How satellite internet makes rural smart homes a reality

As smart-home devices grow in popularity, satellite internet allows connectivity for them just about anywhere.


When most people think about smart homes, they tend to imagine laser-eyed robot vacuum cleaners patrolling the halls of giant houses or sleek urban condos where even the couch is connected to the internet.

But thanks to advances in satellite internet technology and improvements to the smart devices themselves, it’s becoming increasingly realistic for folks who live outside of big cities or in more modest abodes to take advantage of smart services that can make their lives better.

By 2021, more than a quarter of U.S. homes are projected to be “smart.” That’s up from just 12.5 percent in 2016. While much of this change will undoubtedly happen in urban areas, rural residents will also begin to realize and adopt the benefits of automated farming solutions, energy management networks and other systems that can have a major impact on life outside of cities.

Rural residents will need a fast, reliable service to connect all of those devices. And they’ll need it soon. That’s where satellite internet like Viasat’s comes in. With nationwide coverage and speeds up to 25 Mbps in most areas, rural residents don’t need to wait for expensive ground infrastructure to reach their homes – satellite is already there.

What about data usage? The first thing to know is that Viasat is working all the time to help our customers do more of what they want online, including smart home functions. The second thing to know is that many smart devices don’t actually use that much data or can be configured to make less of an impact on your bandwidth. Some examples:

Smart thermostats use only small amounts of data to keep your home at a comfortable temperature. You should even save money in the long run, since they can reduce your power bill.

Smart lightbulbs and plugs let you control your lights and other electronics via voice or an app. Because they mostly use quick on/off commands, these devices are also data-efficient, using about 50 MB per month, depending on the model.

On their own, smart hubs such as Google Home or Alexa don’t use too much data. But if you use them to stream media through a connected service such as Spotify or YouTube, you could easily use 100 MB per hour or more. So it pays to be mindful of exactly what you’re asking your digital assistant to do. Another thing to keep in mind when dealing with “always on” devices such as smart hubs: They often ping their home servers and download software updates without warning. This can use up data unpredictably. While this usually can’t be disabled entirely, you can tweak the settings or simply unplug the device when you’re looking to save data. With Wi-Fi cameras and smart doorbells, video resolution is the name of the game. If you set your security camera to shoot low-resolution video or still images, data usage could be a manageable 15 GB per month. But if you crank it up to high resolution and back your footage up in the cloud, you could spend 300 GB per month or more.

The key to using smart home video devices via satellite internet, or in any situation where data usage matters, is to set the system up to suit your basic needs and gradually bump the settings up from there until you find your personal balance between quality and data usage.

The smartest home is the one that you love to live in. With satellite internet, customers don’t have to sacrifice a great connection to live wherever they choose.


Patti Rutkin is a fierce advocate of the customer experience. As the marketing lead for Viasat’s US residential business, she is responsible for raising awareness about Viasat’s home internet service within the communities it serves.