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The Internet

Another Stab At Internet Access By Satellite 311

dpilgrim writes "As someone who probably won't live long enough to see DSL or cable Internet reach my rural neighborhood, I follow the 'Satellite Wars' pretty closely. Looks like Echostar is claiming once again they have a viable high-speed Internet access satellite under construction. Really. They do. According to this AP story, they have pictures and all. The big news is that based on this 'new evidence' the FCC has rescinded their revocation of Echostar's license. Yes, this submission came to you 44,000 miles over Starband's satellite link, and Starband is an Echostar partner. Wonder how long that relationship will last?"
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Another Stab At Internet Access By Satellite

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  • Maybe I'm mistaken, but isn't this still mostly a one-way solution? All the people I know that have used satellite internet get decent downstream speeds (when it's not cloudy anyways) but are still forced to rely on a regular dialup connection for their upstream.

    Has the technology been developed to make this a true broadband solution like cable/dsl is now? If so, I'm sure many rural types would be interested in jumping on that bandwagon...since they really have no other option.
  • DirecWay (Score:3, Informative)

    by DreamTheater ( 172259 ) <markNO@SPAMmarkrichman.com> on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @03:55PM (#4718488) Homepage
    I am a DirecWay user, after having moved out of the range of DSL. AT&T Broadband doesn't offer Cable Modem service in my town. I can honestly say DirecWay sucks, but its just slightly better than dialup, so I guess I can justify its ridiculous cost. The second DSL is available in my area, I'm switching back.
  • Physics (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I had to do a few homework assignments about satalite networks in college and the physics seem to make this a waste of time. It takes too long for the signal to get up and down and back. Customers will likely just stick with the fast and reliable land based lines.
    • People don't get satellite based internet service because it's better than DSL/cable- it's not. Like everyone has said, the latency is horrible. They get it because they live out in the boonies and don't have access to DSL or cable. Satellite based 'net is better than dial-up, which is often the only other option.
    • That's funny. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mindstrm ( 20013 )
      Because I have satellite internet here... it's full duplex 1.5Mbps. Yes, the latency is high, 420ms for the satellite hop, but other than that, and the occasional solar outage, which is entirely predictable, it works just fine. Realtime gaming is out, of course, but surfing is fine. You do notice the latency, but it's not enough to annoy you.

      And you totally missed the point.. satellite internet is always going to have high latency, yes, but the coverage is excellent.. it's ideal for places that don't have land based lines.

      Obviously if a high speed landline is available, you won't choose satellite.
  • by WhaDaYaKnow ( 563683 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @03:55PM (#4718494)
    While on the subject, can anyone comment on what their experience is with satellite based internet connections? How fast, what sort of latencies, downtime, weather impact etc.

    I'm interested to get a DirecWay [direcway.com] system, but one of the things that worries me is that it requires special software (supposedly).
    • but one of the things that worries me is that it requires special software (supposedly).

      It does, at least with Starband and the 360 model modems. I'm assuming the DirecWay are the same type of setup. It needs to munge up your whole TCP/IP stack, or else you get really shitty throughput. Not going to work on an unsupported OS.

      Of course, you can use a pentium 166 as a Win2k router running tiny personal firewall, and then at least you don't have to use Windows on a real computer.
    • Have a couple coworker using direcway. They just setup a pc using win2k running ICS to do the connection and then share it into a proper setup. They get pretty good speed, fast enough that they don't complain about large attachments like some of the people on slow dsl lines (608kbps), latencies are a bitch, over 500ms to our corporate lan. Downtime, none so far. Weather hasn't been a problem and one guy lives in the snowbelt here in Northern Ohio, average anual snowfall over 120". One's even run VoIP but the latencies were high enough to be annoying.
    • I am planning on getting a DirecWay connection as well, but I am not concerned with the influece that inclinent weather or faulty physics might have on my latency. For I intend on using Debian, which will solve all of these potential problems before they ever get the chance to make themselves known. I have been assurred repeatedly by people with numbers in their Slashdot monikers that Debian's "apt-get" will solve every computing problem in any reference frame. Rumor has it that apt-get may even unify general relativity and quantum mechanics one day soon.
    • by fobbman ( 131816 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @04:17PM (#4718706) Homepage
      I comment on satellite Internet. I was on Soviet space station Mir 7 month, and Internet connection was horrible. It was still far better than home Internet connection back in Russia.

