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Satellite broadband: Everything you need to know

If you’re out in the sticks and struggling to get online, there may be a sky-high solution...

In this guide, we’ll go through everything you need to know about satellite broadband, how it compares to fixed-line broadband, and whether it’s worth getting.

What is satellite broadband?

Satellite broadband is exactly what it says on the tin. It’s a type of broadband connection that uses satellites – rather than the standard street-based fixed-line wires and cables.

Instead of connecting your home to the local street cabinet, you have a satellite dish installed on your wall.

How does satellite broadband work?

In a nutshell, data pings between the satellite dish on your home, a satellite in the sky, and an exchange down on the ground – and back again.

It’s much the same as satellite TV, only the data runs both ways.

How do I get satellite internet in the UK?

It’s fairly straightforward. You sign up to a package with a satellite broadband provider, the same as you would for any other type of broadband.

The provider will then send an engineer to install a satellite dish on your outside wall, run wires through your home, and connect it to a home router.

It’s a slightly more complicated installation compared to fixed-line broadband, given that there’s a whole satellite dish to sort out. It can take a few hours for the engineers to set it up, in fact. But once it’s there, that’s it, your broadband is ready to use.

Should I get satellite internet?

There are a few advantages of satellite internet. If your home is in a place where traditional phone lines are difficult or impossible to reach, satellite broadband is a viable alternative.

Or, if you can’t get fibre optic broadband at your property and want fast download speeds, satellite is an option.

However, there are a few downsides to consider before you take the plunge.

For starters, it’s pretty expensive, especially compared to fixed-line broadband. (More on that below…)

It usually comes with data limits too, which can be prohibitive – the smallest packages have limits as low as 2GB per month. That’s just about enough to visit websites and send emails, but not much else.

It’s difficult to find a satellite provider that offers unlimited downloads, and those that do are on the costly side. And they often manage traffic or throttle speeds on top of that, too.

That’s in stark contrast to regular fixed-line broadband almost always comes with truly unlimited usage.

Satellite broadband also has very high latency, aka lag. That makes playing online games, making video calls, or watching streams in real time very difficult.

You also have very little choice when it comes to satellite broadband providers – and even less choice if you’re looking for ultrafast speeds.

How fast is satellite broadband?

The fastest satellite broadband has download speeds up to about 300Mbps. That’s certainly very fast, but far from the fastest broadband in the UK full stop. Nationwide, you can get 500Mbps from Virgin Media, and various providers up to 1Gbps speeds in certain areas.

Not many satellite providers offer 300Mbps, however. Most packages are in the region of up to 75Mbps – which is a perfectly reasonable speed for most home broadband. It’s around the average speed you get with standard fibre optic broadband.

Is satellite broadband expensive?

In a word, yes. Satellite broadband is one of the most expensive types of broadband you can get, when you compare like-for-like speeds and data limits.

The lower end of the scale for satellite internet is about £25 per month. That doesn’t sound bad, but bear in mind these packages can have very restrictive download limits, as low as 2GB per month.

The higher end packages cost more than £100 per month, and still don’t give you unlimited usage.

Installation fees are rather expensive too, ranging from £50 to several hundred pounds (depending on the provider and package).

If you can get fixed-line or 4G broadband at your address, they’re likely to be much cheaper.

It’s possible to get fibre optic broadband, with speeds around 35Mbps and unlimited downloads, from as little as £22 per month.

Frequently asked questions

Can I access the internet via satellite?

Yes, if you sign up with a satellite broadband provider. Once you’re connected, it operates exactly the same as any other broadband connection – you can surf the web, use apps, stream TV, play online games, the whole lot.

Who is satellite broadband for?

It’s best for households and businesses in areas where fixed-line broadband cables are difficult or impossible to reach. For instance, very rural areas, mountains, islands, boats, and other locations such as oil rigs.

Another option for some of these areas is 4G home broadband – but again, this doesn’t quite reach everywhere (especially if you’re at sea).

Can I get broadband through a Sky satellite dish?

No. Sky’s satellite dish is designed to just deliver TV – its broadband is still delivered through fixed-line cables.

Even if you have a TV satellite on the side of your home that you aren’t using, it’s very unlikely you can use it for broadband, as it uses a different type of dish. You’d need to have a new one installed.

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