Satellite Internet Connection in Canada

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Satellite Internet Canada

Broadband Satellite Internet in Canada

High-speed Internet connection via satellite

By Peter O. Walpole, posted 8/31/2001 1:34:56 PM

Satellite Internet CanadaI live in the country. Our access road was finally paved this summer. For 20 years, I've received TV by satellite dish.

On the other hand, I had Internet access before the Web exploded into common knowledge. And yet, even though my modem is rated at 56 Kbps, it rarely connects above 28.8 Kbps. I have definitely not had access to broadband Internet service.

According to a recent survey, over 30 per cent of Canadian respondents had no expectation they'd get high-speed Internet access through cable or phone lines.

Now there's a solution, although it is extravagantly expensive. It appears that there are some members of the landed gentry in rural Canada who can afford high-speed, two-way satellite connection.

C-Com Satellite Systems of Ottawa has implemented a procedure that uses the technology of Hughes Network Systems. The DirecWay system (also known as DirecPC) offers a way to download and upload Internet traffic through a locally mounted dish.

DirecWay Starter Kits include outdoor and indoor equipment. Outdoor gear: A parabolic dish, an LNB satellite receiver, and a radio signal return unit. Indoor gear: USB satellite transceiver (ITU), USB satellite receiver (IRU), power supply, USB cable, and an ITU-IRU interconnection cable.

First, special software was installed on my computer. I was told I'd need a 200 MHz Pentium processor with 64 MB RAM, some hard drive space, and Windows 98 SE or later. This means most recent PCs will do the job. Access to the transmitter/ receiver is through a dedicated USB port. The system had not been tested through a hub at installation time, so I rearranged my USB connections to free a motherboard port.

After the necessary drivers and software had been configured from the installation CD, the job of assembling and mounting the dish began.

Professional installation

A quick telephone survey of various providers established that DirecWay should work through my Star Choice reception. The Hughes satellite orbits slightly south of Anik, and a bit higher in the sky.

While many people have set up TV dishes, the kind of transmission DirecWay dishes receive requires painstakingly accurate calibration and tuning by a professional (it's also much more costly than TV-dish installation). It took the technician putting my DirecWay (HughesNet) dish in place about four hours.

With compass in hand, my installer assessed my house and found a suitable spot high on the eaves. The dish and transmitter weigh about 25 kg, so a firm, safe base is essential. Once we were wired in and the transmit settings had been fine-tuned, I had high-speed satellite Internet access to the Web. My regular ISP is still current, along with my e-mail address, but I also received a new account with a "direcpc" suffix. That's standard.

My Netscape and Explorer icons default to satellite access, but the modem is still available through C-Com's "My Connection" service. This allows a fall-back if transmission becomes difficult. