Satellite broadband does have its differences – as you'd expect from a technology which reaches properties that traditional networks simply can't. But it's available anywhere and almost immediately - so it's entirely up to you. Here's what you need to know about what's different with a satellite broadband service.
First off, unlike most terrestrial services, it's commercially impossible for satellite broadband to be a truly unlimited service. In terms of data, our GEN4 range of monthly accounts each offers a fixed data allowance each month, split between a download allowance and an upload allowance.
So the service works in much the same way as a Pay As You Go mobile phone account with its fixed amount of monthly minutes… once you’ve used up the download or upload data allowance within your chosen monthly account type, your account’s blocked until either the next month, or until you buy a data top-up. The good news is that, to make things as cost-effective as possible, data top-ups are available to buy 1GB at a time, so you can purchase exactly what you need and no more.
Separate monthly download and upload allowances
The overall data allowance on each of our monthly packages is split between a separate download and upload amount. This is skewed 80%+ in favour of download, because the vast majority of people look to source far more data from the Internet compared to sending information up to the Internet. For example, our most popular 20M20 GEN4 package offers an overall monthly total of 20GB of data, split between 17.0GB of download allowance and 3.4GB of upload allowance. Very similar ratios apply to all our other monthly packages.
Be aware of speedsteps
As is typical with any satellite broadband service, in order to share out the connectivity we provide fairly across our entire user base, all our monthly packages feature speedsteps. This means that as you use up more of your data allowance each month, the maximum - or "up to" - download and upload speeds available to you decrease.
Speedsteps are applied separately to your download and upload data allowances. Downloading has 4 separate speedsteps (up to 20 Mbps, up to 16 Mbps, up to 10 Mbps and up to 5 Mbps), before finally becoming blocked, if you exceed your monthly download allowance. Similarly, uploading has 2 separate speedsteps (up to 2 Mbps and up to 1 Mbps) before similarly becoming blocked, if your monthly upload allowance is exceeded.
For full details on the split between download and upload monthly data allowances and the speedsteps that apply to each of our monthly packages, please click here.
Keep an eye on your usage
This is why it’s really important for all users of a satellite service to keep a close eye on their data usage. To help with this, we offer all our customers a “My Account” dashboard, accessed via logging in on our website and which shows live data usage for the account within the current month. Most of the reasons for the “my internet’s stopped working” calls that we get from new users is because they’ve reached their monthly data limit without realising it – hence the real importance of keeping an eye on data usage.
Watch out for data being moved in the background
It’s common for users used to a traditional unlimited internet service (however slow) to be blissfully unaware of how much data they’re actually consuming – these days, any connected device tends to move quite a lot of data in the background, a process which would go entirely unnoticed by the user, unless he/she went to the deliberate effort of looking for it.
Good examples of this are automatic operating system and antivirus updates, both of which happen very regularly and can consume what can be quite a large amount of download data, without the user necessarily knowing that it’s happening. The same thing can happen with upload data - Apple devices are often set to automatically back themselves up to iCloud and applications such as Microsoft's OneDrive, Google Drive and DropBox may well auto-sync and upload data to the Internet without you realising.
And if you have Windows 10, you should be aware that its default setting allows it to act as an update server, potentially delivering updates to any other Windows 10 user online without even informing you. This is VERY DEFINITELY a setting you should change, because of the amount of data uploading that may be constantly occurring without your knowledge. Don't worry - changing this setting will not stop you getting Windows 10 updates. You can find out how to do this on various websites, including this one.
Getting more detail on how your data allowance is being consumed
There are a number of 3rd party applications available to download for free that will display greater detail on how much data each of your internet-based activities has used and when. So, if you're not sure how your monthly data allowance is getting used up, it may well be a good idea for you to consider downloading and installing one of these. Here's a couple of the more popular data monitoring programs.
For Desktop and Laptop PCs, take a look at Glasswire. This is a free and open-source bandwidth monitor written for Windows-based systems which displays what your internet connection is being used for. You can download the free version here.
For iPhones, iPads, Android phones and tablets, check out My Data Manager. This is again a very useful data monitoring application, available free from both iTunes (for iPhones and iPads) and the Google App Store (for Android phones and tablets). If these links don't work, My Data Manager's homepage can be found here.
Please note that Satellite Internet takes no responsibility for the content of any external websites and that all external weblinks provided above are for information and convenience only.
Surf smarter with our invaluable FreeZone option
To provide a very useful “get round” of satellite’s data limits, we offer a FreeZone option with all our monthly accounts. This, which costs only an extra £7 inc VAT per month, means that any data down- or uploaded between the hours of 11pm to 7am simply won't count towards your monthly data usage. So, if you’ve got some Windows updates to do, or you need to back-up your iPhone, or want to download a TV program or movie, then by far the most sensible way to do this is to take up our FreeZone option and then schedule any large downloads into the FreeZone period. We cannot recommend our FreeZone option strongly enough.
Getting used to broadband over satellite
You also need to be aware of a possible apparent “slowness to respond” with any satellite internet service - or latency, as it's technically called. This is something that is inevitable with all satellite broadband technology – and is the result of any internet request being made then answered having to make a c. 100,000 mile round trip. It’s something that may take a little getting used to – and again especially if you're more familiar with terrestrial connectivity, however slow.
More about latency
A simple analogy may be helpful here. Imagine your usage of the internet is effectively a conversation, with you asking questions and wanting answers. If you're on a slow copper-based service, it'll start to respond quickly, but speak very slowly. Our satellite service does the exact opposite - it may take half a second or maybe even a second to start responding, but then speaks very fast. Now, if your question is a very simple one, requiring just a two or three word answer, the first scenario may seem "faster". However, if your question requires a more lengthy response – several sentences or a paragraph or two maybe – then the second scenario will very definitely offer a better experience. This is something that it’s quite important to understand - internet delivered over satellite shows its real worth when you’re looking to access larger chunks of data.
For example, what you'll tend to see with satellite when web-browsing is that nothing may happen for a short while when you call a web page, but then the page completely loads all at once. On a slow c. 2Mbps ADSL service, the page will start loading almost immediately (and some page elements will appear), but this will take a long while to complete. This is why a satellite broadband connection is not suitable for real-time online games (such as Call Of Duty) or other applications where instant response is required. Any other internet-based activities should be fine and as mentioned above, where the advantages offered by a satellite connection will be most noticeable is when you’re looking to download bigger amounts of data, e.g. catch-up TV, for example.