High Network Latency And Satellite Internet – Separating The Facts From The Myths

Whenever a prospective ISP subscriber is considering a satellite internet service, two words immediately come to his mind: high network latency and satellite internet.

It is true that satellite internet services have been criticized for their rather high network latencies. But is this really an issue? Is it a deal breaker? Does high network latency spell the downfall of satellite internet services?

In this article, we are going to discuss what is true and what is not true about high latency and satellite internet services. We will separate the facts from the myths with the hope that you, the prospective ISP subscriber, will be able to decide for yourself if a satellite internet subscription is worth the investment.

The first thing we have to tackle is the definition of high network latency. To do this, we must discuss briefly how internet connections work.

Basically, latency refers to how long you have to wait to get the data that you need. Whenever you use the internet, you send packets of data (corresponding to your request) to your ISP. Your ISP, in turn, fetches your request from the server where the data you need is located. Once fetched, your ISP will transmit the data back to you.

Immediately, one will realize that latency has something to do with how far your ISP is located. If you’re in the US and your ISP is likewise located in the same country, latency is expected to be low.

The problem is, satellite internet users transmit their data request to a satellite located thousands of miles from the earth.

This is the cause of high latency for satellite internet users, and this is why high network latency and satellite internet are often mentioned in the same sentence.

Indeed, high network latency and satellite internet are inimical with each other.

But will this pose a problem for the satellite internet user?

Not always.

The issues about high network latency and satellite internet usage really depend on the online activity that the user engages in.

If the user merely wants to browse websites, check emails, or connect via Facebook – activities which only involve the transmittal and retrieval of lines of text commands – the latency rate is negligible. Studies reveal that the delay is only between 500 and 900 milliseconds (ms), which constitutes a very slight pause before a website loads up.

The same goes for downloading files from the internet. Satellite internet users are only expected to lose a couple of minutes when downloading files above 500MB. Again, this is an issue which is completely negligible.

However, for online activities that require an almost instantaneous transfer of data, high network latency and satellite internet can present some problems.

If you’re using a satellite internet connection for Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP), for example, calls may experience some slight delays in transmission and reception. This is a relative issue, as many satellite internet users can deal with one or two seconds delay in communicating via VoIP.

The same delay is true for video streaming, however. But with many video sites offering buffering features, this can easily be remedied by pausing the video until a substantial portion thereof has been loaded.

The biggest problem confronting high network latency and satellite internet concerns online games. Most MMORPGs, for example, require a minimum latency tolerance for optimal gameplay. If you have played World of Warcraft, you’d know that a 300 ms latency can spell the difference between beating a raid boss and wiping the entire raid group.

Truly, high latency is part and parcel of satellite internet usage.

But advancements in technology are quickly correcting this issue, and it is expected that by 2013, the latency rate would be comparable to traditional ISP choices.

Additionally, high network latency cannot take away the many benefits that a satellite internet service can provide – connection in remote areas, fast connection speed, cost-efficiency in the long run, less risks of service outage, and ease of assembly and use.

High network latency and satellite internet can indeed pose some problems. But these problems are not that big to take away the total online enjoyment of the satellite internet user.

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