How to Boost Satellite Internet
Can you make it faster? Stronger? More reliable?
Satellite internet isn’t known for being the fastest or most reliable way to connect to the internet, but there’s no need for satellite customers to suffer more than they have to. Although it’s never going to get the same performance as other connections, there are a few things you can do to get a better experience with your satellite internet.
Getting a Wi-Fi booster
A Wi-Fi booster or extender is a type of repeater that expands the range of a wireless network by rebroadcasting the signal from the router. This means your connection will bounce from your router to the repeater and then to your device, extending your network range and sidestepping obstacles to reach the farthest corners of your house.
For more information on Wi-Fi extenders and how they work, read our full analysis of the Best Wi-Fi Extenders.
Most satellite internet customers connect their devices over Wi-Fi, just like with any other internet connection. Because satellite internet has relatively low download speeds and is prone to interference, it’s easy not to notice when the problem is actually your home wireless network, rather than your internet connection.
If your internet is slow or inconsistent in some rooms of your home, while consistently performing better in others, then your Wi-Fi is likely the problem. You can also try plugging a device directly into your router with an Ethernet cable.
If your Wi-Fi is the problem, a Wi-Fi extender is an easy way to boost the signal to the rest of your house. Our top pick for satellite customers is the TP-Link RE315. If you want to compare your options for yourself, there are a few specific things that satellite customers should keep in mind.
Things not to worry about
Some of the most important features of Wi-Fi extenders aren’t that important for satellite connections. Things that matter less to satellite customers include the following:
- Maximum throughput
- Multiuser support
- Multiple data streams
Maximum throughput: Throughput is usually the most important feature of a router or Wi-Fi extender because it determines how much bandwidth devices on your network can actually make use of; however, modern devices are designed with gigabit and multigigabit connections in mind. Most satellite connections are well below 100 Mbps and even Starlink tops out at 250 Mbps. This means that even the slowest modern extenders should be more than capable of keeping up with your connection.
Multiuser support: Many modern extenders and routers, especially those that meet the Wi-Fi 6 standard, incorporate technologies like OFDMA (orthogonal frequency-division multiple access) and MU-MIMO (multiuser multiple input, multiple output) that allow you to connect more devices to your home network and more efficiently manage these devices to avoid network congestion.
Satellite speeds aren’t high enough to support dozens of connected devices, even if your network can handle them. Even if your Wi-Fi extender isn’t the best at multitasking, the bottleneck is still going to be your connection, not your home network.
Multiple data streams: Spatial streams are related to the previous two points, as multiple streams can improve data rates to a single client device or among multiple devices using MU-MIMU. It’s also easier to boast that your router has more streams than the competition than it is to get into a detailed comparison of multiplexing technologies, so the number of data streams is often slapped right on the front of the box.
Again, this isn’t very relevant to satellite customers because the major bottleneck is still going to be the satellite connection. A Ford F-150 might have way more payload capacity than a Mini Cooper, but if the most you’re ever going to haul is your weekly groceries, both vehicles will do the job equally well.
Things to look for
The important things for satellite customers to look for in a Wi-Fi extender aren’t unique, though certain attributes do carry a bit more importance:
- Ease of use
- Wi-Fi 6 compliance
Range: Since the whole point of a Wi-Fi extender is to get a strong signal throughout your entire house, it’s important that the device you pick does the job. You can also extend the range of your Wi-Fi by setting up a mesh Wi-Fi system, but these are generally more expensive and more complicated to set up, so a single Wi-Fi extender gives you better value.
Price: Price is a factor when buying any sort of equipment, but due to the low speed requirements of a satellite connection, price is a much bigger factor. There’s no point getting a fancy device with cutting-edge features if those features aren’t going to make an impact on your online experience.
Ease of use: Since you don’t need all the bells and whistles with a satellite connection, you might as well go for a straightforward solution that addresses your specific needs. Many extenders are small devices that plug straight into an outlet like an air freshener or a night light, often with a pass-through outlet so you still have two free plugs. Many extenders will share your router’s SSID, so it looks like you have one big home wireless network, rather than two networks in different parts of the house.
