Satellite Internet Vs. Wi-Fi: Which is Right for You?

laptop connected to wifi

A reliable internet connection is essential for modern life, whether you're working remotely, video chatting with family, shopping, or catching up on the latest news. For something that plays such a pivotal role in our lives, however, internet technology is often misunderstood. The benefits of satellite internet vs. Wi-Fi is a case in point. To help you select the right internet service, we’ll explain the difference between satellite internet and Wi-Fi. 

Satellite Internet

What is Satellite Internet?

As its name suggests, satellite internet connects you to the internet not through phone lines or fiber optic cables but through signals relayed through communication satellites. To better understand how satellite internet signals work, here’s what happens behind the scenes if you used satellite internet to open this blog page:=

  1. A laptop, PC, smartphone, or other internet-ready device sends a signal to your modem requesting the data needed to display the webpage. 
  2. The modem translates the request for data into usable information for your satellite dish. 
  3. The satellite dish beams the information to a Hughesnet communications satellite over 22,000 miles above the Earth.
  4. The Hughesnet® satellite receives your signal and redirects it to a satellite dish at one of our Network Operations Centers (NOC).
  5. At the NOC, the signal connects to the world wide web, finds the requested web page, and prepares to return the information to you.
  6. The process repeats in reverse, with the NOC beaming the signal back to the satellite, which bounces it back to your satellite dish, through your modem, and onto your device. 
  7. Despite the enormous distances involved, the entire process takes a fraction of a second from the moment you click a link to when the page opens. 

How Are Satellites Launched?

We’re often asked how we get our communication satellites into orbit. A communications satellite like JUPITER 3, about the size of a school bus, is not easy to launch into space! Our satellites all hitch rides on rockets, which use smaller rockets to separate the satellite from the main rocket once the correct position and orbital height are reached. 

This is an oversimplification of how satellites are launched because, in this case, it really is rocket science! If you want to know more about Hughesnet newest satellite JUPITER 3, click here.


Now that you know more about satellite internet, we’ll explain what Wi-Fi is, how it works, and the most common types of Wi-Fi connections. 

What is Wi-Fi?

Wi-Fi describes a wireless networking system that uses radio waves to provide internet access. With a Wi-Fi connection, an internet device does not need to be wired directly to a modem. We owe Wi-Fi to Hawaii, which began using a wireless UHF packet network called ALOHAnet in 1971 to connect the state’s island chain.

While many people think “Wi-Fi '' means “wireless fidelity,” the term is simply a marketing phrase used to refer to the IEEE 802.11x standards that cover over-the-air local communication between a wireless client and wireless-enabled devices. 


How Does Wi-Fi Work?

A Wi-Fi network operates like a cell phone service, although the Wi-Fi range is limited to a much smaller area. Here’s what happens when you connect to a Wi-Fi network: 

  1. A wireless-enabled tablet, laptop, or similar internet-ready device transmits a radio signal containing data. 
  2. The data is received by a wireless router connected to a physical, wired modem. 
  3. The wireless router sends the signal to the modem, which sends the data to the internet.
  4. Data received from the internet is sent to the router through the modem. The router then converts the data into a radio signal and transmits it to the wireless device. 

Types of Wi-Fi Connections

Several types of Wi-Fi connections exist. The most common include:

  • Wireless Routers are physical networking devices that receive and forward data packets across a wireless network. Routers connect to a wired modem or include a built-in modem connected via cable to an internet service provider's wired network or an internet satellite dish.
  • Hotspots are public locations set up for wireless connectivity, such as libraries, malls, airports, and restaurants. 
  • Mobile Hotspot Devices are portable routers that use cellular signals to connect to the internet in the same way smartphones do. Many smartphones can be used as mobile hotspot devices for laptops or tablets using a process called tethering. You may need to pay a monthly fee to use your phone as a mobile hotspot.
  • LTE Home Internet services connect your home network to a 4G LTE cell tower through a wireless receiver. 
  • 5G Home Internet describes the fifth generation of wireless data networks, which uses different radio frequencies than 4G LTE to deliver faster internet with less lag. 5G networks are available in many urban centers but less common in rural locations. 

Does Wi-Fi come from Satellites?

So, does Wi-Fi come from satellites? The short answer is no. Wi-Fi and Satellite services like Hughesnet® internet plans play different but complementary roles in providing internet access. You can get Wi-Fi through a satellite internet connection, but it’s not the same as Wi-Fi. Satellite internet is a type of internet connection, while Wi-Fi refers to a wireless network. You can set up a home Wi-Fi network with your satellite internet connection, allowing you to use the internet on a laptop, phone, tablet, or other wireless internet-connected device.

Is Satellite Internet better than 4G LTE Wi-Fi?

Whether you choose Satellite internet vs. Wi-Fi networks such as 4G LTE they are two different types of internet technologies that have their own unique characteristics.

Satellite internet is the better choice for people in isolated areas with few broadband options. If you live in a rural area, here’s what to consider when choosing an internet service provider.

Satellite internet and Wi-Fi technology power the digital lifestyles we’ve come to enjoy. Satellite services like Hughesnet keep people connected across the globe, providing internet access no matter where they are, 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 share a common goal of connecting us to everything the internet offers.

FAQs about Satellite Internet

How Fast is Satellite Internet?

Hughesnet internet plans are fast, with speeds up to 50 Mbps on select plans in select areas. Actual speeds may vary and are not guaranteed. 

Can You Stream on Satellite Internet?

The new Hughesnet is faster than ever, with unlimited data, so you can stream SD and HD video and music and do video-conferencing. Since Fusion plans combine satellite and wireless technologies, you can count on your internet to work when you need it. That means enhanced reliability and low latency

Find the Best Satellite Internet Plans in Your Area

Hughesnet® internet plans offer reliable internet services in rural and isolated areas. 

Where can I learn more about Internet terminology?

Internet technology terms can be confusing. Discover the meanings behind internet terms on our internet terminology page.

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