Satellite – 25/3 access – with prohibitive costs, interference and no scalability

Everyone is looking for a cheaper, easier, better way to bring broadband to rural Minnesota. 5G isn’t it. Industry experts have confirmed that 5G isn’t a solution for rural areas and a speaker at a recent US House Energy and Commerce Committee confirmed it.

I’ve been hearing a lot about satellite lately so I thought I’d declare today satellite Monday and post what I’ve learned – starting with this basic 101 post, then a post on scheduled satellite upgrades and finally a guest post from a satellite user.

How does satellite work? I found a good, brief video ….

As they video says – satellite is a better choice than dialup – but there are some issues: costs especially given data allowances, latency, interference and speeds.

Let’s start with cost. It’s difficult to get pricing. Most providers will only show their current deals and often that requires a two-year contract. I was able to get pricing from Reviews.com:

HughesNet:

  • Monthly Price: $49.99 – $129.99
    Price is based on data allowance and download speed
  • Additional fees:
    • Early Termination Fee: Up to $400
    • Equipment Lease Fee: $14.99/month
    • Standard Installation Fee: $199.99 with Equipment Purchase
    • One-Time Setup Fee: $99.00 with Equipment Lease

Exede

  • Monthly Price: $49.99 – $129.99
    Price is based on data allowance
  • Additional fees:
  • Early Termination Fee: $15/remaining month of contract
  • Equipment Lease Fee: $9.99/month
  • Installation Fee: $0, $49, or $99 depending on your region

There are overage fees for surpassing data or you need to essentially turn off broadband until the end of the month.

I think the video does a nice job if describing the latency. The FCC recognizes improvements in satellite latency, as well as the limitations…

While the physics that limit signal speed cannot be altered, technical improvements, such as protocol acceleration and information caching, reduce the number of  times communication must occur between  the earth-based systems and the satellite thus minimizing the effects of latency.  Regarding these techniques, the FCC state: ViaSat and other satellite industry operators have lowered overall latency by making improvements to other elements of their architecture, such as by dispensing with the need to  request communication channel assignments, adopting advances in consumer satellite terminal equipment, incorporating protocol acceleration technology, and developing new error correction technology to provide resiliency to rain fade. Despite these many improvements, latency for this new generation [of] satellite‐delivered broadband remains high.

Interference is an issue based on “terrestrial blockage”…

Since geostationary satellites orbit the earth over the equator, subscribers at the equator point their  satellite dishes nearly straight up to communicate with the satellite. As a subscriber’s distance from the  equator increases, the elevation of the dish relative to the horizon decreases. Therefore, the likelihood of an object obscuring the direct view of a satellite also increases as the subscriber’s distance  from the equator increases, as shown in Figure 4‐2.  Thus, terrestrial blockage is a more significant issue  in the northern states than in the southern states.

And weather interference

Weather can also affect the reliability of satellite communications.  The frequencies used by satellite  systems are susceptible to weather degradation. Transmission errors can  be caused by heavy rain and  the accumulation of ice or snow on dishes.  Weather interference occurs more severely in northern  areas of the United States where there are lower dish elevations, since the signals must travel a greater  distance through the atmosphere before reaching the satellite.

To mitigate weather effects, satellite providers have implemented adaptive power control and more robust modulation techniques; however, weather interference problems persist.

And then with speeds – the problem today is the upload speed limitation – 3 Mbps. The bigger problem is that these speeds aren’t scalable.

This entry was posted in Wireless by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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