    • by StormReaver ( 59959 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @04:27PM (#4718808)
      "I'm interested to get a DirecWay [direcway.com] system, but one of the things that worries me is that it requires special software (supposedly)."

      I've had both the DirecWay 1-way system and the 2-way system. In both cases, the hardware and software are both proprietary and work only with Windows (which is by far its biggest failing). The satellite modem is USB, and will not work with standard networking hardware. This means that there is absolutely no way to connect it to Linux. It must run through a Windows computer. You can use Windows' truly pathetic Internet Connection Sharing to share the connection with any other machine through standard networking hardware, but it is quite painful in its unreliability.

      Its saving graces are (in no particular order):

      1) It's always on if Windows hasn't crashed.

      2) Downloads are much faster than dialup (at least 400kbs -- kbs, not KBs).

      3) If you would otherwise have to purchase multiple dialup accounts for your household to allow multiple users decent Internet speeds (sharing a dialup modem among three people is not decent speed), then the long term costs can be substantially less (after the initial hardware purchase has been amortized).

      4) If you can use satellite TV, then you can use satellite Internet.

      It's primary losing fuckups:

      1) It is proprietary from head to toe, and they (so far) refuse to support anything but Windows.

      2) Upload speeds (despite the satellite transmitter) are no better than dialup.

      3) DirecWay's business admins are complete incompetent clusterfucks. If you MUST go with 2-way satellite, try Earthlink BEFORE you buy any equipment. Earthlink currently will not allow DirecWay hardware to transfer to Earthlink's service, despite the hardware being identical. I had very good experiences with Earthlink when I was on dialup, though, and would switch away from DirecWay in an instant if I could transfer my hardware.

      4) Getting started is damned expensive. The initial hardware is roughly $700, and you must agree to a 1-year commitment (which is about $70 a month, and is in addition to the hardware). Only after that first year can you go month to month.

      5) Since you have to use Windows as the "server", and Windows drops packets like rabbits breed, it can be a painful experience. It's better than sharing a dialup modem, but it's still painful.
    • by DavittJPotter ( 160113 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @04:54PM (#4719079) Homepage Journal
      I installed a Starband system at a very remote location in Wyoming for a former employer - dialup was only capable of 33.6 at best, and the phone service itself was spotty.

      Snow, heavy rain, fog, and sunspots (!) all affect the reception of this piece.

      I've done a couple more since then, and have been able to plug directly into a Linux box. Take the little plate off next to the USB port on the satellite modem - and boom, there's the Ethernet jack. Do DHCP on that interface, and you're in good shape.
      • --I've read at least a hundred articles on this satellite thing and your's was THE most helpful workaround I've seen. REMOVE THE LITTLE PLATE. I AM going to remember that. The *&*&*^% satellite bozos got a lot of nerve. You need to get modded to five like immediately. And someone who posts at mac central(anyone reading this) should stick this over there as well.
  • Speed of light (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @03:56PM (#4718515)
    You will have to wait until they eiter find a way to increase the speed of light, or launch a system of many low-orbiting satellites that provides affordable Internet access.

    A system with geostatonary satellites and light travelling at the speed it does now will not work. Never. Not even when Echostar, New Skies, Eutelsat or Astra announce it.
    • The fact is, it works as a high-bandwidth high-delay connection.

      It's not as good as cable modem, not as good as DSL, but certainly better than nothing when neither of those are availalbe.
  • 2-way does exist (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @03:58PM (#4718534)
    2-way service does exist. The latency is approx. 800ms minimum, and the download is around 400kbps (for most connections you don't pay thousands for)

    Sure modem access has lower latency, but some of the people who use sattellite use it because they have no phone lines in the area. Yes, places like this exist in the US.
  • Common in Nigeria (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @03:58PM (#4718540)
    You wonder why there are so few hits from African countries? Because the only reliable link is over satellite, which usually connects to a European ISP. Yes indeed, this message is brought to you over PanAmSat connect to the Irish Web-Sat ISP from the oil-rich country of Nigeria.

    My upstream is 64kbytes/sec, downstream is 2Mbits. Unless it rains a tropical storm, in which case the connection ceases to exist.

    For the interested, check out http://www.directonpc.com.
  • ID:4 (Score:5, Funny)

    by The_Rippa ( 181699 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @03:59PM (#4718552)
    But what about the alien threat that was presented in the Hollywood blockbusted Independence Day? Since alien's run MacOS-compatible systems and communicate using a protocol extactly similiar to our TCP/IP, this system, if put into place, would give them the last piece of the puzzle needed to blow up the White House! I urge Echostar to think of the children for Christ's sake!
    • Re:ID:4 (Score:2, Funny)

      by fobbman ( 131816 )
      "... this system, if put into place, would give them the last piece of the puzzle needed to blow up the White House!

      And this is a problem...WHY?

    • Re:ID:4 (Score:2, Funny)

      by rleibman ( 622895 )
      Which is why we should not go to IP6, it would make us incompatible with aliens and thus leave us totally unprotected.
    • Since alien's run MacOS-compatible systems and communicate using a protocol extactly similiar to our TCP/IP

      Not necessarily. It's possible for a software developer to use a Mac to emulate the aliens' computer well enough to get a virus working. It's also possible for such a developer to write a custom protocol stack in Open Transport.

  • Satellite = bad idea (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SexyKellyOsbourne ( 606860 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @04:00PM (#4718565) Journal
    Down in Antarctica, the only internet access available is by satellite -- and it's so impossibly slow that when that woman down there got breast cancer, they barely could get the doctor's recommendations and instructions for a biopsy over the satellite, since it only worked every few hours at best and the transfer rate was something akin (no exaggeration!) to 300Bps.

    In fact, it's so bad that some groups are actually considering running a digital fiber line all the way to the south pole.
    • Down in Antarctica, the only internet access available is by satellite -- and it's so impossibly slow ...

      This as far as I'm aware is because they cannot see the geosynchronous satellites that we in the normal parts of the world can. So only at certain times of the day or night do the satellites become visable and then they are very low in the sky so reception is not the best.

      As far as I know anyway...

      • You're 99% correct - satellites are put over the greatest population densities. But since these satellites are geosynchronous and don't move with respect to the earth, the time of day or the season doesn't matter (or else customers would have to move their satellite dishs).

        Even if you could get past line-of-sight problems and have a really big antenna on the ground, the satellites typically have a narrow beam that usually doesn't cover the poles, making it much harder (if not impossible) to talk to them.

        We actually did some low-speed (50 bytes/sec one-way) satellite comms near the poles for weather-sensing bouys. We used a piggy-back transponder on a weather satellite. This weather satellite (unlike most, which are geosync), was polar-orbiting, so it was dependent on the time of day. This transponder also served to relay emergency signals from ships - we were allowed to use it near the poles because they figured there wouldn't be too many ships in distress there.
    • Oh, come now . . . The fact that it doesn't work well in Antarctica is hardly a damning revelation! If you insist on living at one of the poles, you're probably going to have trouble with your utilities. :) Satellite coverage is tricky for regions beyond the sightlines of geosynchrous satellites, as Canada, Russia, and (apparently) Antarctica know all too well.

      I don't think the satellite access providers are going to be swayed by their inability to reach Antarctica's, what, 5000 inhabitants? It's like saying that phone lines are a bad idea because they won't reach the Space Station.

    • the transfer rate was something akin (no exaggeration!) to 300Bps.

      I guess they'll have to survive by watching good old VHS tapes or DVD then... :)
    • they barely could get the doctor's recommendations and instructions for a biopsy over the satellite, since it only worked every few hours at best and the transfer rate was something akin (no exaggeration!) to 300Bps.

      I'm surprised they can't get better access over the Iridium network (or whatever it's calling itself this week.) Don't those satellites converge on the poles?

    • That just means that the weather or equipment is the problem. You'll notice that the networks can run live video over satellite. Ford and probably the other auto companies have Satellite networks for distance learning, internet access, etc. to all their dealerships. It has decent speeds, but the latency is really bad if you're trying to do something like surf the web. If you can just start up a long stream (like video or large file downloads), then the latency is significantly mitigated.

    • I'm not sure about the situation down there now, but back in 1996, I used to traceroute and finger their machines occasionally for fun and I never had much of a problem reaching them. IIRC, the last hop ping times were in the 800-2000ms range. I'm not sure about the bandwidth but I seriously doubt it was as low as 300Bps.

