isn't all bad. Satellites are available almost everywhere, which means if you live in an area where no other internet services are available then you can most likely still use satellites. Also, just because it is more likely that your latency will be higher or your connection will be disrupted doesn't mean that it is guaranteed. Your service may be very efficient. As far as speed is concerned, well, that is as bad as it sounds, but the speeds you can get with satellites are perfectly sufficient for everyday use as long as you aren't much of a gamer. If you do like to game then you may experience some difficulty while using the satellites, but it is possible.


1. Is Satellite Internet any good?

If you live in a rural region without access to DSL internet, cable internet, fiber internet or other broadband access, finding reliable satellite internet providers to provide you with satellite internet is an excellent option. Satellite internet provides quicker speeds than dial-up but is typically more expensive than other internet services.

2. Does Satellite Internet require a dish?

True. Satellite internet is a type of wireless connection that utilizes three satellite dishes: one at the internet service provider's data center or network operations center, one in orbit, and one on your premises. Along with the satellite dish, you'll need a modem and wires to and from the dish and modem.

3. What are the disadvantages of satellite Internet?

The primary disadvantage is that it is slow, pricey, and has satellite latency difficulties, and providers frequently need you to sign a contract that appears to endure indefinitely. If you reside in a major city, you most certainly have reliable high-speed internet delivered via a wired connection to your home.

4. Why is satellite Internet so expensive?

Satellites, naturally, include incredibly expensive hardware, costing hundreds of millions of dollars to manufacture and millions more to send into space. As a result, the entire industry of satellite Internet becomes exceedingly expensive. This is what contributes to the high cost of satellite Internet bandwidth.

5. How does satellite internet work?

Satellite internet operates by communicating with Earth-orbiting satellites via radio waves. Data is delivered and received via a communication network that begins with your device and continues through your modem and satellite dish, out to a space-based satellite, and finally back to Earth via ground stations known as network operations centers.

About Lawrence Jung

Lawrence graduated cum laude from Boston University with a B.S. in Journalism. He then started working with The New York Times for 3 years as an editor. Upon their acquisition of online review website the Wire Cutter he became exposed to the digital world of review-style articles and digital content. He was a writer for many tech review products where he developed his expertise in the electronic and PC peripheral space. He quickly got promoted to managing a writing team where he was responsible for training and managing a team of over a dozen writers. After being there for another 3.5 years, Lawrence left in late 2019 to help Dusan create VSS Monitoring, where he could help design and contribute to the site’s content and website’s architecture to develop what he wants to become THE top tech resource online.

1 thought on “How Does Satellite Internet Work? | Is This Type of Network Good Enough For You?”

  1. No doubt, satellite internet is a very good option for rural areas. Satellite internet provides uninterrupted internet supplies at cheaper costs. Thank you for sharing informative blog.


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