Satellite communications in 2024: The ins and outs

Explore the growing role of satellite communication in keeping our modern world reliably connected, its many use cases, and the benefits it delivers.

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Satellite communication is changing the way we connect with each other, industry, content, healthcare and other facets of the modern world. For Mary Porter, a 78-year-old grandmother living in the mountains of Burnt Ranch, California, it’s also what allows her to live the life she loves.

Mary’s small mountain town is two hours away from the nearest large community. Without satellite communication service, she’d be unable to communicate with her loved ones or feel safe during weather events that occur in her region, from wildfires to snowstorms and more.

“Thank God I had my computer,” Mary said as she recalled a recent wildfire that burned within three miles of her home. “I hooked it up to my generator and I didn’t feel alone. I wasn’t scared because I could talk to people. A couple weeks ago, we had a snowstorm that knocked down trees, power lines and phone lines. It was horrible, but it didn’t touch my satellite dish or affect my service.”

Satellite communication plays roles in even more critical scenarios around the world. It helped to keep Ukrainian refugees in contact with loved ones after being displaced by war, and it powered disaster response and business recovery after Hurricane Harvey.

In this article, we’ll dive deeper into the growing role of satellite communication in keeping our modern world reliably connected, its many use cases, and the benefits it delivers to customers.

Quick takeaways:

Broadband satellite internet uses satellites in various orbits to create communication links between different places on Earth.

Satellite internet is increasingly playing a more central role in providing internet around the world and has benefits beyond augmenting terrestrial connectivity.

Key benefits of satellite internet include broad coverage, high adaptability, on-the-go connectivity, greater military situational awareness, flexible business operations, resiliency, speed-to-deployment and even cost of deployment in many areas.

Important applications of satellite communication service range from residential home internet in underserved areas to life-or-death scenarios, like disaster response and military combat.

Understanding satellite communication in 2023

Satellite communication service works by leveraging artificial satellites to create communication links between different points on Earth. Positioned in various orbits, satellites receive and transmit signals, ensuring continuous connectivity to serve a variety of important applications.

Here’s how it works:

Ground stations to satellites: Signals originate from ground-based stations and are directed towards satellites, termed the “uplink.”

Satellite relaying: Upon receipt, the satellite amplifies this signal and reroutes it back to the intended location on Earth – the “downlink.”

End user communication: Various devices, like smartphones, computers, tablets, radios (and more), can interpret these signals to facilitate communication or data transmission.

How satellite commucation works infographic

Internet connectivity is now a fundamental need in order to participate in society and satellite communication is enabling important progress in key areas such as:

Closing the digital divide: Satellites make it possible to connect even the hardest-to-reach places on Earth, driving digital inclusion and digital literacy in traditionally underserved areas.

Connecting moving vessels: Satellite connectivity powers connectivity in moving aircraft and maritime vessels so people can stay connected while they travel from place to place.

Powering modern operations: From international business to defense communications, satellite internet makes organizations more agile and enables connectivity between remote and decentralized teams.

Enhancing disaster response and recovery: Satellite communication can be quickly adopted to enhance disaster relief efficiency, keeping teams connected even during events like natural disasters or political conflicts.

Going forward, satellite communication will no doubt continue to play an even bigger role in the way our world communicates and stays connected.

Benefits of satellite communication service

Satellite communication service offers more flexible, scalable, and wide-reaching internet connectivity than any other internet connectivity methods or providers. Here are some of the most important benefits it providers to customers:

Broad and global coverage

Satellite communication isn’t bound by terrestrial limitations. It can provide connectivity even in remote corners of the world. From dense urban areas to islands or deserts, satellite networks ensure that geography doesn’t dictate digital accessibility.

Steadfast reliability

Unlike traditional land-based networks that can be susceptible to natural disasters or infrastructural failures, satellites offer more resilient connectivity solutions. This ensures that users have a dependable communication channel even during unexpected challenges or events.

High levels of adaptability

Satellite communication service can serve diverse bandwidth requirements and cater to various user densities, from sparsely populated rural areas to crowded cities.

Additionally, with advancements in technology, satellite systems can be quickly reconfigured or augmented to address changing user needs or to integrate with other evolving technologies, ensuring they remain relevant and efficient in dynamic environments.

On-the-go connectivity

One of the standout features of satellite communication is its ability to provide seamless connectivity for moving vessels. Ships, airplanes, and automobiles can all use satellite internet to stay connected while moving, allowing for everything from in-flight streaming entertainment, GPS navigation, easier personal communication while traveling, and better defense communication.

Digital literacy and inclusion

Satellite communication service in remote and underserved areas is helping to drive greater digital inclusion and literacy in communities where it’s most needed. This fosters greater equity in areas such as education, employment, healthcare access, and civic engagement.

Military situational awareness

In sectors like defense, where real-time and consistent communication can be the difference between mission success or failure, satellite services are indispensable by helping facilitate mission-critical decisions.

At the same time, they power better situational awareness[1] so military personnel in the field can remain ahead of potential threats.

Enhanced business operations

Today, businesses are operating with increasingly flexible and largely remote or hybrid working models. Teams need to be connected reliably, even when they’re in different locations, for business operations to run smoothly. Satellite communication services make this possible with greater reliability.

Looking ahead at the future of satellite connectivity

The role of satellite communication service in powering global connectivity is undeniable. In the future, as satellite technologies and innovations continue to advance, this role will only intensify. From delivering the convenience of connectivity on-the-go, to enhancing digital inclusion and equity, to providing reliable connectivity in disaster recovery, satellite internet has become indispensable in our modern world.

Additionally, the future of satellite communication will evolve into a more hybrid approach. By using a “network of networks,” satellite communication will be extended to provide more agile connectivity. By layering together many space communications systems of various types into a global, multi-layered network, will enable automated, intelligent routing and re-routing of communications across multiple network assets, frequency bands, and transport layers.

Learn more about Viasat’s satellite communication innovations