Updated: August 24, 2014
A slow satellite Internet connection can be caused by a lot of different factors. The good news is there is a variety of different troubleshooting methods you can use to try and improve connection performance.
Does it appear that web pages are taking longer to load than when you first installed satellite Internet service? Are you experiencing buffering problems and latency when trying to stream your favorite videos? It may help you to know many consumers that use satellite Internet experience slow connection speeds at one point or another during the course of using the service.
Slow data transfer rates can be attributed to numerous problems with the Internet connection itself, web browser issues, viruses and malware, problems with the satellite hardware and cables, or the network infrastructure in your home, to name a few factors.
For the most part, a satellite Internet service delivers quality high speed broadband but, the connection can run slowly due to a number of issues. In this article, we will cover some of the most common causes along with solutions that can help to speed up a slow satellite Internet connection.
Run a Speed Test
Before you invest the time to tinker with hardware, software, and device settings, it is best to begin by running a speed test. This way you can check the actual speed of your satellite Internet connection and then compare it with the maximum speeds that your Internet Service Provider (ISP) advertises.
There are a variety of websites online that will perform a speed test for you. You can locate these sites by typing the words speed test into the search engine. When you choose a speed test website, keep in mind that different test websites will provide you with different results.
Running the same test on the same website more than once may also give you different results. This is due in part to the number of people that are using the connection, as well as the actual location of the speed test servers. This means you should run multiple tests and then calculate the average speed for your satellite Internet connection. Additionally, you should choose the server location that is closest to where you are, provided you are given this option.
The following video provides you with a demonstration on how to run a speed test.
Compare the Test Results
Once you are finished performing a series of speed tests, compare the average to the speeds that are promised by your Internet Service Provider (ISP). It is important to remember that the speeds that are advertised by your ISP are the maximum speeds that can be achieved during low traffic times of the day. The maximum speeds are not guaranteed as your ISP typically mentions in the small print at the bottom of the plan.
Additionally, if your satellite Internet provider advertises data rates in terms of Mbps (megabits per second), the number of megabits is typically higher than megabytes (MB). For example, if you are supposed to have data transfer rates of 25 Mbps, then this amounts to a little more than 3 megabytes (MBps) per second.
If you are unable to achieve a higher satellite Internet connection speed and have not updated your Internet plan for a while, you can do one of two things: 1) Check to see if your ISP has recently introduced new data plans that offer higher broadband speeds or, 2) Invest the time to find out what other ISPs in your area are offering. If you are fortunate enough to have a choice of providers, you may be able to find a better deal and better performance using another service.
Reset the Modem and Router
In a lot of cases, your home network will develop bugs and IP conflicts, or errors in the hardware or software. Resetting the modem and the wireless router will allow you to get a fresh start with the network and will help to erase any issues that are causing your satellite Internet connection to slow down.
To reset the modem and router, simply power off the modem and press the reset button on the back of your router. Turn the power back on for the cable modem and allow the router to continue to reset itself. Open your web browser and check to see if the Internet connection speed has improved.
If the modem and wireless router do not have a power button, simply unplug the power cable. Wait anywhere from 20 to 30 seconds before you reconnect it again.
Consider the Time of Year
If you are experiencing problems with a slow Internet connection, consider the time of year. At specific times of the year, sunspots will occur for an indefinite period of time and cause issues with your Internet connection. This phenomenon is often short lived and there is very little you can do to prevent the problem except to wait it out. Most of the satellite Internet Service Providers will provide you with specific dates when sunspots are likely to occur to help their customer plan for slower Internet performance during these times.
As a general rule, sunspots typically occur between late February and early March as the result of solar interference. This is when the sun is positioned lower in the sky which causes it to position itself behind the satellite that provides your Internet signal. In this case, the position of the sun interferes with the signal and prevents your satellite dish from receiving it.
The problem eventually corrects itself as the satellite moves but, meanwhile there is nothing you can do to prevent it. Most ISPs make it known that the problem does not have anything to do with issues at their plant. In some cases, customers may not notice any interference at all. The impact of the satellites that orbit the Earth typically only lasts anywhere from five to ten minutes per day.
