Monday, February 22, 2010

Satellite Internet vs Mobile Broadband

For folks in rural areas without access to fixed-line broadband like cable or DSL wanting an alternative to dial-up internet, or RV-ers wanting internet access on the road, there are essentially two options: satellite service from providers like WildBlue or HughesNet, and cellular mobile broadband. Many users choose satellite simply because they are more familiar with it, but as so many users have come to find out, mobile broadband is a more affordable, more convenient choice that typically offers better performance!

Just to get set up, satellite internet requires a lot of expensive equipment (often hundreds of dollars) and installation. For RV-ers, using satellite internet is particularly cumbersome - you can only use it when you're parked (the receiver can't be deployed while you're moving and can take up to 15 minutes to set up when you want to use it), and you have to be parked in a spot with a clear view of the sky. Mobile broadband, on the other hand, has minimal start-up costs and is easy to use and install. The modem (aka "aircard" - the USB, Expresscard, or PCMCIA card that you use to connect to the network) is the only equipment you need and is very affordable (often free) when you sign up for service. There is virtually no setup with mobile broadband - simply connect the aircard to your computer or router and you're ready to connect in seconds. No need to be parked, no need to have a view of the sky... use it anywhere you have cell service!

Performance is also a concern. Satellite internet has far more latency than mobile broadband - the information has to go from the server, all the way to the satellite and then back to you. How does this affect you? Gaming, VOIP, and video chat are severely compromised over a satellite connection. Additionally, most satellite providers have a daily limit of how much bandwidth you can use (the "fair access policy"). When you hit that limit they throttle your speeds, meaning after you hit your limit you'll only be able to connect at dial-up speeds! While most 3G mobile broadband providers do impose a 5GB monthly allowance, there is no actual limit - if you exceed 5GB of usage in a month they will charge overage fees, but your speeds won't be throttled.

Interested in making the move to mobile broadband? Check out our Satellite vs Mobile Broadband FAQ!