What is Satellite Internet?

Satellite internet is wireless internet beamed down from satellites orbiting the Earth. It’s a lot different from land-based internet services like cable or DSL, which transmit data through wires. Since it’s the only internet service that’s available nationwide, satellite internet is often the only way to get online for many rural homes and businesses, although it does still come with a few disadvantages (more on that later)

Jio in partnership with SES, Bharti Airtel Ltd’s OneWeb, and billionaire Elon Musk’s Starlink want to send thousands of these satellites to orbit. OneWeb plans to launch 648 satellites, while Musk’s Starlink has permits to launch over 4,000 of them. So far, OneWeb has launched over 400 satellites, while Starlink has launched over 2,000 satellites. SES already operates 70 satellites. It’s worth noting that Starlink plans to launch 42,000 satellites in the coming decade. Jio’s journey has only just begun.

How does satellite internet work?

Satellite internet works by using radio waves to communicate with satellites orbiting the Earth. Data is sent and retrieved through a communication network that starts with your device and travels through your modem and satellite dish, out to a satellite in space, then back to Earth to ground stations known as network operations centers (NOC). And then, data travels back through this network—out to space and then back to your satellite dish on Earth—to deliver data on your device.

Satellite internet uses a five-part relay system:

  • Internet-ready device
  • Modem/router
  • Satellite dish
  • Satellite in space
  • Network Operations Center (NOC)

Internet-ready device

An Internet-ready device is an electronic device that allows the user to access the Internet.


A modem translates data so it can move between your internet-ready device and the satellite dish.

Satellite dish

satellite dish is a dish-shaped type of parabolic antenna designed to receive or transmit information by radio waves to or from provider’s satellite.

Satellite in space

A satellite is an object in space that orbits or circles around Earth.

Network Operations Center (NOC)

Whenever you request information from the internet, the data from that request is uploaded through the above relay. The satellite then beams that request to the NOC.

Using a much larger satellite dish than the one you have at home, the NOC receives your request. The NOC then taps into the internet backbone, gathers the information you requested, and sends it back through the relay to you.

All of this process, including beaming information 22,000 miles into space and back twice, happens in fractions of a second.

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