      They used to have a machine, mcmvax.mcmurdo.gov, that you could finger. It felt kind of funny, you know, screwing around with a machine all the way down there. :)
  • Last resort (Score:5, Informative)

    by slashdot968 ( 627988 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @04:01PM (#4718575)
    The latency thing is really bad. Forget about meaningfull VPN or SSH sessions. WWW and Email is all its good for. I have it. I live in suburbia, too far from the local CO for DSL and Adelphia isn't in shape for upgrading the cable plant as they are running out of $$$ really fast. Choices are Dial-up, ISDN, or Sattelite (yes its two way). I had ISDN, but try downloading W2000 patches or the latest ISO of RedHat and you'll realize that 128K is not enough. Starband's downstream reaches almost 1Mb/s (average is around 700K or so). Its a fat pipe, but its a really long one. Latency sucks (~600ms), forget games or video conf. Upstream tops out at 110K (average ~70K). Obvious conclusion: Cable if you can get it, DSL if cable not avail. Dial-up/ISDN for interactive (if no Cable or DSL). Sat. for www or email and large downloads :).
  • I had a friend that had the early rendition which had dial-up uploads and satellite downloads. It was fast comming down, until they started capping and throttling the connection. I've seen ads for the new "two way" satellite connections (here's DirecTV's http://directv.direcway.com/) which "appear" to be DSL equivalents....
  • by mr_gerbik ( 122036 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @04:03PM (#4718596)
    How about some hardcore 802.11b. All you need is a coffee can and an old satellite dish.

    Hardcore 802.11b [ractor.org]
    • I live in an exurb area just beyond cable providers and where DSL hasn't arrived either.

      I was interested in the recent Slashdot story [slashdot.org] about the 72 mile link obtained under excruciating circumstances (unlikely to be replicated in my neighborhood).

      I've wondered whether it would be possible to use 802.11b for a neighborhood LAN cooperative where enough people could kick in subscriptions so that somewhere on the edge of civilization we could just buy a dedicated T1.

      Has anyone else done this already?

      • Have you checked out http://www.seattlewireless.net [seattlewireless.net]? This might be a good starting place for researching such a project.

        Right off the bat you will have to address two important issues.

        1) Security -- 802.11b isn't the most secure technology on the block. Having a neighborhood wide network can lead to a lot of people sniffing packets you might not want them to sniff.

        2) Dealing with your ISP. They won't be to happy about your plans to say the least. ;)

        -gerbik

        • Dealing with your ISP

          I was thinking of the cooperative just becoming an ISP through purchasing one dedicated T1 land line link, rather than have each user becoming a gateway into their ISP piggybacking traffic from others.

          Security is tough, though. I don't know enough about it except for rumours of how bad it is...

    • by op00to ( 219949 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @04:27PM (#4718809)
      You realize that's illegal, right? If you have something like that on your roof, you can be arrested and FINED and have all your related radio stuff confiscated if/when the FCC finds you -- and they DO drive around. There is a legal limit of the strength of the signal leaving an 802.11 device. By putting a very directional antenna (dish/pringles can), you effectively increase the radiated energy to what may be unsafe (and definately illegal) levels. They don't measure at the input to the antenna, but the radiated signal from the antenna. Anyhow, making your own antennas to radiate RF energy can be illegal to begin with. If you REALLY want to play with stuff like this, look into licensing yourself somehow with the FCC. The easiest way to start is a Technician class Amateur Radio license. It's a simple electronics theory and basic rules test which takes no less than 15 minutes (I did mine in 5). You get full privledges above 6 meters. That means that you can use many times more power to play with. You can move on from there to doing intercontinental datacomms using the HF bands which is a lot more fun and challenging than 802.11 will ever be.
      • Changing the attenna won't change the power output one bit. It will change the distance hte signal travels, due to gain increases, but not measured power. Its most likely, the power would be far less unless you're good at this stuff, due to SWR and the like. Good, directive dishes are easy to come by if you are in the know, but if not, forget. Besdies, since its class B, as long as it doesn't cause any interference, the FCC won't care much.

        BTW, microwaves are 1000x more fun than HF. My dad does lots of high-end (10GHz+) micro wwork, and enjoys it far more than any HF stuff he does. Besides, its far easier to care a 20" dish than a 20' dipole any day.
      • "If you have something like that on your roof, you can be arrested and FINED and have all your related radio stuff confiscated if/when the FCC finds you -- and they DO drive around"

        Yea like that's really likely. Whoever put that up has more chance of lightening hitting his dish than some FCC guy strolling through his neighborhood and thinking "hmmmm that dish lots funny, I wonder if its in spec?"

        The FCC is too busy carting money to the bank from all the kickbacks they get to spend time driving around every residential neighborhood in America. I'd be shocked if there was even 1 FCC employee whose job it is to just drive around randomly looking for antennas. That would be a colossal waste of taxpayer money.
    • Why not a phase aray and low earth orbit satilite system? It might cut down on the launch costs and your ping time. Aim, we don't need no stinking aim, it points itself. Go get it!
  • Pricing. (Score:4, Informative)

    by halftrack ( 454203 ) <`jonkje' `at' `gmail.com'> on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @04:04PM (#4718610) Homepage
    I live in rural Norway and have looked at the possibility for satellite and found TiscaliSat (should be avaiable in most countries), but the prices are high. Setting up the sat costs $2000+ and the monthly fee is $200+. I don't forsee satellite as a viable artenative for private consumers, maybe for small corporations (with need for fast connection in rural areas?)
  • Pros and Cons (Score:5, Informative)

    by Oliver Wendell Jones ( 158103 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @04:07PM (#4718630)
    Pros:

    You live in an area where satellite is your only option for high speed internet connectivity

    Certain amount of uber-geek coolness

    Uh... can't think of any others.

    Cons:

    Round trip ping times are extreme and completely unusable for online gaming

    Capped and throttled bandwidth - sure, they promise you X bits per second, but that's assuming that not all of the other customers are currently using the system - and if you use too much bandwidth, they'll either cut your speed, charge you more money, or just drop you for lower bandwidth customers

    Initial setup costs and fees. I had DirecPC for a while, and it cost me $300 for the initial equipment and that did not include installation. I had to buy a dish installation kit ($30) a hammer-drill to drill holes in a brick chimney ($50, probably not needed by most people), silicone sealant, coaxial cable, drilling holes into the house to run cable, etc.

    Service was $50 per month for "unlimited" usage between 6:00 pm and 6:00 am on weekdays and 24 hrs on weekends. But only as long as I stayed under some arbitrary (and classified) download limits, if I exceeded what they thought was an appropriate amount they would cut my speed in half until my average daily throughput fell back into their range. How exactly can you sell something as unlimited and then start setting limits without revealing what those limits are? The short answer is, you can't. That would explain why they (DirecPC) were the target of a class action lawsuit that forced them to reveal their arbitrary limits and to reword all their marketing materials to no longer promise unlimited access. The $50 per month did not include a dial-up account which was necessary to be able to use the service, so I had to continue paying $18 per month for my local ISP so I could dial up and be able to access the internet and, if I wanted to be able to talk on the phone while on the net, I had to pay for a second phone line.

    I now have DSL with a set speed, there is no slow down to other users, there are no arbitrary limits or thresholds (except on their crummy news servers which I don't use anyways), I have 24/7 access without the loss of a phone line and I only pay $49.99 per month. It's hard to beat that.

    • Uhm, you could not pay $49.99??

      That's a pretty high premium if you think about it. I realize that cable costs and what-not have risen sharply over the last 5 years... but something tells me that $49.99 is a pretty comfortable margin for your local telco.
    • Re:Pros and Cons (Score:5, Interesting)

      by debrain ( 29228 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @04:28PM (#4718811) Journal
      Round trip ping times are extreme and completely unusable for online gaming

      I was under the impression, by calculating the distances using the speed of light in a vacuum, that LEO (low earth orbit, eg. iridium) satellites had ping times in the 20 ms range, whereas GEO (geosynchronous earth orbit) satellites were in the 500 ms range.

      Which is fine and dandy for LEO, but is this solution a GEO one? If GEO, then the ping time is a problem. But if it is a LEO solution, not so much. In fact, I get longer ping times to my cable provider from my telco.

      The LEO 20 ms would be round trip airwave; presumably the sat. provider would put the hubs on the backbones. Or be backbones themselves.

      • Re:Pros and Cons (Score:2, Informative)

        by FaRuvius ( 69578 )
        Yes, they are geo-sync satellites. At least for the current crop of offerings (direcway from directv and starband).

        They broadcast the data from the same satellites they broadcast TV from, which are all in geosync orbit.

        Low pingtimes are not only crappy for games, but for downloading image + ad heavy web pages. Each image results in a seperate request. So it basically like a 56k modem for surfing. But downloads fly, with burst speeds that are really high(i don't remember the number, but its like 2000K/sec)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @04:08PM (#4718639)
    Disclaimer: I work for a satellite tv & internet access installation company (which is why I'm posting anonymously). We don't do one-way systems anymore; they're all two-way.

    If you're in the boonies without DSL (first choice), cable (second choice), then access via satellite makes sense. I've seen upstream between 30kbps and 100kbps and downstream averages >1Mbps. If you play games then latency will be an issue. It takes a while to send data to and fro orbit.

