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A satellite is

a radio relay station that orbits the earth. A complete satellite communications system also includes earth stations that communicate with each other via the satellite. The satellite receives a signal transmitted by an originating earth station and retransmits that signal to the destination earth station(s). Satellites are used to transmit telephone, television and data signals originated by common carriers, broadcasters and distributors of cable TV program material.[1]
[a] space-based platform for sensors that measure, image, receive, and transmit data from an orbital path above the earth.[2]

Satellite is

a wireless technology that transmits data using a subscriber's receiver dish and a satellite in a fixed position above the equator.[3]

Satellite broadband services[]

Satellite broadband Internet service is currently being offered by three providers: Hughes Network Systems (DirecWay), Starband (Spacenet Inc.) and WildBlue. These providers use geostationary satellites that orbit in a fixed position above the equator and wirelessly transmit and receive data directly to and from subscribers.[4]

Satellite broadband ground-based infrastructure includes remote equipment consisting of a small antenna and indoor unit. Gateways connect the satellite network to the terrestrial network. Except for gateway locations, satellite broadband is independent of terrestrial infrastructure such as conduits and towers.

Satellite companies provide transmission from the Internet to the user’s computer and from the user’s computer to the Internet, eliminating the need for a telephone or cable connection.

Typically a consumer can expect to receive (download) at a speed of about 1 Mbps and send (upload) at a speed of about 200 Kbps. Transmission of data via satellite causes a slight lag in transmission, typically one-quarter to three-fourths of a second, thus rendering this service less suitable for certain Internet applications, such as videoconferencing and VoIP.

Whereas cable or DSL is not available to some parts of the United States, satellite connections can be accessed by anyone with a satellite dish facing the southern sky. This makes satellite Internet access a possible solution for rural or remote areas not served by other technologies. However, satellite broadband access generally costs more than most other broadband modes and its use requires a clear line of sight between the customer’s antenna and the southern sky. Both the equipment necessary for service and recurring monthly fees are generally higher for satellite broadband service, compared with most other broadband transmission modes.

Privacy concerns[]

Like cable, satellite is a shared medium, meaning that privacy may be compromised and performance speeds may vary depending upon the volume of simultaneous use. Another disadvantage of Internet-over-satellite is its susceptibility to disruption in bad weather.


  1. FCC, Glossary of Telecommunications Terms.
  2. Geospatial Information: Technologies Hold Promise for Wildland Fire Management, but Challenges Remain, Glossary, at 71.
  3. Telecommunications: Projects and Policies Related to Deploying Broadband in Unserved and Underserved Areas, at 4.
  4. There also are low-earth orbiting satellite providers such as GlobalStar and Iridium that provide some level of broadband service. These satellite systems are in a nonstationary orbit and are between 250 and 600 miles in orbit.

See also[]