If you want to have access to internet wherever you are, satellite internet using a RV satellite dish antenna (18" to 20") with modem is the only option that works virtually everywhere with a relatively high-speed connection.
It may be the only choice for those RVers who absolutely need to be connected, like those individuals working online while on the road.
Of course, we can not call it cheap satellite internet. There is a premium cost for this service. The two-way satellite technology does not need to establish another link through a wired phone, cell or satellite phone while in use.
The satellite internet functions with a modern consumer-grade dish antenna and a laptop-sized modem. The connection speeds are to a maximum of 300 Kbps for uploads to 2 Mbps for downloads.
The newer models are tempting to improve the slow upload speeds which have not been faster to this point, equivalent to a simple dial-up connection.
Note that these systems are different than the ones used for satellite TV that many RVers have. However some hardware is available to access satellite TV programs on a data internet system.
It is important to understand that the antenna needs to be pointed in the general direction of the satellite. The modem normally has a built in signal strength meter to help the user align the device properly.
The modems have Ethernet or Universal serial bus (USB) connectors to be connected to the computer itself. Some also have an integrated bluetooth transceiver and double as a satellite phone.
The modems also tend to have their own batteries so they can be connected to a laptop without draining its battery.
The most common system are INMARSAT's BGAN with higher speed connection. Using such a modem is extremely expensive. Bandwidth costs between $5 and $7 per megabyte.
The THURAYA system is less expensive, slower and provides a limited coverage area. Due to the low bandwidths involved, it is extremely slow to browse the web with such a connection, but useful for sending email.
This satellite internet system is fixed and roof mounted. It positions the rv satellite dish antenna automatically in order to detect the best signal.
Installed outside on a supporting tripod, it is more subject to be stolen. It has to be manually aligned every time it is moved, which means at each new campsite.
Note that the drawback of using a portable unit mounted on a tripod is that it takes about 20 to 30 minutes to align and calibrate every time you move it.
Also, the unit is intended to be fixed permanently and the service provider technically is in its right in obliging you each time to use his licensed service technician to realign the antenna.
Up to now, the companies charge no penalty but keep in mind that one day, this rule may be reinforced. The equipment is not small and it needs to be transported and stored every time.
There are some issues about this technology that you have to keep in mind.
- Higher costs
Cheap satellite internet does not exist. The purchasing cost of the hardware, the installation and the monthly fees are high but the trend is to go down in price.
- No functionality while in motion
In all cases, you can not be in motion to establish the satellite internet communication.
- Line of sight
Typically, a completely clear view of the southern sky between the rv satellite dish and the assigned satellite is required for the system to work.
The signal is impacted by the presence of trees and other vegetation in the path of the signal. The portable unit on tripod offers more flexibility in this regard but necessitates quite a bit of time to do the manual alignment.
There is a signal delay or latency in the use of the satellite internet service that makes it essentially unusable for applications requiring real-time user input, such as online games, video web conferencing or other person to person communication.
The functionality of having live interactive access to a distant computer can also be a problem as well as using secure websites (https) for transactions.
However these problems are more than tolerable for basic e-mail access and web browsing, and in most cases are barely noticeable.
- Moisture and precipitation (rain, snow or fog)
Satellite communications are negatively affected by moisture, fog and precipitations (rain or snow).
- Download speed decrease during peak hours
It seems that during peak hours between 4:00 and 10:00 pm, people notice a decrease in connection speed, due to the large number of people accessing the satellite at the same time.
- Fair access policy
Since there is a limited number of satellites out there, companies establish a fair access policy so every subscriber has an equal opportunity of internet service.
In practice, this means a decrease in satellite internet speed connection if you go over a certain daily/weekly/ monthly limit that was dedicated to you.
It can be a problem if you download large files, software or movies for example.
- roof top mounted systems
- tripod mounted systems
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