Satellite internet?

The husband and I are considering purchasing a home in the rural American southwest, where the only internet option is satellite. I’m wondering if anyone has any experience with it. We work from home, so Zoom calls are probably our biggest concern.

The company our real estate agent uses (Simply Bits) claims speeds up to 50 mbps, which should be fine. The agent says she’s never had any trouble with it, but she’s trying to sell a house, so I have to take that with a grain of salt.

Any thoughts? And if it matters, this is the Sonoran Desert, so cloud cover, snow, and tall trees aren’t going to be an issue. :slight_smile:

Any chance T-Mobile Home Internet is available? Just double-checking since they have coverage South and West of Phoenix/Tuscon.

True story. Used to work at an ISP that provided 2-way satellite Internet via 1.8m KU-band dishes, and one of the places that had problems with overnight ice accumulation was IN THE DESERT. It can get super-cold there at night, apparently. :slight_smile:

Satellite is good for overall speed once data is transferring, but if you do stuff that’s sensitive to latency (playing online games, etc.) then you’ll have issues. If you’re familiar with latency, your terrestrial Internet should have a latency of 30ms to 50ms or so. Satellite’s latency is typically about 500ms, because of the physical limitation of the signal getting to/from the satellite. Quite literally, the limitation is the speed of light.

At the ISP I used to work at, typing into a remote terminal window had noticeable lag. Not anything I couldn’t get used to, just notable. Zoom will probably have some amount of lag. Again, half a second doesn’t seem like much, and it might not be - but it could be an issue.

No, unfortunately. They do have some coverage in the area, but not the specific house we’re considering. Seems to be pretty hit or miss.

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That’s true. It does get really cold there at night. I hadn’t considered that!

Good point about latency, too. I don’t do online gaming, but it might be slightly irritating on a Zoom call.

I had to rely on it for a few years in rural Missouri, and it was pretty miserable. Sometimes the speed was OK, tolerable. But the data caps were terrible. I can’t imagine doing zoom with the quality of service that I had.

Starlink is available in your area. The latency will be better than “regular” satellite service as it’s in low earth orbit instead of the higher orbits other satellite service providers use. If you have a fixed location and aren’t on one of the “mobile/RV” plans, the speed is pretty good. I don’t know if the dish is heated to keep ice off, or if it just self-heats due to its normal operation. It does shut itself down in high temperatures, though.

The downside is knowing that you’re giving Elon Musk money every month.

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I did look at Starlink, and this was definitely a concern. Turns out that they also have really terrible–as in nearly non-existent–customer service (go figure) so I took them off the list.

Good to know that the latency would be better though. Thanks!

Yep, that is a concern as well. We use about 450 GB of data per month, so the fees for satellite would be in the $300/month range at that rate. We have to weigh that against how much we like the house. LOL!

During the height of the pandemic, I had an opportunity to work from a house that had only satellite internet (HughesNet). It would have been ideal in so many other ways, however:

  • data caps were brutal
  • service was spotty (but heavy rain was an issue)
  • cost was high
  • latency meant zoom calls just weren’t possible

Altogether it just wasn’t workable. Ymmv

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You should also take in consideration, that you “share” the Datarate of the Satellite, so if you are the only one who use it in that area, you have a great connection, but if everybody around you is using it too, you could end up with a real connection way below the promises on the papers.
Depending on your planed location, what about LTE/5G? Or ask T-Mobile for the cost to connect your house too, if they are already in your planned area.

Is the 50 Mbps symmetrical? I know satellite in the past usually had terrible uplink speeds (sometimes provided by a different carrier, even).

A really low upload speed is going to make Zoom calls difficult. High latency is also a big problem. If you’re like me & rely a lot upon the visual when communicating via Zoom, high latency can make calls exhausting.

Also, Simply Bits isn’t a satellite service. (It wasn’t clear if that’s the service you were considering.)

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A good friend of mine uses Starlink. He is a remote worker (lives here in the Portland, OR area, but rural so no landline internet and no cellular internet either). It works fine for him and he does do regular Zoom calls to work as well as connect to their VPN for corporate data access. He even pays more for a mobile plan so he can travel and still connect. That also got him instant sign-up for service rather than a long waiting list for fixed location service.

Nobody has mentioned it – not only does T-Mobile have cellular home internet service but both Verizon and AT&T do as well, so any of those might be options.


I’m in Rural Colorado. We happen to live where we have fiber to the house but my friends just up the road have zero cell phone or internet service at all. They went with Starlink and love it. We’ve visited their house and were able to do all sorts of stuff on multiple computers at ocne and I have participate din oom meeting with them and if you didn’t know youy wouldn’t be able to tell they were on a sat. link.

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It’s not quite the same service. There’s actually three types of service you can get with Starlink:

  1. Residential - fixed service address, normal priority service
  2. Residential with portability - fixed service address, move around in your “home area” at normal priority, if you leave the home area your traffic will be deprioritized)
  3. RV/mobile - No fixed service address, traffic always deprioritized.

This video by a full-time RVer covers the options and compares the prioritized/deprioritized service levels (I linked to the relevant timestamp but the whole video is worth a watch, Chad is great)

If you’re going to use it at a fixed location 90% of the time, residential with portability is probably the way to go - not the RV plan.


Thank you for this! You are correct. The real estate agent called it satellite, so I assumed it was. Further research shows it’s actually fixed wireless, which (according to Google) is much better than satellite.

A friend of mine had previously been using HughesNet and their experience matched that described by @tf2 above. When Starlink became available in their area, they immediately switched. They said it was so amazingly better that they will happily deal with all of the downsides to get service which is actually useful. Based on the various antidotal reports I’ve heard in the rural areas here in western Pennsylvania, Starlink is the only viable satellite option that is available.

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Their reasoning is that they want to limit the usage in any one area. There can be waiting lists in certain areas if they don’t feel they can support the service. That is one reason that my friend went with mobile plan – he needed service right away for work yet and there was a waiting list to get standard residential service.

Even though his service might be deprioritized he has had no problems. Of course his heavy usage is work related and during the day and most residential use will be for streaming at night.

One of the network admins in the IT department at my work got Starlink and he absolutely loves it in comparison to his previous cell-based service. It’s not perfect but he can work remotely, including participating in Zoom meetings.

Another +1 for Starlink. I just installed it last month for my in-laws who barely have a cell signal at their property. They were skeptical but really like it. It’s so much better than HughesNet than they were on before.

Another thing to explore: I know here in Indiana there are a lot of electric and ag coops who have line of sight internet services. Like if you have line of sight to a really tall grain bin that has the equipment, you can get decently fast internet. My sister is married to a farmer and they actually get free internet because they let a company install the equipment on their property. Not sure if that is at all an option for you though.