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Broadband ISP Technology

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Broadband is a general term for any telecoms technology that can carry a lot of data, using a wide range (band) of frequencies, over fixed telephone lines or wireless communication methods. In the UK broadband is most typically used to describe high-speed Internet access (see below).
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network cable snake
  1. Fixed Line Narrowband
  2. Fixed Line Broadband
  3. Wireless Broadband
 Broadband Satellite
ground based satellite dish
satellite spacecraft in orbit around the earth
Satellites are effectively small autonomous space stations that are launched into orbit (space) around our planet by a powerful rocket (e.g. ESA Ariane 5) and used as specialised wireless transceivers (receiver/transmitters) to relay information between different points on the ground. Their high altitude above the Earth gives them almost 100% coverage of the UK, which is especially useful in remote rural areas.

On the surface this sounds ideal, especially with service speeds of up to 20Mbps (Megabits per second) being available from the latest Eutelsat KA-SAT, SES ASTRA and Avanti HYLAS satellites, although in reality there are many caveats to consider. Satellite systems require the installation of a special receiving dish on your property (pictured top right), which isn't cheap and could cause a conflict with local planning permission. It's also not uncommon for hardware and setup fees to reach £500+, while service rental often starts at around £15-25 per month.

Satellite usage allowances tend to be quite restrictive too and can easily attract hefty excessive use charges by exceeding the limit. Most satellite ISPs will also impose an aggressive level of traffic throttling that might, at the extreme, reduce service speeds down to a virtually unusable 64Kbps (0.06Mbps). Bad weather, such as heavy rain, can also obstruct the line-of-sight between your dish and the orbiting satellite, which sometimes results in disrupted connectivity (especially on older systems).

Satellite is no good for fast paced multiplayer gaming either due to the time that it takes for signals to go from the Earth, to the satellite and then back down again (high latency). This, when combined with aggressive traffic limits and the use of NAT based IP addresses by some providers, can also hinder the use of VPN, VoIP (Skype), IPTV and other latency and performance based internet services.

It's also important to recognise that some Satellite services are not able to allocate a UK based Internet Protocol (IP) address to your connection. This can make certain region-locked online services, such as TV content via the BBC's iPlayer, difficult to access. It might also result in Google returning search results for the wrong country, although that is easy to fix.

As a result it can often feel like Satellite is costly, confusing and highly restrictive. However related services can still provide a useful stop-gap measure for isolated rural areas where broadband connectivity has yet to deliver, although they usually cannot compete with the lower cost and stronger flexibility of established fixed line ISPs.

Satellite Advantages
- 100% UK coverage - even in rural areas.
- Good for general/basic internet use.
- Mostly reasonable download speeds.
- Sometimes able to use satellite for both TV and Internet.
Satellite Disadvantages
- Expensive hardware and setup.
- Slow upload performance (some ISPs).
- Small usage allowances.
- Very slow latency performance (bad for games etc.).
Related ISPreview.co.uk Content:
* Broadband Satellite News
* Satellite ISP Listings
* Satellite ISP Reviews
* Satellite and Wireless Discussion Forum
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