Why Cellular Data Is the Better Choice for Travel

Why Cellular Data Is the Better Choice for Travel

When deciding on internet needs for rural and RV users, two technologies come into play: cellular data or satellite service. Learn why cellular is better.

Unlimited data on the go for RV owners, boaters, and truckers.

When deciding on internet needs for rural and RV users, two technologies come into play: cellular data or satellite service.

Due to lack of infrastructure in these environments, standard services such as broadband and fiber aren't readily available. So, why do we consider cellular data as the better choice between the two? Let’s talk about the basics of each to see why.

How Does Satellite Internet Work?

Satellite service works by using a satellite to provide internet access to a remote location. The system consists of three main components: the satellite in orbit, the ground station (or earth station), and the user's satellite modem.

Here's a step-by-step scenario to better understand the transmission process:

  • The user's satellite modem sends a request for data (such as a web page) to the satellite in orbit.
  • The satellite receives the request and forwards it to the ground station, which is connected to the internet.
  • The ground station retrieves the requested data from the internet and sends it back to the satellite.
  • The satellite then sends the data back to the user's satellite modem, which passes it along to the user's device (such as a laptop or tablet).

Does this sound familiar? If so, that’s because it’s very similar to cellular data. A ground station is basically the equivalent to a cell tower, the satellite modem sends data like a router or hotspot, and the satellite transmits the data back and forth like data centers. So, if they're this comparable, why do we feel that satellite isn't the best choice for most customers? Let’s list out our concerns:

  • Latency: The time it takes for data to travel from the user's device to the satellite and back can result in slower speeds and higher latency, making it less suitable for activities that require fast and reliable internet.
  • Weather Disruptions: Weather conditions, such as heavy rain or snow, can interfere with the satellite signal and cause temporary disruptions in service.
  • Limited Data Allowances: Some satellite internet plans have limited data allowances, which can result in extra charges or reduced speeds if you exceed your monthly allowance.
  • High Services Costs: Satellite internet can be more expensive than other forms of internet, such as cellular hotspots or cable/DSL.
  • High Installation and Equipment Costs: Setting up satellite internet can be a complex process and may require special equipment resulting in high installation fees, adding to the overall cost of the service.
  • Bandwidth Limitations: The limited amount of bandwidth available to satellite internet users can result in slow speeds and congestion during peak hours, when many people are using the internet simultaneously.
  • Replacements: There's an ever increasing cost of replacing satellites after deorbiting. So, what happens when you need to upgrade the satellite? You don't, you simply send a new one up.
Open laptop on a table in a campervan

The Kessler Syndrome: When Satellites Collide

The Kessler Syndrome is a theoretical scenario in which the density of objects in low Earth orbit (LEO) becomes so high that collisions between objects result in the production of space debris.

The amount of debris in LEO becomes so great that it poses a significant hazard to any and all new objects sent into orbit, including operational satellites and manned spacecraft. It is based on the concept that the accumulation of debris in LEO can create self-sustaining, uncontrolled chain reaction collisions, causing a decrease in the number of functional satellites and other objects in LEO, and an increase in the risk of collisions with operational spacecraft, potentially endangering human life.

Even small pieces of debris can cause significant damage to operational satellites or spacecraft due to the high speeds at which objects in LEO travel (typically around 17,500 miles per hour). While you may hear about advances in satellite internet and technology, there's no way of getting around the Kessler Syndrome. There's simply not enough space in orbit to blanket the entire world.

The Benefits of Cellular Data

Cellular data is often considered better than satellite data for several reasons, including:

  • Speed: Cellular networks have faster data speeds compared to satellite networks. This means that users can download and upload data much quicker, which is important for activities like streaming video or uploading large files.
  • Reliability: Cellular networks have a more robust infrastructure and better coverage compared to satellite networks. Users are less likely to experience connection issues or outages.
  • Latency: The delay between sending and receiving data is lower with cellular data compared to satellite data. This is important for applications that require real-time communication, such as online gaming or video conferencing.
  • Cost: In many cases, cellular data plans are more affordable compared to satellite data plans, especially for heavy data users.
  • Portability: Cellular data is typically more portable than satellite data, as it does not require a clear line of sight to a satellite. This makes it easier for users to access the internet from more locations.
  • Bandwidth Regulation: Cell phone carriers regulate and manage their bandwidth to create an even playing field for most customers. This is why you don't see many unlimited plans for hotspots and routers, and only see it on phones.
  • Technology: Cellular technology is easy to upgrade and maintain.

It's worth noting that satellite data has improved in recent years, and it remains an important option for remote or rural areas where cellular coverage may be limited. Additionally, the quality of cellular data can also vary depending on several factors, including the provider, location, and network congestion (although, the same can be said for satellite service as well). In conclusion, most customers will find cellular data an easier and trusted choice for their internet needs where traditional fiber isn't available. Have questions? Email us at info@ezmobiledata.com for more information.