Here is a clear visual explanation of how sunspots work. The video refers to satellite television, but it works the same way for satellite Internet service.
Check for Signal Conflicts
If you have a series of wireless technologies in your home, you should check to make sure the signals are not conflicting with one another. For example, if you are using a wireless router, it may conflict with your wireless security camera or cordless phone. If the wireless router is 2.4GHz and you have a cordless phone that is also 2.4GHz, your Internet connection will be slower whenever you use the phone.
The same thing is true when it comes to a wireless security camera. When the camera is in use, it will cause your Internet connection to slow down.
Request a Check by Your Internet Service Provider
To ensure the problem is not on the end of your service provider, give them a call and ask them to perform a check. This would include signal strength, cabling, satellite dish components, and other equipment that helps to establish the connection.
If you are a do-it-yourselfer, you can check the satellite configuration by doing the following:
Check for Obstructions
Check to make sure there are no objects such as trees, branches, or debris blocking the view of the southern sky. This includes any dirt or debris that has built up on the dish, snow, or fallen tree branches. You may also find that when tree branches sag after a rainstorm, this blocks the signal until the branches dry off.
Check the Cables and Dish Stability
Check the cables connected to the satellite dish to make sure they have not become loose or damaged over time. If there is any damage, try replacing the cable to see if it makes a difference in Internet performance.
Additionally, if your satellite dish is mounted on the ground and you live in a cold climate, check for frost upheaval. In a lot of cases, a satellite dish can become unstable as the result of frost upheaval. This causes the dish to shift during windstorms and become out of alignment with the satellite signal.
Check the Signal Strength
Check the strength of the signal on the user interface. This is generally located under the Menu option or System Setup. If the signals indicate full strength, the problem may be on the end of your Internet Service Provider.
If you still cannot locate the problem, contact your Internet Service Provider for assistance with a satellite dish check. Sometimes they can see how strong the signal is simply by accessing the system from the company base.
Disconnect Some of the Devices from the Network
If you have multiple PCs and other devices connected to your home network, this could be slowing down your Internet connection, especially if the devices are connecting to the network simultaneously. Try disconnecting each device one by one. Each time a device is disconnected, test the Internet connection to see if there is a change. If there is a change in speed, the problem may be with a specific device that is connected to the network.
Devices that connect to the network can multiply fast without you realizing it. These are devices such as PCs, tablets, servers, gaming systems, media boxes, Smart TVs, music streaming devices, DVRs, smartphones, security cameras, wireless printers, switches, and much more.
Examine the Satellite Dish
Check your satellite dish to see if anything is obstructing the signal such trees, fallen leaves, snow, ice that has accumulated on the dish, and more. If it looks like the dish needs to be cleaned, then gently clean off the debris with a warm water solution. Once you are finished, check all the cable connections going to the dish and at the entry point to your home.
If you happen to have a round satellite dish, these types of devices can be prone to warping which can affect the satellite signal. In this case, the following video provides you with an easy fix for straightening out a warped satellite dish.
Clean the Browser Cache
When you browse the Internet there are files that are saved on your PC without your knowledge. These files occupy memory which can cause a satellite Internet connection to slow down. Make it a habit to clear your temporary files, cookies, videos, audio recording, Internet browsing history, and Internet cache on a regular basis so these files do not accumulate. Also, keep the recycle bin emptied out and remove any software programs that you never use.
The Internet cache in your browser stores temporary Internet files associated with websites that you visit during a normal browsing session. Browsers store these files to help you access websites that you have visited in the past without having to wait for the site to be retrieved from the online web server. Instead, the files are retrieved from the cache in your browser.
Depending upon the type of browser and operating system you use, both the Random Access Memory (RAM) and hard disk are used to store the temporary files that have accumulated from browsing sessions. The files can become quite large and include videos, audio recordings, entire web pages, and other elements that can result in a sizeable file. If you use multiple web browsers, the same thing happens except the files are stored in different locations on the hard drive.
