What Is Satellite Internet and How Does It Work?

Home Internet use continues to increase every day. Therefore, we need access to a reliable Internet connection all the time. Satellite Internet is just one type of Internet connection; though it might not be on par with cable or fiber optic Internet, it's continually evolving and can offer solid broadband speeds. In this article, learn what satellite Internet is, how it works, and how it stacks up against other types of Internet.

What is satellite Internet?

Satellite Internet is a type of broadband connection that uses an orbiting satellite to get Internet signals from your satellite Internet providers to your device. It allows you to connect your chosen devices to the Internet just like any other kind of Internet.

Though it's not the fastest option, satellite Internet has evolved in the last few years thanks to recent developments in the technology. This type of broadband connection is now a viable option for delivering Internet in many more areas than before. It's a good option for those in rural areas that lack necessary infrastructure for other types of connection, but it also isn't as fast as other types of Internet.

Satellite Internet works through satellites above Earth.

How does satellite Internet work?

Satellite Internet works in a similar way as satellite TV does. It doesn't use cable systems or telephone lines; rather, it utilizes geostationary satellites to deliver Internet signals to your home. It's essentially wireless broadband beamed down from satellites in orbit or space.

The process begins with your ISP sending signals from ground stations known as network operations centers (NOCs) to a satellite orbiting above Earth's surface. The Internet signal bounces back to you and is captured by the specialized receiver dish in your home or business. A satellite dish connects to your modem, which then interprets the incoming data signal to bring the connection inside your home.

Finally, a router will distribute the Internet data to all of your IoT devices. This kind of Internet is completely wireless, as it doesn't rely on phone lines, fiber optic cables, or cable wires.

Satellite Internet infrastructure

Satellite Internet requires some equipment to reach your home. Its proper functioning relies on a five-part relay system made up of the following parts:

  • A satellite dish. The satellite dish is an essential part of the process as it beams Internet signals, communicates directly with the actual satellites, and facilitates the connection overall. The receiver needs a clear view of the sky and electricity to function.
  • A network operations center (NOC). A NOC is a centralized location where satellite network systems are supervised, managed, and controlled. The orbiting satellite communicates with the NOC on Earth to ensure seamless performance. Any network failure or disruption is also managed in the NOC.
  • A modem and router. The modem connects to the receiver dish to bring Internet signals into your home. It translates them into a form that your devices can send or receive. If you want a wireless network for multiple devices at once, a router is also necessary.
  • A satellite in orbit. Each provider needs satellites in space to bring the Internet to your home. Because they move along with the Earth, they maintain consistent Internet signals. However, it also results in limited speeds and higher latency.
  • An Internet-ready device. Any device that can access the Internet can use a satellite connection.

Through all these devices, you get a successful Internet connection from the satellite right to your home.

Advantages and disadvantages of satellite Internet

Satellite Internet hotspots can get your devices connected to the Internet. But as you use it, it's helpful to be aware of both the upsides and downsides of this particular kind of Internet connection.


  • Available in hard-to-reach places. Satellite Internet services people living in remote areas where cables and cell towers don't exist. Waiting for these wired connections to be provided in such places could take years, but satellite Internet is available almost everywhere.
  • Speed improvements. Historically, satellite came with slower download speeds of around 750 Kbps. However, in recent years, speeds are much higher, clocking around 100 Mbps. As more people use satellite, it's likely that speeds will continue to increase.
  • Easy to acquire. It's relatively simple to get these Internet services. Find an ISP who offers it and they can rent you the necessary equipment and set you up with a plan.
  • Easy to install and eco-friendly. Satellite doesn't require cable to be buried or landlines to be installed, which means it's easy to set up and has little to no environmental impact.


  • More expensive. Satellite Internet is comparatively more expensive than most Internet technologies on the market. The cost per Mbps is somewhat high, and buying or renting a satellite dish is also pricey.
  • High latency. The biggest issue with satellite Internet is latency, which is the time taken for data to travel from ISP systems to the satellite and back down to Earth.
  • Vulnerable to weather. In the event of bad weather conditions, like violent storms, this type of Internet is affected.

How fast is satellite Internet?

Internet speeds for satellite have improved over the years, though it's certainly not the fastest kind of Internet. The speeds vary, but most range from 12 Mbps to 100 Mbps. The speed you receive, however, depends on various factors like:

  • the provider you choose
  • your location
  • the type of satellite being used
  • your selected plan
  • customer support

These speeds are ideal for rural homes and the average household; you can find content online, download videos, and send files. However, if you live in more urban areas and want fast Internet, consider DSL, cable, or fiber optic.

How does satellite compare to other Internet connection types?

Satellite technology has advanced exponentially over time. Some companies have even promised to transform the way satellites work. The goal is to give a large population access to reliable Internet so that residents can have more choices.

Satellite Internet is good and it works well, but it isn't the greatest. Cable and fiber optic Internet offer significantly faster speeds. If speed is an issue, opt for one of those over satellite. Cable Internet is fast and reliable enough for heavy Internet users, and it's also widely available; fiber optic Internet is the fastest Internet available, so for those who require low latency like gamers, it's probably the best choice.

DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) services have speeds similar to those of satellite plans, though DSL is slightly cheaper.

Ultimately, satellite isn't the best choice for all users, but it does have benefits, especially for those in rural areas.

Frequently asked questions

Can you watch TV with satellite Internet?

Yes, you can stream TV shows without it. It works much in the same way as any other kind of Internet connection. You need about 5 Mbps to 10 Mbps of speed for video streaming.

Does satellite Internet work anywhere?

As long as a satellite dish is placed within sight of the satellite, yes. It works anywhere.

How much does satellite cost?

This kind of Internet is more expensive than others; an average household pays roughly $50 to $200 a month.

Do I need a phone line to have satellite?

No, you don't need to have a phone line for this type of Internet.

Who are the best satellite Internet providers?

Hughesnet and Viaset are the two dominant providers currently offering satellite Internet. Most users choose Viaset, as it tends to have faster speeds, but Hughesnet offers more affordable packages than other satellite Internet providers.