Without satellites, we wouldn’t have GPS or the ability to pull up directions from our cell phones. Satellites connect us to the world even from remote locations and send info around the globe in mere seconds. The world as we currently know it would be vastly different without this technology.
How do people connect to the internet today? Around 38.21 percent of total web traffic in North America is via mobile devices. When you look at internet providers in the United States, about 6.7 percent use satellite to provide services, as compared to 83.5 percent that utilize broadband and 72.5 percent that use a cellular data plan. Satellite may not be the most popular choice among internet subscription types, but keep in mind that broadband such as DSL still isn’t an option in many rural areas of the U.S. Some people also choose satellite due to the lag times of more popular providers, which often take on too many customers and create overcrowding situations.
You might wonder how using satellite internet impacts your overall user experience (UX) and how you can create a positive experience for your users via a satellite connection. Here, we’ll discuss how satellite internet intertwines with a user’s overall experience.
Just How Fast Are Download Speeds?
Many people fear satellite internet could be slower than DSL or cable. While this is sometimes true, satellite is other times faster and more reliable if you factor in the downtime experienced from overcrowded cable or DSL providers.
Satellite internet improved vastly from the early years. For example, Viasat is one of the most popular satellite internet service providers and has download speeds between 12 to 100 Mbps, depending upon your area and the package. The other satellite service provider, HughesNet, offers rates up to 25 Mbps.
Will Upload Speeds Lag?
Upload speeds will always be a bit slower than download speeds no matter what type of internet provider you have. While you should generally expect slower upload speeds than download speeds, the actual rate depends on where you live. The more rural you are, the more likely speeds will lag.
Unless you often upload files due to jobs such as design work, these upload speeds are rarely a problem. If you only upload occasionally, such as when you save family photos, you can always upload the files somewhere with a faster connection.
Speed and User Design
How exactly does internet speed impact the UX of your designs? Obviously, you want to limit the number of videos that automatically stream on your site. There will be times when any internet provider has lower speeds than others. The last thing a user wants is to do is wait around for your site to load.
If you want your page to load at lightning speed, keep the overall design as simple as possible. Images are fine, but make sure to optimize them and use smart design strategies such as CSS and image caching. Test your site regularly in site speed wizards such as Pingdom’s and get feedback on ways to deliver content faster. The more quickly your page loads for everyone, the faster it loads for satellite internet users.
Data Plan Cons
Viacom now offers “unlimited” data plans, so users don’t have to worry as they once did about every bit of their data use. However, as anyone who has ever taken out website hosting knows, “unlimited” plans aren’t truly unlimited. After a certain number of gigs, Viacom may slow down your speeds.
So, a user who games every day and uses a ton of data isn’t able to suck up all the resources and leave the user who only goes online to check their email without a fast connection. This is true for nearly any type of internet service provider, however, and not just satellite.
Limitations to Satellites
Only so many satellites are in orbit. Testing and launching a satellite into space is extraordinarily expensive — ranging to the tune of $290 million in some cases. Only about 1,500 satellites are currently out there, but that number may increase in coming years as the world uses the technology more and more.
Still, only large companies have the ability to create, test and launch a new satellite under the jurisdiction of the government, so don’t expect big changes in the costs and data plan structure anytime soon. With only two satellite companies at this time, the competition simply isn’t there to create significant changes for consumers.
Gaming Sites and Latency Thoughts
If you run a gaming site or you’re a gamer, the problem with using satellite internet isn’t in the speeds so much as the latency of satellites. Fortunately, a few things can make a gamer’s user experience better when using satellite internet. Packet loss and latency may make it difficult for people to play first-person games such as Overwatch but shouldn’t create a noticeable difference in role-playing games (RPGs) such as World of Warcraft.
If you’ve designed a game or are a gamer, here are some tips for you or your players on reducing latency and packet loss:
- Use a wired connection and not Wi-Fi.
- Turn off anything running in the background, such as downloads.
- Shut down programs such as Netflix, Hulu, etc.
- Use game servers nearest to where you live.
You can’t completely control latency because your computer has to send the data up to the satellite, and then the satellite must send the data to the gaming server and then in reverse back to you. Although the process is much faster than it sounds, your gaming will be a bit different on satellite — just not impossible.
Unique Considerations of Satellite Users
In some places, satellite internet is the only option. Keep in mind that it may cost these users a bit more money than options available in bigger cities. If the UX on your site is built to maximize their experience, they’re much more likely to return in the future and tell others about your business.
About The Author
Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her re-reading the Harry Potter series, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or hanging out with her dog, Bear.