If cache files are allowed to become large, it can slow down Internet performance since your device will want to retrieve the previously visited websites from the cache instead of getting it from the web server. The end result is it takes forever for the files to be retrieved from the cache.
Cleaning the browser cache will not harm the performance of your browser or your Internet connection. In fact, it will actually enhance the performance and allow data to be retrieved faster. It will also allow you to load flash movies faster since they can be loaded from the server instead of the cache.
The following video provides you with a quick tutorial on how to clean the cache in different types of web browsers.
All types of web browsers also allow you configure the size of the cache. This is accomplished under Options and Settings. The process will vary according to the type of browser you are using. If want to prevent the cache from getting too large, you can decrease the size. For example, in the Mozilla Firefox browser, the cache is set to 50MB by default. To change the size, simply click on Tools and choose Options from the drop down menu. Click on the Network tab under Advanced and then enter a new value for the cache size in the text box. This is the basic way you can control the cache size and the steps will vary according to the type of browser.
Scan Your PC Regularly
If you are using the Windows operating system, run the disk cleanup tool on a regular basis. This is a built-in tool that removes temporary files that take up disk space and RAM which can slow down Internet performance. Then use the Disk Defragmenter on a periodic basis to clean out old files that have become broken or corrupt. This tool is located in the same place as the Disk Cleanup tool demonstrated in the video below. Defragmenting your hard drive will not only speed up your PC’s performance, it will also help the data transfer speed of your Internet connection as well.
Check Satellite Dish Coordinates
Check to see if the satellite dish shifted pointing positions by checking the coordinates. If the direction in which the dish points is slightly off, this will weaken your Internet signal and cause the connection to run slowly. Additionally, if you installed the satellite dish at a time of year when the leaves were not on the trees, the growth of the foliage may be obstructing your Internet signal. In this case, you may be required to reposition the dish to improve the strength of the signal and the speed of data transfer.
Here is a basic demonstration on how to correctly check the coordinates on a satellite dish.
Check Your Data Cap
Many of the Internet Service Providers place a data cap on your plan. This is the amount of data use you are permitted to use each month according to the specific plan you choose. If you exceed the data cap in any given month, some ISPs will penalize you by providing you with a slower Internet connection for the remainder of the month.
You can find out what your data cap is by logging into your account page. If you cannot locate it there, call the Internet Service Provider to see if you have exceeded the data cap for the month.
Inspect the DSL Filter
A DSL filter is a device that separates your phone service from your Internet service. It may have been necessary to install the filter in the jack at the time you installed the Internet service. Check to see if the DSL filter needs to be replaced or you need to upgrade to a higher quality device. A faulty DSL filter can significantly slow down your Internet connection.
Relocate Your Devices
If your modem and router are located near metal objects or there are a lot of objects around the devices blocking the ventilation, try relocating them to see if it improves the signal. While you are relocating the devices, it is also a good idea to purchase a can of compressed air from your local electronics store to clean out dust and debris from the devices. This will help to prevent the modem and router from heating up which can compromise your Internet connection.
Run Antivirus and Anti-Malware Programs on a Regular Basis
Make sure you have your antivirus and anti-malware applications set to automatically check for updates before running a scan. If the scan is automated, you will never have to worry about remembering to run it. Some viruses and malware can be CPU and bandwidth intensive which, in turn, can slow down your Internet connection. Keeping your devices free of viruses and malware will not only maximize the performance of your Internet connection, it will protect all of your devices and personal information as well.
Make sure that your network devices are compatible with the brand of satellite equipment that your Internet Service Provider uses. The manufacturer of the equipment should be able to provide you with the information you need to determine hardware and software requirements. The device requirements should be equal to or more than the requirements set forth by the manufacturer of the satellite equipment.
The bottom line is satellite Internet is an ideal solution for high speed Internet access, especially if you live in a rural area where there is no service. The primary requirements for maintaining a speedy satellite Internet connection are high quality network equipment, a fast performing PC, quality modem, satellite dish, a reliable Internet Service Provider, and a clear view of the southern sky all year round. If you start with these basics when you establish satellite Internet connectivity, it is highly likely you will have less trouble with your connection speed over the long term.