In general, you should find an extender that gives you internet access throughout your home in the most convenient way possible. Since you don’t have to worry about primary features like speed, you can afford to be picky when it comes to the little things.
Wi-Fi 6 compliance: Normally Wi-Fi 6 compatibility is one of the first things we look at in a wireless device, but since most of the big innovations of Wi-Fi 6 are about improving bandwidth and managing huge networks, most of that added value is lost on a slower satellite connection.
Wi-Fi 6 does still have some features that are useful to satellite customers. Wi-Fi 6 networks can improve the battery life of your devices, increase the security of your home network, and generally keep all your devices running more smoothly. It’s not a must-have for those with satellite internet, but it’s a package of handy features that might be enough to tip the scales in your decision.
For a more detailed look at these devices, check out our review of the Best Wi-Fi Extenders.
Troubleshooting speed problems
Wi-Fi boosters will help you fix weak signals or dead zones in your house, but they can’t increase your internet speed. If you’re getting slower than expected speeds, there are a few things you can do to troubleshoot satellite-specific issues.
Check your monthly data
Satellite plans have some of the most restrictive data caps of any internet type, so it’s very easy to go over your monthly allotment of data. Once you’ve passed your data cap, your data is deprioritized, which can drop your speed dramatically, especially during peak usage hours. If you notice a sudden drop in your internet speed, check your data to make sure you haven’t passed your limit.
Remove physical obstructions
To maintain a strong connection, your satellite dish needs to have a clear view of the south sky where your provider’s satellite is located. Physical obstructions, like a fallen branch, can block or interfere with your signal. Snow buildup on the dish itself can also interfere with your connection. Be extremely careful when removing snow or debris so as not to injure yourself or damage your dish.
Look for damage or antenna misalignment
Satellite dishes can be damaged in storms or high winds. Wind can also turn them just enough that they are no longer in alignment with the orbiting satellite. If you can see obvious damage or notice that your antenna has moved out of alignment, contact your provider to replace or realign your equipment.
Wait out bad weather
Satellite internet is uniquely vulnerable to interference from the weather. Rain, snow, extreme heat, high winds, and even sun transit can temporarily interfere with your internet connection. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do during bad weather if you’re experiencing interference, though hybrid satellite connections like Hughesnet Fusion are slightly more resilient to this kind of interference due to having a backup network to fall back on if the other is experiencing issues.
Troubleshoot other problems
In addition to these satellite-specific issues, satellite internet can encounter the same problems as most other internet technologies. If you’re still having problems with your connection, check out some of our other troubleshooting articles for possible solutions.
Alternatives to satellite
If satellite internet doesn’t provide you with the speed or reliability that you need, there may be other options available, even in rural areas. Even if these other connections offer slower speeds than your satellite provider, there are other benefits to non-satellite internet besides speed.
Much like satellite, DSL is slow and often overpriced when compared to other internet options; however, because it’s a wired connection, it has many advantages over satellite, such as lower latency, more (or unlimited) data, and a much more reliable connection. And although DSL plans can be overpriced when compared to similar speeds offered by cable or fiber, they’re still much cheaper on average than satellite.
Fixed wireless internet uses a ground-based system of antennas to connect people to the internet, especially in areas with no physical infrastructure for DSL or cable. As a wireless connection, it deals with many of the same issues as satellite, but they’re much more manageable. You’ll usually get faster speeds, more data, and less interference.
4G home internet
4G home internet uses the same networks as cellular phones to deliver home internet. It’s widely available, has higher data caps than satellite, and has low monthly costs. 4G LTE speeds are fairly similar to satellite speeds, but with much lower latency.
Boosting Satellite Internet FAQ
Author - Peter Christiansen
Peter Christiansen writes about satellite internet, rural connectivity, livestreaming, and parental controls for HighSpeedInternet.com. Peter holds a PhD in communication from the University of Utah and has been working in tech for over 15 years as a computer programmer, game developer, filmmaker, and writer. His writing has been praised by outlets like Wired, Digital Humanities Now, and the New Statesman.