When you live beyond the reach of land-based internet service – i.e. DSL and cable internet – satellite internet is the next-best option. But if you’re struggling with a slow connection, satellite can be tricky to improve.
While there are some who might believe that you can’t do much to improve your satellite internet speed, there are actually some things you can do. It helps to think of your satellite internet as a system of 2 parts: the satellite/dish itself (Outside) and the network in your home (Inside).
As such, we’re going to break down these tips into those 2 parts – then we’ll handle the most tricky topic of all regarding satellite internet: latency.
STOP: Run a speed test first
Before you start trying out any of our tips, you first need to know your baseline speeds. You may think you do anecdotally (“It’s so slow whenever I do XYZ!”), but having hard numbers in front of you makes comparing later more clearcut.
To do this, start by visiting your internet service provider (ISP) account. Find out what your plan’s speed are supposed to be giving you. For instance, HughesNet provides up to 25Mbps on all their plans. Viasat’s, by comparison, varies widely from 12Mbps-100Mbps. Find out what you’re supposed to be getting.
Now it’s time to run the actual speed test. To start with, follow a few tips:
- Turn off/exit out of any background programs.
- Run the test during your normal usage times – not at 1am during your Bonus Zone.
- Use more than one speed test.
For running the speed test, we recommend speedtest.net to start – it’s my go-to for getting real-time, actual internet speed. However, keeping in line with tip #3, try out Internet Health Test, as well. Speedtest.net only checks your upload, download, and ping rates – Internet Health checks those and also takes into account network congestion, an important factor in your overall speeds.
Once you’ve run the tests, make a note of your results, the time of day, etc. Then you’re ready to move onto optimizing.
Part 1: Outside Tips
You likely already know this, but the outside portion of your satellite internet system has 2 parts: the dish and the receiver. The dish captures the signal from the orbiting satellite, then reflects it onto the receiver (a small box) that sits in front of the dish.
Everything has to be properly aligned, with nothing obstructing the view between the dish and the orbiting satellite; if either of these things happen, then your internet signal will be poor.
Outside - #1: Check out your dish
Our first tip is a simple one: set up a ladder and (safely) climb up to examine your dish. Check for any fallen debris on the dish or receiver themselves – fallen leaves, branches, or otherwise. If it’s winter time, be especially careful – the roof may be icy! Check for snow covering the dish.
Check the cables that run from your dish/receiver into your home, as well – they may have become damaged or loose. If your dish is mounted on a pole on the ground, check the ground for frost upheaval (assuming a cold climate). Frost upheaval can disrupt your satellite’s stability.
Outside - #2: Check for obstructions
In addition to debris, snow, or grime on your dish itself, check for any obstructions that might be getting in the way of your signal. That means tree branches that may have grown or fallen in the way of the satellite.
If you find any, take the proper steps to get the obstruction removed.
Outside - #3: Check the position of your dish/satellite
Typically, in North America, your satellite dish should be facing toward the southern part of the sky. However, there are specific coordinates that need to be followed. Professional installers configure the dish’s orientation to account for these when they set it up.
Over time, wind, objects, or otherwise can knock your dish’s alignment a few degrees out of whack.
The simplest way to check for this is to call up your satellite internet provider and request that they come check things out. However, you can also contact them to find out which satellite is servicing your area and what its direct bearing is.
You can then use a compass app to find that bearing, rotate your dish to match, then angle it up 30 degrees.
Part 2: Inside Tips
Once all the hardware outside is optimized, you can start adjusting things inside.
Inside - #1: Reset the modem/router
The quickest and simplest way to start inside is by following the old adage: turn it off and on again.
Often, your internet equipment inside – the modem and router – can develop a bug or an error in the software or firmware. Restarting them can help give you a clean slate and may speed things up.
To do so, just turn off the modem and hit the reset button on the back of your router. If either doesn’t have a power or reset button, just unplug the device. In those cases, wait around 60 seconds, then plug it back in/turn it back on.
Let everything cycle through the reboot, then connect to the internet and open a web browser. Try out your normal activities online and see if the speed has improved. You can also run another speed test.
Inside - #2: Update the firmware
As alluded to, sometimes your router/modem’s firmware needs to be updated. If it’s not up to date, then your internet won’t be able to run smoothly. To check for updates, locate your IP address: it should be a sticker on the router or modem.
Once you have your IP address, open your web browser and type the IP address into your search bar. It should bring up an internal web page; click the option to update the firmware for your router/modem. Then just follow the instructions to update.
Inside - #3: Reduce simultaneous usage
To begin with, if you’re having trouble with speed, make sure you’re limiting the number of windows, applications, downloads, and other online activities going on at once. Large files, like videos, are especially good at slowing down your internet.
In addition, disconnect any devices from the internet that you’re not using! You might be surprised to notice how many of your devices are sapping your bandwidth without you realizing it. Some things that are often connected 24/7 include:
- Gaming systems (Xbox, PS4, etc)
- Smart TVs
- Wireless printers
- And more
To really pinpoint speed-hoggers, disconnect devices one at a time. Every time you disconnect a device, run a new speed test and make a note.
If you need to keep multiple devices connected at all times, use this testing method to diagnose which devices have the greatest effect on your speeds – then do your best to keep those disconnected when not in use.
How to reduce latency on satellite internet
The short: latency is delay. In more words: it’s the time between you “clicking” on something and the desired response happening – i.e. the thing you clicked on loading. It’s referred to as “ping” when you run speed tests.
Because satellites are so far away, there’s a lot of distance for your data to cover (22,300 miles). That automatically means there will be greater latency with satellite internet than other types that travel shorter distances.
However, there are some ways you can reduce it for gaming:
- All/any of the above tips
- Using a wired connection (Ethernet cable) instead of Wi-Fi
- Connecting to local game servers