Satellite data connections are often used to replace other connection methods that are unavailable or very limited. Many individuals or organizations that would like to have a network connection are restricted by their lack of proximity to service offerings. In some cases, providers don’t offer service to a specific location because of the lack of expected revenue. In other cases, physically connecting to the location is not feasible (financially or otherwise). In these situations, either a wireless (land-based) or satellite connection is the best alternative. These options have been available for decades, but the cost was prohibitive. This situation is slowly changing as more providers are getting into the business and offering service to rural or remote locations.
While point-to-point satellite offerings are still available at higher costs, what’s becoming more popular is a satellite Internet connection. With an Internet connection, individuals or organizations can utilize virtual private networking (VPN) technologies to provide secure remote access to branch offices or locations that previously couldn’t get access at all without a very high price tag.
Connection speeds on “typical" satellite Internet offerings, as of this writing, are limited to about 20 Mbps (max) downstream and about 2–7 Mbps upstream. This pricing is comparable to that of DSL or cable. The biggest thing to monitor is the amount of total traffic allowed per month without exceeding a designated cap. DSL and cable offerings don’t usually have traffic caps. Satellite networks also introduce considerably more delay (>500 ms) into a connection than other alternatives experience. This lag may become an issue if delay-sensitive traffic is going to be transported over the connection.
The spectrum of wireless data technologies is wide, as these technologies have been growing at an exponential rate along with wireless device adoption. Some of the most popular technologies:
- Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution (EDGE)
- Evolution-Data Optimized (EV-DO)
- Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS)
- Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (WiMAX)
- Evolved High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA+)
- Long-Term Evolution (LTE)
As these technologies have evolved, they have been roughly classified into generations (2G, 3G, 4G, and so on). For example, some of the most common networks currently deployed in North America include EDGE (2G), EV-DO and HSPA+ (3G), and LTE (4G).
While these technologies are primarily used for mobile Internet access, they can also be used along with VPN technologies to connect remote offices securely. This type of configuration is gaining popularity as the prices of DSL and cable Internet technologies have stayed low. If these options are unavailable in a particular area, organizations are limited to wireless data or satellite options utilizing the same VPN technologies. However, these connections are limited by the traffic amount allowed and the speed of the connection.