Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Satellite Broadband?

Broadband is the term used to describe 'fast' speeds (data rates) to access the Internet. By 'fast' is meant speeds several times the speeds traditionally achieved over the older telephone modems/ISDN lines (up to 64kbps).

First early definitions of broadband referred to speeds up to 512kbps (1/2 Mbps), but today a speed of up to 2Mbps is considered as the minimum data rate expected for broadband access. It was Satellite systems that were the first to deliver broadband downlinks up to 2Mbps to homes on the downlink (from the Internet to your computer).

Today satellite supports much faster broadband links without the problems of distance to the exchange found on terrestrial systems. Satellite is therefore an important technology to deliver broadband Internet to the many people and businesses that get poor or no broadband service via terrestrial networks.For most people a speed of up to 8Mbps is adequate for most needs.

What Does Installation Involve?

Installation of a two-way satellite terminal is more complex than a receive-only terminal (such as Sky TV). This is because the dish must be pointed much more accurately to meet the stringent transmit requirements. Therefore a professional installer will visit your site. Good quality installation is the most critical issue for reliable satellite broadband.

Normally a site survey is not required.

In most cases the dish will be wall mounted, though alternatives do exist if this is not possible (e.g. for line of sight to the satellites). The installer will first locate a clear line of sight to the satellite and then consult with you on where best to mount the dish. The Installer will then mount and accurately point the dish at the satellite.

Two cables (one for receive, one for transmit) are then routed from the radio transciever into your house to where the satellite indoor unit (IDU or modem) is located. Again the best routing of this cable will be agreed with you.

Once connected, the installer will configure the terminal using a laptop and then carry out an autocommissioning test. After these tests are completed your satellite terminal will be ready to be used. The installer will demonstrate Internet access to you.

Is Satellite Broadband Reliable?

Satellite communication technology has been around for over 40 years providing reliable service to millions of users worldwide. Once a terminal is installed with a clear sight of the satellite there are no obstructions to stop the signal getting to the satellite and then from the satellite to the hub. There are no cables to break, relay stations to fail nor is there any issue depending how far you are from the exchange.

Satellite broadband is used by the military, emergency services, banks, hospitals and many other mission critical applications where reliability is a top priority. Satellite networks today are designed to provide better than 99.5% availability (i.e. less than 44 hours network downtime in a year) which is a higher specification than many other networks in operation today.

The equipment installed at your site is designed to compensate for nearly all weather conditions that you will experience in the region.With today's technology once a terminal has been installed, you can expect the terminal to work without equipment failure for over five years.

Unless you need to use an application where response time is critical (i.e. requiring less than 700msec. response time), the latency over the satellite will have little affect on the running of your applications. Thus we do not recommend a satellite link for fast interactive games, however it is perfect for web browsing, file transfer, video/audio streaming, email, telephony, video conferencing, distance education, etc. 50% of installed two-way satellite interactive terminals are located in the USA and Western Europe, thus satellite is clearly not a system just for where terrestrial networks are unavailable.

One critical issue for reliable satellite broadband is the quality of the installation. Most failures that require a site visit are found to be due to poor installation. That is why Prime Satellite Broadband only uses trained, accredited, professional installers who are continuously quality monitored. Thus you can be sure that we will ensure that your installation will be of high quality to give you trouble-free Internet access. All Installation work is warranted for 12 months.

Is The Satellite Link Affected By Weather?

The dish and mount used are designed to withstand winds of over 120mph and it is important that the wall or whatever the dish is mounted on is also strong enough to withstand these pressures. Our professional installers will check that the structure that they mount the dish on is adequate. For this reason we generally do not install the dish on chimneys unless they are structurally strong enough.

Rain, mist and snow do cause the satellite radio signals to deteriorate (through attenuation and additional noise). Modern satellite systems are able to adapt the power and use adaptive error correction techniques to compensate for these changes at a single terminal level. The dish size and transmit power of the transciever are set so that under normal UK weather conditions (including rain and clouds) the standard settings give very good signal levels. In heavier rain or snow the system automatically adjusts power and error correction to keep the link working. If there is a severe storm resulting in a rainfall akin to a cloud burst or a very heavy blizzard, then the signal will deteriorate or sometimes be lost completely. In the UK and Ireland these extreme weather conditions are rare (3 or 4 times a year) and generally last about 5 to 10 minutes.

In heavy snowfalls and persistant freezing weather you may experience a loss of signal due to snow or ice accumulating on the dish or the transciever feedhorn. Using a soft brush you can wipe away the snow and ice to restore your link. Do be careful that you do not scratch or break the dish or feedhorn and never go up ladders of high places in icy conditions.

What Is Latency?

Latency is the time that it takes to get a response back after a request is made across the Internet link. Thus it includes the time that a request takes to go from your computer through the Internet to the destination remote server and then back again.

Satellite systems have high latency due to the distance from Earth to the satellite (approx. 24,350 miles). The radio waves travel at the speed of light and take about 260 milliseconds to travel from the satellite terminal dish to the satellite and then back down to the Earth station dish. It will take another 260 milliseconds for the response to travel from the Earth station dish to the satellite and then back down to the satellite terminal dish. Thus we have 520 msec. latency just for the data to travel between Earth and the satellite. There is also time required for the data to travel through the Internet and processing in the satellite network. Typically the latency will vary between 600 msec. to 800 msec. with an average of 700msec on a satellite link.

There is no physical possible way of decreasing the latency across fixed location satellite links, however there are many methods used to alleviate the effects of this latency so that most applications work fine over a satellite link. Over 1 million satellite terminals worldwide are a testament to this.