    I'm glad to see competition; it keeps us sharp and it's good for the end user. With the merger dead, EchoStar is going to have some serious hurdles to overcome. When Ka band service comes online, SpaceWay is going to up the ante considerably with its "switch in the sky" broadband. I doubt that EchoStar will be able to compete significantly in this arena for some time. Hughes is going to be a difficult nut for those folks to crack.

    While not great for gaming, most folks are very happy with two-way satellite internet access.

    Even if you do have cable, DSL, or a frac-T1 satellite internet access provides a great backup in the event your primary access goes down.

  • Did a quick google search and came up with this article:

    http://www.pcworld.com/news/article/0,aid,81284, 00 .asp

    Which says that 68% of homes have access to broadband. (I assume that means DSL and cable modems). As someone else so eloquently put before, "satellite latency sucks".

    So that means that satellite is targeting the remaining 32%... minus those that have trees or mountains obstructing the southwest sky... lets see, rural folks that don't have trees... i smell a money maker
  • by IGnatius T Foobar ( 4328 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @04:15PM (#4718688) Homepage Journal
    The basic problem with satellite-based Internet access is physically unsolvable: even though speeds are in the multimegabit range, the latency is unacceptable for chatty applications. The time it takes a radio signal to get from an uplink dish, to the satellite, and back to a downlink dish, is in the multi hundred millisecond range -- and it can't be sped up without, to paraphrase our old friend Scotty, changing the laws of physics.

    Good bandwidth combined with crappy latency is just fine if all you're doing is downloading. A transfer that takes 30 seconds still takes 30 seconds, so who cares if it started and ended one second later? E-mail ... usually not a problem either. But web pages? It's going to feel a bit sluggish, as those pages take a second or two to start loading, even if they do load fast once they start. You can completely forget about using telnet or SSH. If you remember what netlag was like when the Internet was still using a lot of 56k and 19.2k connections -- that's what it's like with satellite.

    I'm glad to see that there are more options opening up, but the latency of satellite Internet is something that cannot be fixed.
    • I once heard something about someone wanting to try using one of those NASA solar-powered airplanes as a relay point. It's high enough up to be "equivalent" to a satellite and is able to fly in circles and act "geostationary". But at the same time, it's a lot lower, so the latency wouldn't be a problem. It sounds like an interesting compromise - scalable, too. (More bandwidth => more planes => more collision-avoidance algorithms)
    • The solution to this is making the satellites closer, ie LEO (Low Earth Orbit). Alas, the only potential provider for LEO IP access has died on the vine [teledesic.com].

      Sigh.

      Still waiting for decent, interactive internet access anywhere on the globe.

      -c

    • maybe there's a niche where 56k for interactive
      type things like ssh and port 80 could be used
      and satellite could be used for bulk data ftp/email?

      how to make the http request and response take advantage of the bw in the satellite but keep
      the responsiveness of dsl/modem would be a problem

    • Another problem - at least if you use IE - is that the number of simultaneous connections IE will open to transfer data is limited to 4.

      You can hack this, though. In the registry editor, add the following values to the key "HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Curr entVersion\Internet Settings":

      - DWORD MaxConnectionsPerServer: some number
      - DWORD MaxConnectionsPer1_0Server: some number

      (I don't know what the analagous settings are for Mozilla, or even if it has any.)

      If you have extreme bandwidth and extreme latency, a high number of simultaneous connections can really make a big difference.
    • Completely forgetting about telnet is not a bad idea. But SSH? Even over satellite, it's really quite reliable.

      I work for a company that provides internet access to REALLY rural schools. Bush Alaska. It's hard to get more rural than that.

      I oversee the maintenance of over 140 servers across the state (at least one per site) and have to both use SSH and a web interface on a regular basis. Not just to monitor the server status, but also to UPDATE the damn things (software packages of over 20 MB on occasion).

      Unless the weather at the site is crap (or has been, and has knocked the dish off axis a bit) I hardly ever have trouble with keeping a reliable SSH connection. Waiting for the web interface to load takes a bit more time over the satellite link is a noticible delay, but it doesn't render my job impossible. Not even unenjoyable. We used to use NT 4 and PC Anywhere. That was unenjoyable, but not impossible.

