Saturday, July 30, 2005

High Speed Internet via Satellite

DSL and Cable Internet service gives you broadband Internet access when you are near a telephone company office or within the reach of Cable TV lines. T1 dedicated Internet access is also reasonably priced in major metropolitan areas and near telco offices. But what do you do when you are located out in the boonies, in a small town or agricultural area? Does this mean you are stuck with poky dial-up Internet service or $1,000+ monthly lease fees for dedicated lines? No, not anymore.

The broadband solution for sparsely populated locations is satellite Internet. It's almost universally available in the 48 US states. As long as you have a clear view of the geosynchronous satellite belt in the southern sky and electrical power, you can likely get high speed Internet via satellite.

DIRECWAY offers two-way satellite broadband in 4 packages. There's a plan for the home user, and 3 separate business plans for the independent professional, the small office and the general business location.

All of these plans are based on the DW6000 satellite modem and two-way dish antenna. The satellite modem is conceptually similar to a DSL or cable modem, except that the broadband line to the modem connects to a satellite transmitter and receiver on your roof. The connection to your computer or network is via Ethernet. There is no software to install. The modem is compatible with PCs, Macs and virtually any device using the TCP/IP protocols. Since this is two-way radio transmission between your dish and the orbiting satellite, there is no phone line needed.

So how much speed can you get? The home satellite Internet service has a rated download speed of up to 500 Kbps and an upload speed of up to 50 Kbps. That's in line with what you'd get in actual use from DSL or cable Internet service. You also get 5 email accounts with 10 MB of storage per account. While the home service is intended for typically one user, you can connect it to your Wi-Fi router and put the whole family online. However, multiple simultaneous users will slow performance. You should also know that there is a download threshold of 169 MB.

What's a download threshold? It's something you don't really see with other forms of broadband. You satellite modem is always-on, but bandwidth through the bird is somewhat limited. So, this isn't really the type of service you want for constantly downloading music or software. When you hit the threshold, a "fair use" policy takes effect and throttles back your download speed so you don't hog the full capacity of the satellite transponder. Satellite Internet is more appropriate for email and general Web browsing.

The Professional plan is designed for up to 2 concurrent users. It offers the same upload and download speeds but increases the download threshold to 350 MB and gives you a routable static IP address.

The Small Office plan is recommended for up to 3 concurrent users and doubles the download speed up to 1 Mbps. The upload speed also doubles to up to 100 Kbps. The download threshold is increased to 500 MB.

The Business internet plans is recommended for small to medium business applications at commercial locations with up to 5 concurrent users. You get 1 Mbps download and 100 Kbps upload maximum bandwidth and a download threshold of 800 MB. With this plan you also get 10 email accounts with 10 MB of storage each.

How much does all this cost? Plans (as of this writing) start at $59.99 a month for residential service plus an upfront cost of $499.97 (after rebate) for the equipment, up to $129.99 a month with an upfront cost of $899.98 (after rebate) for the high-end Business Internet package. The other packages have pricing in-between the home and business plans. This puts satellite Internet clearly in competition with dedicated digital lines, and business grade DSL and Cable Internet service, assuming you can get either of these.

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