- Mobile Satellite Internet
- Free Guide Preview
- Satellite Internet: Realities
- Getting Internet From Space Basics
- Satellite TV and Satellite Internet Are Not the Same!
- Residential Satellite Generally Isn't Mobile
- Additional Member Only Content :
- Video Overview
- Satellite Concepts
- Present Satellite Options for Mobile RVers
- Satellite Communicators and Low Bandwidth Options
- Satellite Future: Revolution Coming?
- Conclusion: Satellite Is A Niche Option
- Satellite Internet Options Product Guide
- Additional Reading
- Explore the Resource Center
- Have Questions? Stay In the Know
- Satellite Internet Service ViaSat, Explornet rural dish installation
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.
Compared to cellular service, satellite internet can slow be, with higher latency, and is more expensive. The gear to get connected can be bulky and requires setup at each stop.
If you plan, however, to focus your travels on being way out in the boonies where there are no other options, then challenges of satellite internet might be worthwhile.
If you are hoping for a simple go-anywhere solution, satellite internet 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
For most people, even with current generation satellite systems, satellite internet service will still be at best complementary to terrestrial cellular service, not a full replacement.
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 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 Satellite 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 and in space.
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 usually not satellite-provided internet.
These bundled plans are intended for stationary satellite TV consumers to combine their TV, wired 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. Customers in rural areas may get partnered with a residential stationary satellite internet option - ViaSat or Hughes.
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 two main residential satellite companies: ViaSat and HughesNet.
There used to be more options, but other firms either went out of business or were acquired by these two companies.
Even if you're getting satellite internet from another provider, it is likely one of these two companies behind the scenes providing the actual service.
Residential satellite internet is not designed for mobility and moving location usually requires a professional installer and sometimes new equipment and a plan change.
While these could be considered semi-portable solutions for those who move infrequently (perhaps no more than a couple times a year) - we don't consider them viable mobile options.
There are mobile satellite internet solutions out there suitable for mobile RVers, discussed later in this guide.
Additional Member Only Content :
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All specifically created for helping keep RVers, cruisers and nomads online.
Hopefully you've noticed that our content isn't cluttered with 3rd party advertising, we're not sponsored and we're not reliant on selling you plans or gear to make our content possible.
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Learn More About Membership
If you're already a member, please log in to see the rest of this guide.
Here's a sneak peak at the member exclusive topics in this guide:
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 Starlink, OneWeb and Iridium Next/Certus - all technologies we are watching closely. We also cover developments on high-altitude balloons and drones that are designed to provide internet service.
Conclusion: Satellite Is A Niche Option
Using satellite technology for internet access comes with many trade-offs, including slower speeds, higher latency, and higher costs when compared to cellular options.
Unfortunately, satellite is not a simple, go-anywhere solution.
Choices will likely remain slim until the next generation of low earth orbit satellite systems start offering consumer service, which could reinvigorate satellite as a less niche option for mobile users.
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.
RV Note: For most RVers, the roof-mounted RVDataSat system and the tripod-based HughesNet Gen5 Spot Beam options will be the most interesting.
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:
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Stay in the Know
We're constantly tracking the industry and analyzing new developments for mobile travelers.
If you'd like to receive updates, we offer several ways: