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Pros and cons of satellite internet

News of SpaceX’s Starlink arrival in the Philippines has got a lot excited, which is understandable as Filipinos are always on the lookout for new internet service providers. However, Starlink is different from the land-based internet we’re accustomed to. As mentioned, data gets transmitted through satellites orbiting the planet. So, what are the pros and cons? And should you get one?

Before we get started, let’s quickly discuss how satellite internet work. When you subscribe to a satellite internet service, you will receive a satellite dish and a modem or WiFi router.

Once the system is installed, the user connects to the router using a laptop or a smartphone. The router then communicates to the dish. The dish will then communicate to the satellite that orbits at almost 36,000 km above the Earth’s surface. The satellite then communicates to the ISP’s ground station that is connected to the internet via fiber.

So what’s happening is you’re getting your internet connection via signals from a satellite instead of fiber wire. The same concept applies to a satellite TV. The only difference is that the satellite TV can only receive signals, whereas a satellite internet allows uploads and downloads.

Simply put: Laptop <-> Dish <-> Satellite <-> Ground Station <-> Internet

The time it takes to complete the whole loop of the process can be measured in latency or lag, which is measured in milliseconds (ms). Starlink boasts a latency of 20ms in most locations, which is slower than the single-digit latency you’ll mostly get on fiber internet.

Now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk about the pros and cons.

PROS

Availability in rural or remote areas

Kacific Dish • Kacific Satellite Internet: Bringing Broadband To The Boondocks

When you subscribe to a fiber internet service, one of the things your ISP needs to check is if your area is serviceable, meaning they have a nearby facility where they can install fiber optic wires leading to your home to the nearest Network Access Point (NAP) box. If the NAP box is full or there are no posts to install the wires, you won’t be able to get a subscription.

That is not a problem with satellite internet since the system doesn’t rely on wires. Our Editor-in-Chief was able to get a subscription from Kacific and got his satellite internet service installed on his farm in Nueva Ecija.

In other words, satellite internet can service areas that fiber internet cannot reach.

Quick installation and deployment

Tbgi Installers • Kacific Satellite Internet: Bringing Broadband To The Boondocks

Satellite internet systems are relatively quick to deploy since it only comprises the router and satellite dish, which are also easy to transport and install. There’s no need to lay wires on posts to your house, except for the connection of the dish to the router, which is pretty basic.

Not affected by fiber cuts

Skycable Oplan Kontra Putol • Skycable Launches Campaign To Combat Intentional Cable-Cutting Incidents

One of the problems fiber internet users are experiencing nowadays is accidental and intentional fiber cuts. This usually happens when there are ongoing road works and workers accidentally damage underground wires, or when perpetrators cut cables and sell the stolen wires for profit. Restoring a service from this kind of incident takes time, causing a lot of inconvenience to subscribers.

As mentioned earlier, satellite internet services don’t rely on fiber wires so they’re not affected by these incidents.

CONS

High latency

Although Starlink stated that it can achieve a 20ms latency, that’s not guaranteed and varies depending on the provider. Some can even reach triple-digit latencies, meaning response time is slow, which is something you don’t want when you’re playing competitive games like Mobile Legends.

Not as fast and stable as fiber internet

Although Starlink can achieve up to 100 Mbps download speeds, and in our experience, around 70 Mbps, it’s not going to compete with fiber internet where you can achieve 1 Gbps. Not to mention, the speed fluctuates during the course of the day. But we can see it improve in the future as more satellite internet providers become available and deployment of such services becomes less expensive. As you already know, it’s not cheap to launch a satellite into space.

Slow upload speeds

Speedtest1 • Kacific Satellite Internet: Bringing Broadband To The Boondocks

While download speeds in some satellite internet services are relatively good, upload speeds are really slow. Starlink was reported to provide 13 Mbps upload in the UK, some can only achieve single-digit speeds.

Weak signal during bad weather

As mentioned earlier, satellite internet systems require a clear view of the sky to provide a good service. This means that if ever there’s heavy rain or typhoon, you can expect the service to degrade or none at all. The good news is, it is quick to recover once the weather becomes better.

Pricey

Starlink requires a USD 99 deposit or around PHP 5K, the kit is at USD 599 or around PHP 31K, while the monthly service fee is USD 110 or almost PHP 6K. So, roughly you need to spend at least PHP 42K to get you started.

Cignal Connect Plans • Cignal Connect Satellite Broadband Service Now Available In The Philippines

To compare with local providers, Kacific’s 3 Mbps is at PHP 5,940 monthly, while Cignal Connect‘s 2 Mbps is at PHP 6,500 a month.

With those prices, you can already subscribe to a 500-800 Mbps fiber subscription. So yeah, satellite internet service is expensive.

Do you need satellite internet?

From the price alone, satellite internet services are not for everyone but it solves a specific problem, which is to provide internet connection in low-density areas that cannot be reached by standard fiber or cable. If you’re located in an area where fiber and mobile data is not possible, this is the best alternative.

The government and organizations can also use this technology to reach underserved communities that are yet to be connected to the internet. We just have to wait for it to be sustainable and cost-efficient.

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6 Responses

  1. Avatar for Robby Robby says:

    Not at all to expensive if you consider the time spent with companies like PDLT being down or slow!! Doesn’t matter the latency. Once connected your connected! So yes overall it is a great deal. Service is running well over 100mps already. Here in the Philippines it will be that if not faster. It’s all automatic, put the dish up and plug it in. It locates the sats itself and gets the best signal. No need for extra earth stations.

  2. Avatar for Purads Purads says:

    Pang Rural areas talaga to.

    Di lang naman isa ang gagamit pang komunidad. Mikrotik lang para ma control ang bandwidth sa user.

  3. Avatar for Rex Rex says:

    Yes, it is expensive but in a Geographically Isolated Area like ours it is a great help, you just have to connect the community ambagan nalang para mapaliit and monthly dues. Then and mga local offerings merong data cap which are too low, d katulad ng starlink unli data cap.

  4. Avatar for joberta joberta says:

    too expensive, auto fail

  5. Avatar for taesilog taesilog says:

    P42k just to get you started, what if you are in the province, where are they going to get that money.

  6. Avatar for Don Juan Don Juan says:

    Starlink achieves the lower latency compared to established sattelite internet providers because it is on Low Earth Orbit which is below 2,000kms altitude as opposed to those geostationary orbit sattelites (altitude of 36K kms).

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