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A Beginner’s Guide to Satellite Internet Terminology

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Before deciding which internet service provider is right for you,  it’s important to understand what different internet terms mean. In this blog post, we’ll break down some of the most common internet terminology you’ll encounter as you research satellite internet providers.

Satellite Internet Basics

Definition of Satellite Internet

Satellite internet connects you to the internet with the help of communication satellites. These satellites are usually geostationary, maintaining the same position above the Earth for reliable data transmission. Satellite internet is not location-dependent—you can make a connection from anywhere in the service’s global coverage. 
 

Who Uses Satellite Internet?

Satellite internet providers are most popular with people who live in locations where terrestrial internet is either unreliable or unavailable. 

How Satellite Internet Works

Satellite internet uses a satellite dish to send signals to communication satellites. The satellite dish is typically installed in a location with as much unobstructed access to the sky as possible. A modem connects to the satellite dish and translates incoming signals into internet connections.  


Wonder how we get our satellites into orbit? Learn how satellites are launched. 

Advantages of Satellite Internet Connectivity

The greatest advantage of satellite internet is its availability in remote areas. Your home or business may not have access to cable and phone line wiring, but you can still make a satellite internet connection with a satellite dish and a modem. In addition to being available nearly everywhere, satellite internet can provide possible broadband-level speeds, is often faster than advertised, and offers quick recovery times in the aftermath of a natural disaster, as most of your satellite internet provider’s infrastructure is safely 22,000 miles above the earth.
 

Key Satellite Internet Terminology: Hardware

Modem vs. Router

Modems and routers are often confused with internet terms. Here’s how to tell the two devices apart:

Modem

A modem is a small device that connects your home network to your internet service provider (ISP) through a physical connection, such as phone lines, fiber optic cables, or satellite dishes. The modem converts signals into forms your ISP can transmit and your home network devices can use. 
 

Router

A router connects to your modem and provides wired and wireless devices access to the internet and each other. Routers typically offer network security features and firewall protection to keep external threats off your network, and many include parental controls to restrict internet access on specific devices. 
 

Most ISPs provide modems and routers for free or sell them to customers. Modems are increasingly available with built-in routers, so you only need one device instead of two. 
 

Satellite Dish

A satellite dish is a dish-shaped antenna capable of receiving and transmitting radio wave signals to and from communication satellites. A satellite dish allows for internet and television signal transmission without relying on miles of cable or phone lines. 
 

Wi-Fi Terminology

Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi networks use radio signals to connect wireless devices to the internet. The name Wi-Fi stands for . . . nothing at all actually. While it’s often thought to mean “wireless fidelity,” Wi-Fi is a marketing term that was easier to use than the more technical “IEEE 802.11x standards,” which is the system’s official designation. 
 

Wi-Fi Access Point

A Wi-Fi access point is a device that allows wireless-capable devices to connect to wired networks. Access points can be spread throughout the network to allow nearby devices better connectivity instead of relying on the router signal. 

 

Internet Terms for Measurement & Speed

What are Mbps?

Mbps stands for Megabits per second and is a unit of measurement that shows how fast your internet connection is. For every Mbps, a connection can transfer one million bits of information a second. In terms of file size, it takes eight megabits to make a megabyte. 
 

Gigabyte

A gigabyte (GB) is a unit of data measurement. One gigabyte of storage is the equivalent of 1,000 megabytes. Very approximately, you could store 600 photos with a gigabyte of storage. 

 

What is Broadband Internet?

What term is used to describe a high-speed internet connection? The answer is broadband. Broadband refers to all high-capacity transmission technology, including fiber optic cables and radio waves. 
 

Additional Internet Terminology

Bandwidth

Bandwidth is the maximum data transmission capacity of an internet network and usually expressed in Mbps. 
 

Cable Modem Internet

Cable modem internet refers to high-speed internet delivered with coaxial cables connected to a modem. Cable television companies usually provide cable modem internet. 
 

DSL Internet

DSL internet transmits data through telephone lines. While slower than cable modem internet, DSL (short for digital subscriber lines) is generally less expensive and does not slow down during peak use. It's an older technology, speeds differ based on distance from the central office of the telecom company, and many companies have stopped supporting DSLs.

Download Speed

Download speed measures how fast you receive information and data from the internet, expressed in Mbps. 
 

Fiber Internet

Fiber internet converts data into light that thin glass fibers in fiber optic cables transmit to and from the internet. Fiber internet can reach incredibly high speeds, but the infrastructure is usually only found in urban centers. 
 

5G Internet

5G internet is the fifth generation of cellular broadband networks used for cell phones. 5G offers faster speeds than 4G and can support fixed wireless internet. Currently, 5G infrastructure is almost exclusively limited to cities and is not usually available in rural areas. 
 

Fixed Wireless Internet

Fixed wireless internet connects a location to the internet through radio waves, removing the need for phone or cable lines. Fixed wireless internet transmits data from towers to antennae. While popular in rural areas without the phone or cable infrastructure needed for wired internet, fixed wireless internet has some limitations; receivers must be within ten miles of a service provider’s tower to make a connection. 
 

ISP

ISP stands for Internet Service Provider and refers to any company providing internet access. ISPs include telephone companies, cable companies, and satellite internet providers. 
 

IoT

IoT is short for the Internet of Things—the many appliances, smart devices, and other technology which can send and receive data over the internet. 

 

Mesh Network

A mesh network is any group of connectivity devices, including routers and Wi-Fi Access Points, that act as a single network. Mesh networks extend the range of your network, providing better coverage throughout your home or business. 
 

Smart Device

Smart devices are electronic devices that connect and interact through wireless networks. The term includes everything from smartphones to smart doorbells, lights, keychains, appliances, and cars. 
 

Upload Speed

Upload speed describes how fast you can send data from a device on your network to other locations on the internet. Upload speed is generally slower than download speed, as people tend to download more information than they upload. Your upload speed impacts everything from how quickly you send email to the quality of video calls, online video games, and live streaming.


Internet terminology can look intimidating but is easy to understand once you know the basics. We hope this short list of internet terms helps as you research the Best Satellite Internet Plans in Your Area.