HughesNet®

Is Satellite Internet the Same as Wi-Fi?

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laptop connected to wifi

From virtual meetings to family video chats, scrolling through social media to researching recipes, you’d be hard-pressed to find a part of your daily routine that doesn’t rely on an Internet connection. But for something that plays such a pivotal role in our lives, the technology that enables Internet access is often misunderstood. The distinction between satellite Internet and Wi-Fi is a common point of confusion.

What is Satellite Internet?

True to its name, satellite Internet is a method of connecting to the Internet that relies, not on wires, but on signals that travel through the air. To better understand how a satellite Internet signal works, let’s look at what happens behind the scenes when you click the link to this blog!

  • A request is sent. Using an Internet-ready device (PC, tablet, smartphone, etc.), you click a link to the HughesNet blog site. The device then sends a signal to your modem requesting the data needed to display this website. 
  • The modem makes its move. Your modem receives the device’s request for data and translates it into usable information for the satellite dish.
  • The satellite dish sends its signal. Upon receiving the modem’s request, your satellite dish beams the information up to a satellite.
  • Radio waves are redirected. At over 22,000 miles above the Earth, a Hughes satellite receives the signal and directs it back to a satellite dish at a Network Operations Center (NOC).
  • A connection is made. At the NOC, your signal connects to the worldwide web to find the website you clicked on, and prepares to return the information to you.

From there, the process repeats in reverse, with the NOC beaming a signal through a satellite dish up into space, where it’s bounced back to your dish, through your modem, and onto your device. The process occurs in a fraction of a second with your satellite Internet setup requesting and receiving the data needed to display this blog at the click of a button. For a deeper dive into satellite Internet terminology, check out our post. Now, let’s take a similar look at Wi-Fi.

How Does Wi-Fi Differ from Satellite Internet?

While satellite Internet and Wi-Fi are often lumped together in the same conversation, they play different roles in powering Internet access. As we’ve already covered, satellite services like HughesNet® connect users to the Internet by exchanging data back and forth across satellites orbiting the planet; they establish and maintain a connection to the Internet. By contrast, Wi-Fi amplifies an existing Internet signal and broadcasts it over a small area, allowing Wi-Fi-enabled devices within its footprint to connect wirelessly to the Internet service.

Connecting directly to an Internet modem, a Wi-Fi router broadcasts Internet signals to any Wi-Fi-enabled devices within their coverage area. The shareable wireless coverage offered by Wi-Fi routers is what’s known as a Wi-Fi network. Because the signal can be accessed by any device within its footprint, most Wi-Fi networks are password protected so only people who know the password can connect their devices. Often mistaken as an abbreviation of “wireless fidelity,” the term Wi-Fi itself is actually a marketing label created to give a more approachable name to a wireless technology known as  IEEE 802.11. 

A Common Connection

Satellite Internet and Wi-Fi technology each play a part in powering the digital lifestyles we’ve come to enjoy. Satellite services like HughesNet keep people connected across the globe, providing Internet access no matter where you may be, while Wi-Fi technology allows you to enjoy the benefits of a connected life without being tethered by wires and cords. Though they may differ in function, they both share a common goal of connecting us to everything that the Internet has to offer.
 

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