The comparison between fibre and satellite does not lead to an outright winner. Each has its own unique advantages and disadvantages, and both are significant in the communication sector. This article will offer a comparison between satellite and fibre, including their distinct applications.
Fibre internet is transmitted through optical cables composed of numerous fibre strands, each as thin as a strand of human hair, which carry information as light. A fibre optic cable consists of two main glass components: the core and the cladding. The core is responsible for the transmission of light signals, while the cladding, which surrounds the core, prevents the light from leaking out. Fibre is often referred to as "future-proof" because the data capacity it can carry surpasses that of a radio frequency (RF) carrier. This allows for significant improvements in data capacity through equipment upgrades, way before the fibre itself requires an upgrade.
Satellite internet operates by linking satellites in orbit with earth-based antennas via RF. There are three primary satellites used for communication:
Geostationary satellites maintain a circular orbit at a steady altitude of 35,786 km above the equator. Their rotation matches that of the earth, remaining in a fixed position above the earth. These satellites have a higher latency than MEO and LEO satellites and due to the curvature of the earth, they don't offer complete polar coverage. Generally, coverage is unavailable beyond 70 degrees of latitude from the equator. Owing to their distance from the earth, as few as three satellites can provide full coverage.
Medium-Earth Orbit satellites require between two and 24 hours to orbit the earth, achieving an altitude between 2000 km and approx. 35,000 km above the earth’s surface. As they are closer to the earth, typically less than 20,000 km, their latency is much lower than that of GEO satellites. MEO satellites orbiting at 8000 km above the equator would have a system latency of less than 150 ms but would need numerous satellites to achieve full equatorial coverage. A minimum of eight satellites would provide continuous narrow band coverage, while a constellation of 20 satellites would extend the continuous coverage to 50 degrees of latitude north and south.
Low-Earth Orbit satellites revolve around the planet in less than two hours, typically traversing between 500 and 1600 km above the earth's surface. Due to their closeness to the earth, they provide the most rapid speed and least latency among the three satellite options. They're also the smallest, enabling quicker and more affordable production compared to GEO and MEO satellites. However, they require a larger satellite constellation to achieve comprehensive global coverage because of their proximity to earth. Let's examine a comparison of fibre and satellite in several key aspects.
Satellites that are further from the earth often create more latency problems than LEO satellites. As satellite internet is based on a wireless connection, it can face more interference compared to fibre internet, which uses a hardwired connection and generally offers more reliable performance. Elements such as trees, buildings, or precipitation can potentially weaken and disrupt a satellite connection. Grounded completely, fibre networks are typically placed under the earth, protecting them from common obstacles like weather conditions or wildlife interference.
Satellite internet may be the only choice in certain rural areas lacking the necessary power and fibre backbone infrastructure. Satellite connectivity merely requires an unobstructed view of the satellites, a terminal, and a power source to pick up the RF signal. Conversely, fibre can be difficult to access, particularly in rural regions. Even in urban environments, fibre to the curb (FTTC) still happens, where fibre optic cable is laid to residences or businesses, but cable or DSL cables connect the "last mile" to the home.
Fibre to the home signifies the use of fibre optic cables to link homes to a central location instead of using DSL or coaxial cable. FTTH provides high speeds and is superior to FTTC.
The initial costs of satellite internet, along with regular monthly service fees, can be higher. When comparing the cost of satellite internet with other internet services delivering similar speeds, satellite internet is often more expensive in most areas. Depending on the internet service provider, the cost of fibre internet can vary based on the existing infrastructure and the placement of the terrestrial fibre optic line to the desired location, potentially making it a cost-effective choice.
Satellite data rates have significantly improved over time. Earlier, home satellite internet was notoriously slow, offering sluggish data rates of roughly 750 Kbps. However, advancements such as utilizing higher capacity RF spectrum (Ka & Ku Bands) have resulted in improved throughput, with data rates now reaching up to 100 Mbps, depending on the terminal and provider. Fibre internet speeds can effortlessly achieve up to 1Gbps and beyond, contingent upon the plan and provider.
In the debate of satellite versus fibre, a definitive champion cannot be declared. The provision of internet connectivity doesn't conform to a one-size-fits-all approach. Each, fibre and satellite, has its exclusive utilities. If your interest lies in establishing a community broadband network, or you require a satellite terminal for offshore operations, DUNES MIDDLE EAST stands ready to assist. As a distinctive supplier of comprehensive fibre and satellite solutions, we have the means to facilitate your connection. Reach out to us to discover more.