A satellite Internet connection is an arrangement in which the upstream (outgoing) and the downstream (incoming) data are sent from, and arrive at, a computer through a satellite. Each subscriber's hardware includes a satellite dish antenna and a transceiver (transmitter/receiver) that operates in the microwave portion of the radio spectrum.
Satellite Internet systems are an excellent, good value, option for people in areas where Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) and cable modem connections are not available or are unreliable. A satellite installation can be used even where the most basic utilities are lacking, as long as there is a generator or battery power supply that can produce enough electricity to run a desktop computer system. The two-way satellite Internet option offers an always-on connection that bypasses the dial-up process. In this respect, the satellite system resembles a cable modem Internet connection. But this asset can also be a liability, unless a firewall is used to protect the computer against hacking attempts.
Connecting via a satellite is good for Web browsing and for downloading of files. Because of long latency compared with purely land-based systems, interactive applications such as online gaming are not compatible with satellite networks. In a two-way geostationary-satellite Internet connection, a transaction requires two round trips between the earth's surface and transponders orbiting 22,300 miles above the equator.
This occurs in addition to land-based data transfer between the earthbound satellite system hub and the accessed Internet sites. The speed in such a connection is theoretically at least 0.48 second (the time it takes an electromagnetic signal to make two round trips at 186,000 miles per second to and from a geostationary satellite), and in practice is somewhat longer. Satellite systems are also prone to rain fade (degradation during heavy precipitation) and occasional brief periods of solar interference in mid-March and late September, when the sun lines up with the satellite for a few minutes each day. Rain fade and solar interference affect all satellite links from time to time, not just Internet systems.