Now, let’s get into the not-so-great side of satellite internet. These issues vary by provider since new technology is solving many of the long-standing problems with satellite service, but there are a few generalities we need to cover. Overall, satellite internet consumers report frustrations with latency, pesky data caps, and slow speeds.
In basic terms, latency refers to the delay between the moment your device requests data and when it receives the data. The higher your latency is, the more time passes before your data request is fulfilled, so we want latency to be low.
Out of all the internet types, satellite internet has the highest latency because of the sheer distance your data has to travel: into outer space, and back again. That’s pretty far. Latency is higher the further away the satellites are—so high-Earth orbit satellite systems (such as Hughesnet and Viasat) have much higher latency than low-Earth orbit satellites (like Starlink).
For activities like video streaming, you won’t notice as many problems with latency because chunks of data are preloaded to provide a smooth viewing experience. High latency will frustrate you the most if you plan to stream and play video games; you could experience so much lag that you won’t be able to compete fairly against other players.
Data restrictions are another complaint among satellite internet customers and account for most of the slowed speeds. Most satellite companies restrict your data usage to a relatively small amount—between 10GB and 150GB per month. If you exceed your data allotment, you’ll have to browse the web at a snail’s pace or pay (sometimes very expensive) fees to increase your data cap.
Trying to crunch the numbers on how much data you’ll need? According to Statista, the typical American household goes through over 400GB of data monthly. Even the most robust data plans that satellite providers offer are less than half of that amount, so if you’re hoping to stream or play video games on multiple devices, traditional satellite internet might not be for you.
Keep in mind: All traditional GEO satellite plans come with data limits, except for Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite internet providers, like Starlink.
Historically, satellite internet has been pretty slow compared to other internet options. For streaming HD videos, it’s recommended by the Federal Communication Commission to have a minimum of at least 25Mbps download speed, but according to our proprietary data, average satellite speeds can often be slower than that.
Of course, it’s important to remember that almost all internet plans, from all internet types, tend to be slower than the advertised speed. But the average brackets are important to keep in mind, just in case.
If you’re a light internet user, and you just email and read articles, having lightning-fast download speeds won’t be that important to you, so satellite internet might be perfectly adequate. If you’re trying your hand at becoming the next big Twitch streamer, though, we can’t guarantee that traditional satellite internet will be fast enough for you.
On top of that, weather can affect your satellite speed even further. If your satellite doesn’t have a clear view of the sky and there are obstacles in the way (ex: snow, water, etc), then your connection will suffer. There are methods to avoid this issue, but they don’t get rid of the problem completely.
Satellite still can’t exceed cable or fiber internet speeds, but its speeds are picking up and even matching the pace of other top-performing internet options.