Mobile Satellite Internet
There is something magical and futuristic about being connected in the absolute middle of nowhere. Where only a satellite in space can keep you online.
As fun as it is to fantasize about connectivity everywhere, today’s satellite options come with many tradeoffs to consider.
If you plan to focus your travels on being way out in the boonies, the challenges of satellite internet might be worthwhile.
If you are hoping for a simple go-anywhere solution, satellite will likely frustrate you - at least for now.
Satellite is a great option for some situations.
Mostly those situations where it is the ONLY option.
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Satellite Internet: Realities
In an urban or suburban area, the truth is that current satellite will likely never be able to compete with fully built out LTE on the ground.
After all - how can a billion dollar satellite that needs to last in service for a decade compete with ground based cell towers that cost a tiny fraction of that to build, and which can be upgraded to the latest technology every year?
But on the other hand – in many remote areas it will never make sense to fully build a network of cell towers, and no matter how much cellular companies expand, there will ALWAYS be gaps in coverage.
The ideal connectivity future involves a mix of satellite and cellular, with service roaming seamlessly to the best connection possible wherever you happen to be.
Getting Internet From Space Basics
Satellite internet can be confusing. It is important to make sure that you understand the basics.
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions answered and most confusing topics explained:
Satellite TV and Internet Are Not the Same!
Receiving a signal from space isn't particularly hard.
Transmitting a signal back to a satellite on the other hand is where it gets tricky.
Satellite TV dishes are receive-only devices, and have no capability to transmit. Internet usage however requires two-way communication – and thus much larger and more complicated gear on the ground.
Some people get confused because they see satellite TV providers Dish Network and DirectTV (now owned by AT&T) advertising bundled packages that include internet service – but this is typically not satellite-provided internet.
These bundled plans are intended for stationary satellite TV consumers to combine their TV, internet, and phone bills into one. The satellite TV provider contracts out to local DSL or partner cable companies to provide the actual internet service – usually relying on a hard-wired internet connection.
Even when they do offer actual satellite data plans (like Dish’s dishNET – which is actually provided by either Exede or HughesNet behind the scenes), these are provided primarily to offer service to rural customers outside the range of cable and DSL, and they are strictly for fixed-location installs only.
In other words – not mobile friendly at all.
NOTE: Though the dishes look similar, most satellite internet systems are strictly for internet service, and are NOT compatible with any satellite TV services. If you also want satellite TV to go along with satellite internet, you'll actually need a second dish!
Residential Satellite Generally Isn't Mobile
There are a lot of residentially satellite services out there - Exede, WildBlue, HughesNet. These generally require that an installer come out to your location to setup the dish and provision it for service. In order to move locations, a certified installer must install at your next location.
While these may be portable solutions for those who move infrequently - we don't consider these mobile. In other words, you as a consumer can not just move locations and setup the service yourself.
There are mobile satellite internet solutions out there suitable for mobile RVers - however they do require specifically seeking them out.
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Spot beam satellites, coverage maps, tripods vs roof mounts, latency and satellite communications.
Present Satellite Options for Mobile RVers
HughesNet and RVDataSat are the options available today, we go into more depth on both.
Satellite Communicators and Low Bandwidth Options
If you learn to think a bit differently - it is amazing how far (literally) 160 characters of text can take you. This section goes over options like Garmin inReach, Spot and Iridium Go.
Satellite Future: Revolution Coming?
Low earth satellites are the future, this section future scopes out to SpaceX, ViaSat, OneWeb and Iridium Next - all technologies we are watching closely.
Satellite Past: Glory Days Fading
A quick look back at mobile satellite past - legacy HughesNet Classic/Jupiter, Excede, WildBlue and dishNET.
Conclusion: Satellite Has Its Place, But Won't Work for Everyone, or Everywhere
Using satellite technology for internet access comes with many trade-offs, including slower speeds, higher latency, and higher costs. In the last few years some providers, such as HughesNet Gen5, are now providing options for mobile users. However it still probably on a good option for some remote locations. It is not a simple, go-anywhere solution.
Satellite Internet Options Product Guide
Here are all the satellite options we are tracking in the product center - ranging from full-on mobile solutions to very basic on-the-go options.
Marine Note: Satellite internet is currently a LOT trickier for boats since unless you can mount the dish to a fixed dock, locking onto a satellite in geosynchronous orbit is prohibitively difficult. This tends to leave only the systems that do not require precise aiming as options.
Click on each option in the grid for more details:
- Assessing Your Mobile Internet Needs
- Travel Planning Around Connectivity for RVers and Cruisers
- Thinking Outside the Box - Alternatives to Tradtional Mobile Internet Options
- Testing & Understanding Your Mobile Internet Speeds
- Amazon to Alaska: "No Satellite Internet For You" Posted on: July 11, 2019
- SpaceX Launches First Sixty Starlink Satellites - Building a Massive Global Broadband Constellation Posted on: May 24, 2019
- Billionaires Battle for Space Dominance: Amazon's "Project Kuiper" Promises Global Broadband Posted on: April 4, 2019
- OneWeb Launches First 6 Satellites Towards Ambitious Global Broadband Constellation Posted on: February 28, 2019
- Upgrade Complete: Final Ten Iridium Next Satellites Launched! Posted on: January 14, 2019
- 2018 Mobile Internet Year in Review & Looking Forward Into 2019 Posted on: December 31, 2018
- New Satellite Messaging Options: Garmin inReach Mini, Somewear Global, Globalstar Sat-Fi2, & SPOT X Posted on: May 23, 2018
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