Due to the high latency over satellite fast interactive gaming is not recommended over satellite links.

What Is Data Volume And Throttling?

Data volume is the amount of data usually measured in 1000 million bytes (a GByte) over a period of time (e.g. a calendar month or 30 days etc.)

Everyone is different with different reasons for using the Internet. Some will be light users (low data volume) and others heavy users (high data volume). Satellite broadband is the same as all other broadband systems and the bandwidth (defined as the headline 'up to' data rate) is shared by many users. We can talk about contention - the number of people sharing the link to the Internet, but this is not very useful as people use the Internet at different times and we also need to know whether the users are light or heavy users - You would get better service with 100 light users on a link than 20 heavy users!

To be able to ensure the quality of the service it is important to define who are light users and who are the heavy users. This is done by defining usage in terms of the actual volume of data that is transferred through your satellte terminal. Data is measured in units called Bytes and monthly data usage defined in the number of GBytes (Giga Bytes - 1000 million bytes). A fair policy is therefore used whereby people pay for how much they use each month or 30 day period. Thus services are defined in terms of GBytes used per month and the more GBytes required the higher the price of the service. Thus we can manage the network to ensure that there is enough capacity in the network with good quality services with everyone paying a tariff based on what they use.

One way of managing the network based on data volume limits is to use a tool called throttling. Throttling is the term used where the data rates are reduced greatly to low levels (such as 64kbps) when the data volume limit is reached. This may be to the end of the calendar month (and the count reset to zero and data rates restored at the start of the month) or by rolling periods where the counter is continuous with no reseting to zero such that throttling is executed when the limit over the period just past has been exceeded.

Prime Satellite Broadband uniquely do not use throttling to low data rates. Data volume is provided on trust. If a customer exceeds their data volume limit an advisory email is sent to the customer. On PRO services Prime Satellite Broadband are unique in the market in that we do not take any automatic action. If such customers regularly go over (monitored over 3 months) or go over by more than 30% of the limit we will speak with the customer to look at upgrading their service. For RESIDENTIAL services we do operate a Fair Access Policy (FAP) where we will reduce the headline data rate (this is the maximum up to data rate), though these are still at good broadband speeds. See the details for each service to see what how the FAP operates for the service.

How Can I check The Speed Of My Link?

Most (if not all) web sites that provide broadband speed checks do not cope well with the high latency over the satellite link. The methods they use sees the latency as congestion and assume that speeds measured are much lower than are achievable. Thus the reported speed is much lower than that which is possible over the link.

Therefore Avanti provide their own web site page that enables you to test the speed across your satellite link much more accurately. The URL of this web page is Please use this web page when testing the speed of your link.

What Can I Connect To My Satellite Service?

The satellite modem acts as a standard IP router. This means that it sits between your local equipment (Computers, routers, Etheret switches, etc.) and the satellite link and works with any device that supports standard Internet protocols. Thus it will work with all Computers loaded with Windows (XP or 7, 8 and older versions too), Apple Macs and iPads and any cable router (wireless or wired).

Note that if you want to attach a router (with or without wireless) to the satellite modem it must be a cable router - similar to that used on Virgin Media cable systems. Do not use an ADSL router that is used on a telephone line as the satellite modem's interface is a standard RJ45 Ethernet port.

Therefore you can connect wirelessly to the network using any off-the-shelf wireless cable router from purchased from a computer shop or online. Prime Satellite Broadband optionally can provide a wireless cable router - just select this option when ordering.

Can I Play Online Games On Satellite Broadband?

Yes, but if you play fast interactive games that depend on your reaction time, then it is not recommended due to the high latency (response time) over the satellite link. Games that do not require fast interactive responses will work well and many custmers successfully play these games over our satellite links.

In some situations when using some consoles, you may need to ensure certain the messages (called packets) received over the Internet are correctly transferred to the console. This may require port forwarding to be set up on your router. We can support you for this set up and on request set up your satelite modem as a bridge rather than a router so you can control the destination of specific packets through your own router. Instructions to set up this on your router are usually found on your console's support web site.

When Can I Expect To Have Service After My Order?

Prime Satellite Broadband seeks to install within 2 weeks from order. Often we can do better than that. The main issue is your location and the availability of an installer to visit you. Installers aim to be booked up at all times so typically they have to find a slot in their schedule to arrange the visit. Prime Satellite Broadband aims to always have stock available to send to you (or the installer in some cases) so this is rarely a cause of delay.

If a site survey is deemed necessary or requested, then this may delay the installation.

We will always liaise with you to confirm the installation date. Your service will start immediately after installation has been completed.

Do VPN's Work Over Satellite?

Yes, they do. There are many different VPN products on the market and it is true that a very small minority do have difficulty working over satellite. In most cases this is because these products are intolerant of the latency over the satellite. Most manufacturers, however, have fixed this as many people want to use VPN over mobile phone links or from long distances both which can introduce latency equivalent or higher to that on satellite links. You do not need a static public IP address with many VPN products since they are designed to work with dynamic IP addresses. This is a result of the increased need for people to set up VPNs while traveling or from home using cable modem broadband where dynamic IP addressing is used.

The real question to ask is what is the performance of VPN over high latency links such as satellite. With satellite latency of around 700ms the encryption of the Internet protocol header (TCP/IP) on some VPNs results in a limitation of the maximum data rate you can achieve for each session (around 64kbps for default settings in PCs). Please contact Prime Satellite Broadband if you wish to use a VPN over the satellite link for advise. We recommend use of SSL VPN over satellite links, but there are solutions available for other VPNs.