Satellite Internet and the Digital Divide

This guest post was contributed by Marissa Sapega.

It’s long been noted by gaming enthusiasts that satellite internet just isn’t the way to go for gaming. It’s traditionally been clunky, difficult to work with, and … well, slow.

But not anymore.

Despite the seeming prevalence of broadband Internet access – everywhere from major-city homes to Starbucks locations all across the country – there remains a surprising number of users who continue to lack this all-important functionality. (A staggering 119 million, if we’re being exact.)

At CES earlier this year, ViaSat attempted to wave its flag in the face of consumers, alerting them to the fact that their latest satellite service offers speeds between 10 and 15 Mbps for downloads, and 1 to 3 Mbps for uploads. By comparison, Comcast broadband speeds range from about 25 to 50 Mbps when downloading and 4 to 10 Mbps for uploads – indicating that satellite service may still be a bit far off from cable speeds, but is becoming increasingly relevant when it comes to expanding the audience of the Web.

The service ViaSat is touting, titled Exede, uses a high-capacity Ka band satellite that makes it compatible with small satellites in homes currently unlikely to have Internet access. The company has launched its own all-new satellite that provides 140 Gbps in conjunction with the Exede service. This launch allows a certain portability of the dish-based service – if a family moves, for example, they can easily retune it and have it be functional within minutes. ViaSat now installs anywhere in the U.S., with a one-time installation fee of $149 and a monthly fee of $50 for access.

Still, as nice as it all may sound on paper, don’t plan on massacring other Halo players online using the service. (And certainly don’t expect it to be the perfect connection for that shiny Xbox One or PlayStation 4 soon to enter your living room.)

“We can’t get around physics and the speed of light,” ViaSat VP of Sales and Distribution Dan Turak told ArsTechnica earlier this year. “We have about a half-second latency. The only time latency becomes an issue is for a gamer. We’re very clear to that customer that you’ll probably lose if you’re playing against someone without satellite broadband. That latency is just enough to cause delay.”

So, will satellite bridge the digital divide in gaming? Not exactly. But is the potential there? Most definitely. It’s only a matter of time before research and development for satellites catches up to cable speeds — meaning devoted first-person-shooter gamers may want to hone their skills in preparation for an abundance of new players sure to hit the net in the years to come.

This post was provided by the team at Satellite Internet Pros, one of the country’s largest resellers of satellite Internet service from top brands like HughesNet.

Image Source: NASA Goddard Photo and Video