Satellites and broadband Internet

How satellite internet works? Satellite is so far away from Earth, do I have to wait forever for page to load?

How Satellite Internet Works?

Think of the satellite as a big mirror in outer space, which reflects signal back and forth between uplink ground station and you. Wildblue Exede utilize 3 satellites on the geostationary orbit.

Geostationary Orbit

GEO – Geostationary Orbit, also known as Clark's belt, located 22,282 miles above the equator. At that precise height, speed and direction of the satellite makes it match the Earth rotation, so it will appear as a stationary object in the skies relative to the ground. Most of commercial broadband communications satellites operate in this orbit, only orbital slots are vary.

One may think that there is plenty of room out there, but in fact it's tight. You can draw imaginary GEO quite accurate. If you face south, draw an imaginary arc east to west starting from horizon with top point being anywhere from 20° to 50°, depending on where you are.

Just to mention, MEO - Medium Earth Orbit, used mostly for GPS navigation and LEO - Low Earth Orbit, used for various time sensitive tasks.

When you have your satellite internet system installed and up&running magic happens.

Request from your favorite web browser goes to modem. Modem converts it and delivers it all the way up to the satellite and down to uplink station. Uplink ground station processes your modem request and sends data back to you. Round trip is done in less than a second, actually at the speed of light!

Satellite Latency

Latency is a common term used in the internet world. It simply means how long it takes data to make a round trip over a satellite connection. Ping is a synonim for latency and it is measured in miliseconds (ms). Signal travels at the speed of light (186,000 miles per second) and it needs to go 22,282 mi X 4 times. This may not be a great distance at such speeds but even so, it will take roughly ½ of a second or 500 milliseconds for the round trip.

Can you tolerate this less than one second delay? Most people will not even notice this latency, however, real-time online games require rapid response (20-100ms) with the server and may drag. For about everything else, satellite internet will be just fine.


Ideal PAGE LOADING TIME: 1-2 seconds, average site 3-5 seconds.

Not all web sites are fast and furious.
Modern, well-optimized web site should open in under a second. About 80% of the rest of the web is not as fast to respond to you.

Depending on the particular web site hosting provider, server load, content and coding optimization, database queries and many other factors, page loading time may vary from 1-6 seconds on average.
So, if dealing with the slow or busy site even supercharged internet connection will not make much difference.

Wildblue and Exede use proxy servers located at ground uplink gateways. In order to speed up your page load, cache is being used. If all or part of the page you want to load exists in cache, it will be served to you from cache. This method really helps to avoid lengthy DNS lookups and data transfer and makes your page load even faster.
If page you want does not exist in cache (you are the first visitor) it will be served to you normal way.

You can actually measure the speed of web site of your choice by an online tool like this. Run the test and compare it's results to what you are getting with satellite internet.

Suggested reading

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