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What is latency in satellite internet?

confused man on video call with many people

The greatness of satellite internet is its capacity to reach the furthest ends of the country.

It’s the kind of internet that goes where no other internet technology can go. It’s very impressive like that. It means that people in the most rural and remote parts of Australia can access the internet like anybody else.

But even the most brilliant diamonds have flaws.

For satellite internet, it’s flaw is unavoidable latency. That doesn’t mean it’s not still incredibly valuable to those that have it. 


What is satellite latency and what causes it?

Satellite latency is the slight time delay you’ve probably already experienced when loading a page or streaming a video.

It’s completely normal, occurs irrespective of supplier, and is part of the nbn™ Sky Muster™ technology.

You see, the two nbn™ satellites we have in Australia are 36,000 kilometres above the Earth.

That’s fine. That’s where they’re meant to be.

But every time you take an action on the internet and get a response, the signal from your computer needs to make its way across that 36,000 kilometres into space and back again. Twice.

Now that – impressively – only takes 600 milliseconds (0.6 seconds)!

Let’s face it, you’d probably be a little laggy too if you travelled that far that fast.

Ground station satellites at night


All internet network technologies experience a time delay in the sending and receiving of data. Fixed Wireless connections, for example, may experience a time delay of around 50 milliseconds (0.05 seconds).

What’s the difference between bandwidth and satellite latency?

Bandwidth is the maximum data capacity of your connection. For example, if your service can achieve 25 Mbps, you can expect to download a maximum of 25 megabits (just over 3 MB) and upload 5 megabits (625 kB) every second.

Latency is the delay you experience in seeing the results of your internet action. In practical terms, that could be the round-trip delay in receiving that email, the delay in your video loading, the delay in opening a web page properly, for example.

It’s also the thing that will get your virtual-self killed if you are an online gamer attempting MMO games like Call of Duty: Black Ops, Fortnite, Counter-Strike or PUBG. The latency you’ll experience in games like this will mean you’re dead before you realise your opponent is even in frame.

It’s why we put together the Definitive Guide to Online Gaming with Sky Muster. We wanted all the gamers out there to know what worked and what didn’t.

The Definitive Guide to Online Gaming with Sky Muster

But let’s talk about some other impacts of satellite latency

Latency can affect high-interactive applications such as certain types of games, remote desktop work and high-frequency trading.

Here’s a few example of what we’re talking about. This is not a complete list but does cover the main things to think about.

Video streaming

Streaming involves downloading your video from a server.

There will always be an initial delay in a video starting on satellite but once it’s started streaming, satellite latency will generally not cause buffering.

Video chat

Latency will show up in your video chats (Zoom, FaceTime, WhatsApp, etc.) as a delay when each person speaks. It can be a bit of a nuisance because sometimes it can lead to misunderstandings throughout your conversation. Those misunderstandings can be avoided though if you’re aware it’s a possibility.

Accessing servers or web-based applications

Things may move a little slowly when trying to work with web-based servers or applications. The latency from satellite internet shouldn’t impede your use of these sorts of products.

Website loading

You’ll notice the latency in websites loading the first time you visit them. There will be a delay in the page opening completely.

But once you’ve visited that page once, and it caches, the next time you visit will be a much smoother experience. This is because the internet is not trying to share as much data as far and as fast thanks to our good ole friend Mr Cache.

Happy smiling and waving man on conference call with many people

The positives of satellite internet
(Sky Muster™ or Sky Muster Plus Plans)

The positives of having a Sky Muster™ or Sky Muster™ Plus plan for rural and remote Australians, far outweigh the hiccups of latency.

For example

• Reliable internet wherever you live in the nbn™ satellite footprint
• Free standard installation
• Unlimited data usage (Sky Muster™ Plus only. Download infographic for more information)
• Free school holiday data (Sky Muster™ only. Not available on Sky Muster™ Plus)
• Stay in touch with friends and family
• Study or work from home
• Run your small business
• Much more. 

Often the delay of latency is barely noticeable.

The times you will notice latency on satellite internet are most likely going to be when you’re doing something online that requires a mega fast response like with first-person shooter games.

We have many customers who are very happy with their satellite internet experiences, including Simon McKnight, a Sky Muster™ Plus customer we recently visited in Coominya, Queensland.

Simon works in a very digital world which involves plenty of video calls and sharing of large files through cloud storage.

While we’ve noted you need to plan out when you do this just in case latency has an impact, Simon tells us that his experience has been great.

He’s shared a few words about his experience with us below.

Sky Muster™ Plus customer Simon McKnight

“I own a marketing agency and we look after marketing for companies all over Australia from Disney down to small businesses.

“From a working perspective, we use the internet for almost everything. Being in digital, there just isn’t anything that we don’t use it for. We do a lot of Skype and Zoom calls, especially with COVID now.

“We upload a lot to cloud storage, that’s a big thing for us because we have to share files with customers. We do a lot internet research, we do a lot of pitches, and we create a lot of quotes and proposals and we send them over the internet.

“We also do a bit of video as well and that’s uploaded to cloud storage to share. For us it’s a wide spectrum of uses for businesses purposes.  So far, it’s been great.

“The speeds we’re getting are comparable to what’s on the paperwork. We’re getting about 20Mbps which is more than enough for things like Netflix. We don’t really have a problem with the speeds at all. We can upload things to cloud storage, we haven’t really had a problem. It’s been great.”

Simon and Emily McKnight - Sky Muster Plus customers

No lock-in contracts at SkyMesh

You can access 30-day contracts at SkyMesh which means that you can give all the benefits of satellite internet a go without feeling locked into a plan you may not want long-term.

We recommend the all new Sky Muster™ Plus which was relaunched in April 2020 with a range of exciting new benefits including unlimited data for everything except video streaming and VPN traffic. Find out more here.

Why not see if Sky Muster™ Plus is available where you live
Louise Hughes
Written by Louise Hughes

Louise has had a life-long love affair with beautiful words; writing because it drives her, and reading because it feeds her soul. She's the luckiest woman alive to be able to create clever content and intelligent customer experiences for a living.

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