      Yeah, we use a proxy (Squid) at the sites to make browsing a bit more responsive (it is a noticeable difference), but that doesn't affect messengers (MSN, Yahoo, AIM) or video conferencing (distance learning, or one teacher at one site teaching classes at several sites, WITH INTERACTION).

      Sure, satellite sucks in comparison to terrestrial bandwidth delivery, but it's not the tar pit that so many people here claim it to be.
  • We have it at work (Score:3, Insightful)

    by freakyfreak2 ( 613574 ) <jeff@j-ma[ ]net ['xx.' in gap]> on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @04:17PM (#4718705) Homepage Journal
    We have Starband here at work. I hate it. Ping times average around 1.5 seconds. It is hell to work in SSH or even FTP anything. Things time-out all the time and it disconnects if a bird lands on the dish. As soon as we can get DSL we are switching. I don't even use it anymore. I forced them to get a dial up account so I can do my work. I was spending a 3rd of my time waiting for things to upload. I pick dial-up any day over sattelite.
  • ...if companies have to seek for a license before they can show a functional prototype of the satellite...that's just absurd.. or maybe I have just followed this badly - but this is the impression I have got.
  • by tuxlove ( 316502 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @04:23PM (#4718767)
    While I'm glad for the guy in the middle of nowhere now that he finally has some way to access the Internet, I do not envy anyone who has to use satellite for their Internet connection. The laws of physics dictate that you will get a minimum of 500 milliseconds ping time to anywhere on the net. Packets must travel 22k miles from the planet to the satellite, then 22k miles back down to your ISP. That's already about 240 milliseconds. Then add the transit time from your ISP to the destination site; for the sake of argument, say it's instantaneous and adds no transit time. Then add in the return trip of 240 milliseconds, for a total of 480 milliseconds. This represents the absolute minimum round-trip time for data sent via satellite. Of course, in the real world, it will be somewhat longer than that, but it depends on your ISP and the rest of the hops between you and the destination.

    In terms of realtime games, this sucks bigtime. In terms of web browsing, it can also be quite annoying. A friend of mine had to dump his satellite connection because the latency made web browsing unpleasant and he was at a serious disadvantage in online gaming. That's not to say that throughput is bad, however. It can be quite good, but because of the latency it's probably best suited for non-interactive stuff like transmitting large data files, email, etc.

    If I lived in the boondocks, I probably wouldn't hesitate to get satellite. Otherwise I would stay away!
  • The Federal Communications Commission in June revoked EchoStar's license for using the high-speed Ka-band frequency because it said the satellite TV company missed construction milestones.

    EchoStar immediately appealed and submitted a photograph of a satellite under construction with the high-speed capability.


    Gee, maybe all Saddam has to provide is photographic evidence and an appeal to overcome US objections to missing disarmament deadlines? ;)

  • Upstream latency (Score:3, Interesting)

    by C.U.T.M. ( 595268 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @04:26PM (#4718803)
    I work with a guy that has satellite 'net access and the only issue he's had with it is the upstream latency, which is why they do not suggest it for real-time gaming. Other than that he's pleased with it, but I've never actually sat in front of his machine.

    As for my own personal satellite experience, I worked with a business that used satellite internet access and it was horribly slow. The only thing I could figure out was that the provider sucked and it's not a usual satellite internet issue seeing as how my friend and others are happy with it.
  • I only have a three-word reply:

    "4,000 milisecond latency."

    Just ask India, because that's all they have.
  • Are these geosyncro like the TV satellites, or a constellation like Iridium (and Teledesic, before they folded)?

    It makes a big difference -- Do you have a dish that points to one spot in the sky, or do you link to a series of sats as they pass overhead? In other words, will this work while you're mobile, or do you have to be in a fixed spot? And is the coverage global or regional? Will it reach Alaska and Hawaii or are they too far off-center?

  • by ScooterBill ( 599835 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @04:41PM (#4718948)
    I have one word for you rural people...Wireless. I too was without cable/DSL due to our mountaintop home, then as I was picking up the phone to order a satellite link I accidently heard of a wireless service that had just popped up. Works like a charm even though we're miles away from the transmitter. Look for this stuff to pop up in your neighborhood. It's 802.11a technology. Latency? I think a whopping 50ms.
  • by uradu ( 10768 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @04:52PM (#4719065)
    There's more to life than gaming. On an average business day I bet your average large corporation firewall adds more latency than satellite when everyone is refreshing their home pages on cnn.com or weatherchannel.com. Much of the day reading /. can be a serious pain, quite apart from the marginal posts. For the people that can't get anything else, 1-second delays ain't nothing.
  • by shepd ( 155729 ) <slashdot DOT org AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @04:56PM (#4719116) Homepage Journal
    Now try the best. [nebulink.net]

    No, I don't work for them. No, I don't use their service anymore (I got WiFi based 'net now). Yes, they support Linux (they even developed a custom, in-house applicaiton for it). No, they don't do any of that leaky-bucket BS that infuriates anyone using most of the competing services. Yes, they sell to anyone who can receive their signal in any country. [Canadians note: If you get their service and want to remain within the law, avoid surfing any sites within Canada].

