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Satellite connectivity – what to consider?

Satellite broadband connectivity - family considering choices

Living in Rural Area

Living in rural or remote area of the UK is not fun whet it comes to broadband. Standard broadband connectivity, like fibre broadband deal, is often out of question, leaving rural residents with either unreliable 4G or limited suitability of satellite connectivity. We probably have to explain what we mean by “unreliable 4G” and “limited suitability of satellite broadband.”

4G networks rely on masts for providing signal to users. The technology is not designed for high performance in rural areas causing increased latency and congestions as well as signal interference. As the network works well in densly populated areas, due to density of masts distribution, rural and remote areas often have insufficient number of masts to cover the area. Some users, those living closer to the mast, would have better service while others, further away, will have worse parameters. When we add number of people connecting we have to add congestion to the mix, with multiple users trying to access the same resource and utilise it for data-demanding applications like streaming Netflix or You Tube or any other popular streaming app. And we usually have them set up for best quality. In this case unfortunately best quality doesn’t equal best performance.

Satellite broadband connectivity on the other hand is broadcasted via satellite and needs to travel over 70,000km what causes high latency. For this reason it’s not suitable for gamers not to mention connecting a game console is a nightmare! Due to the bottleneck of satellite the network has to be managed more strictly than with standard internet connection. This means data usage caps. Even if the user purchases one of the unlimited plans there are other restrictions.

Satellite Connectivity landscape

Before we review what to look at with satellite connectivity let’s make one point clear. Satellite broadband is not the same as satellite tv. There are not too many satellite broadband providers in the UK and due to lack of competition and high costs of providing and installing, it’s probably not the best option for customers who have access to something else. Satellite connectivity is not a replacement of your standard fibre connection, it’s an alternative you should consider if there is nothing else and you need internet connection. It doesn’t mean it’s bad. The technology is amazing and allows to deliver superfast broadband where no one else can. All the user need is a view of the sky to avail of satellite broadband packages and broadband speeds that were not available earlier. And there is no need for a phone line or expensive infrastructure on the user side to get this type of broadband! In many cases satellite internet service is much better than your standard ADSL connection or even mobile broadband. For both, homes and businesses! And with the arrival of LEO (low earth orbit) satellite connectivity we can soon get much better internet access via Starlink satellites with higher speeds and lower latency. Elon Musk’s Starlink communication satellites are great but they come with an increased price that will limit their accessibility.

Satellite Connectivity in the past and now

Satellite broadband used to be a very expensive and completely unusable way of connecting to the web. Used to be. The times your plan would easily cost £250 or more per month are over. For quite a while. Check your monthly bill and if you are a residential user paying so much for your satellite broadband service, maybe it’s time to review what you have and switch to a better (newer) option? Especially now, with inflation coming and planning to consume our savings. There are several points you should consider when either reviewing your existing satellite internet plan or planning to sign a contract with satellite broadband provider.

What to consider when buying Satellite Internet Service

Price. This one is quite obvious. Satellite broadband plans can vary from as little as £25 per month to £500 per month or more. I’m talking about options available to residential users, not special plans accessible to businesses only!

Unlimited or capped service. Traditionally, satellite broadband plans come in three different flavours.

  • They can be capped, meaning once you use up your data you won’t be able to connect any more. This is called hard cap. 
  • They can have a so-called soft-cap where whenever you use up your data the service slows down so badly it becomes unusable. I’m talking Kbits here, pre-modern era of dial-up Internet speeds!
  • Unlimited plans. In this case you are never disconnected, whatever you use. It doesn’t mean you can use whatever you want though! There are measures in place to make sure the network is managed.

Priority data. This is something more difficult to explain. Some satellite providers, in order to manage their network capacity, introduce so-called priority data allowing users to enjoy better speeds when they are within their priority data. The speeds might be lower when outside of priority data.

Hardware cost. Satellite hardware is expensive so it is important to consider it when purchasing. With some providers you may be asked to pay hardware cost upfront, with others this cost may be spread over the term of your contract as some kind of lease fee. Sometimes it’s waved altogether.

Installation cost. Satellite dish installation is rarely free and usually costs around £150. Standard installation should be done by a professional installer and takes 2-3 hours. It includes installing the dish and running cables to your home as well as activating the service. You should be also aware of non-standard installations. Sometimes satellite dish installation is more complex due to buildings or trees obscuring the signal, in such cases you may be asked to cover the cost. This should be optional, meaning in case you need non-standard installation you should be given a choice, to go ahead or cancel the service.

Cost of additional data. This one is important especially when it comes to “old” satellite internet plans. Imagine it’s Christmas and you are watching Kevin Home Alone. How does your service work if you go beyond what your plan offers? Are you paying extra or are you disconnected automatically? If you paying extra for your satellite internet usage, are you notified and how much?

Companies to consider

As we mentioned earlier there are only few broadband companies offering internet via satellite dish. The ones to consider:

  • Konnect (also their reseller Anywhere Broadband)
  • Bentley Walker (also their reseller Freedomsat)
  • Northsat

We hope you enjoyed this article. Feel free to reach out to us!

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