satillite internet speed
April 9, 2012 8:03 AM   Subscribe

How can someone who is a average computer user boost the satellite internet speed in rural area?

My friend just moved out to a rural ranch area and now has to rely on Huges Net satellite. He plays Second Life and finds the lag terrible. He has a fast computer. Step by step info would be helpful if you would be so kind ... :) thanks in advance!
posted by ConnieL to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
There is probably nothing that can be done - satellite connections are laggy because the signal is traveling at the speed of light up to a satellite (I think they use Galaxy 3C) 22,236 miles away and then back down. That takes about a quarter second, which is a lot for lag sensitive games.
posted by ChrisHartley at 8:15 AM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Hughes is particularly bad. After This AskMe last year, I poked around a little bit and found this start-up, but really, it's still not a great solution.
posted by Oktober at 8:17 AM on April 9, 2012

Long story short: Your friend is much, much better off if they can get 3g cellphone access than if they stick with Hughes.
posted by Oktober at 8:23 AM on April 9, 2012

I have some relatives that rely on DirecPC and the lag - and monthly cap on total bandwidth usage - is terrible. So bad, in fact, that sharing a 3G hotspot on an iPhone tends to have better overall response. Is that a possible option? Not sure how great it'd be for gaming, but it was tolerable for surfing and e-mail during our last visit.
posted by jquinby at 8:24 AM on April 9, 2012

We live in the country with no cable available and have a Verizon 3G USB modem attached to our desktop that works quite well - we don't notice any additional lag beyond the typical coffee shop Wifi. It's $50 for 5 GB a month, though.
posted by rfs at 9:00 AM on April 9, 2012

Yeah, there's not really any way around the lag you get with satellite internet as ChristHartley described it; the technology is the bottleneck, not computer speed. From everything I've ever read Hughes Net reliability is terrible on top of those technological limitations, and they terrible customer service because 1) You're locked into a 2 year contract to start with and 2) where else are you going to go for your internet connection?

When we lived in the sticks we wound up getting a 3G card for an old laptop and using it to share the connection in the house. It was a notable improvement over the dedicated dialup line it replaced and made it possible to watch the occasional YouTube clip, but had its ups and downs; our 3G reception wasn't great. I don't know how well it would work for Second Life but it would almost certainly be more responsive than satellite internet.
posted by usonian at 9:12 AM on April 9, 2012

I have to deal with this same thing in rural WI two days a week, though we use exel.

The lag is so bad that you can't play 240 Youtube clips for 15-20 minutes and forget about things like Hulu and Vimeo.

The cap on usage was the secondary problem. It meant that attachments to emails wouldn't go through and there have been issues with the outgoing mail servers.

3G was the answer for me. Tethered through my blackberry - not ideal, but better than the satellite connection. I look forward to my iPhone upgrade in late June.
posted by Tchad at 9:38 AM on April 9, 2012

Best answer: The above answers are correct, there's nothing that can be done other than to find an earthbound connection. The speed of light is a bitch.

Technically speaking, the speed of a properly installed (which many are not) satellite connection is not so bad; it's the latency that kills you. It takes roughly a half a second for any individual request to make it from your computer to outer space to the hughesnet NOC and then back again. So operations that require a lot of back-and-forth communication between client and server -- i.e. Second Life -- are really slow, while those that are more "just give me a bunch of data ok here it is" work reasonably well (at least until you hit the bandwidth cap.)

I lived with HughesNet for years and hated every minute of it. Most online games are not going to work at all, though some MMOs will work reasonably well: both World of Warcraft and LoTRO were playable. (There's a reason MMO combat involves those long cooldown times on most actions!) VPNs and most forms of managed download (such as Steam or bittorrent) are also essentially unusable.

If there is cell service in the area, that will be far preferable to satellite. I know of one rural area near me whose residents teamed up to build some sort of line-of-sight connection to the Real Internet, but I don't know how difficult/expensive such a thing would be to create if it doesn't already exist in your friend's area.
posted by ook at 9:43 AM on April 9, 2012

Ook's got it - it's latency that's doing you in here and there's not much you can do about it.

For general web browsing slow-connection improvements, I like Opera Turbo.
posted by unixrat at 9:52 AM on April 9, 2012

Opera Turbo or the like won't help in this case, as HughesNet does that same proxying automatically ( they call it 'Web Acceleration'.) Without that proxy web browsing over satellite does not work well at all. (Websites these days frequently make hundreds of separate requests per page; imagine a half-second latency for each and every one of them!)

AFAICT the only part of Opera Turbo that wouldn't be redundant with HughesNet's built-in proxy would be overcompressing the images, but that wouldn't help much here as it's meant to improve download speed rather than latency.
posted by ook at 10:29 AM on April 9, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great responses! This is such a helpful site! I bow in honor to your collective wisdom.
posted by ConnieL at 11:13 AM on May 7, 2012

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