    The coolest part is that it's Ku-Band and it uses standard DVB. This means you can get the dish to receive it for next to nothing, and you can use _any_ DVB card you like.

    Oh, and I wrote a (crappy) mini-HOWTO for Linux that you can check on their forums (sorry, they're locked to the public).
  • by StillTrekkin ( 618037 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @04:59PM (#4719158)
    Since no other broadband option was available I use Direcway. Here are my current stats:
    Pinging aol.com [64.12.149.24] with 32 bytes of data:

    Reply from 64.12.149.24: bytes=32 time=761ms TTL=50
    Reply from 64.12.149.24: bytes=32 time=738ms TTL=50
    Reply from 64.12.149.24: bytes=32 time=738ms TTL=50
    Reply from 64.12.149.24: bytes=32 time=818ms TTL=50

    Ping statistics for 64.12.149.24:
    Packets: Sent = 4, Received = 4, Lost = 0 (0% loss),
    Approximate round trip times in milli-seconds:
    Minimum = 738ms, Maximum = 818ms, Average = 763ms

    For more info on Sat. internet try:
    http://www.dslreports.com/forum/sat
    and
    ht tp://www.broadbandreports.com/faq/satellite
  • by mindstrm ( 20013 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @05:25PM (#4719343)
    - Satellite internet is not "useless" nor is it "Untolerable for websurfing" or "useless for ssh or telnet".

    - There is a latency due to the speed of light. It is not 800ms minimum as some people are claiming. In my case about 420ms round trip. This is not quite like latency on really congested internet connections, where latency tends to fluctuate.. it's just a steady, unchanging 420ms added to everything.

    - Latency will be higher at higher lattitudes; I'm at about 10 degrees north.

    - TCP has no fundamental issues with this extra latency; in fact it deals with it JUST FINE. What TCP *does* have an issue with is the data link layer losing packets for reasons OTHER than congestion. That means if your satellite gear is crappy, small dish, weak signal, and you are losing a percentage of traffic due to noise, TCP will become almost useless (it will keep backing off thinking it's reducing congestion) On the other hand, with adequately powered gear, and a dish with the proper gain, this is NOT a problem whatsoever.

    - The TCP hacks that consumer satellite services use are NOT fundamentally necessary for satellite internet; they are a result of cheap gear and small dishes that are provided for home use.

    - The reason satellite is harder from higher lattitudes is because satellites are lower on the horizon, you have to go through more atmosphere to see them, they are farther away, and you are on the edge of the footprint where signal is weakest.

    - Not all internet connections use landline; major isps in smaller countries have satellite backup for their landline connections. If a satellite connection can carry an entire country's internet traffic, it's hardly "useless"

    - Weather can affect radio reception, but again, this depends largely on the power levels involved, and the gain of the dish used. The difference between a 2 foot dish on your balcony, and a 15 foot dish on the roof is huge.

    - Full duplex connections are entirely possible, and need not be asymetric... but they require a good transmitter on the ground. Home connections will be asymetric, because nobody wants to fork out for high power gear at home.

    - Satellite internet need not be proprietary. This is an artifact of tryign to bring cheap gear for home use. I have seen satellite gear in use that has standard ports; either ethernet, or v.35 for hookup to a good old cisco router.

    Now I'm not saying that these current consumer satellite internet services are good... they may very well suck.. but let's be clear on what pros/cons are a result of the fact that they are usign satellite, and which ones are the results of stupid decisions by the providers.

  • "from the when-will-it-be-national-and-mobile dept."

    Yeah, like we all want the average idiot to be running around with high-powered microwave transmitters. The "fun" to be had with aircraft alone is scary enough. There's a reason why the FCC (and probably the FAA as well) requires DirecWay to install their two-way dishes professionally.

APL is a write-only language. I can write programs in APL, but I can't read any of them. -- Roy Keir

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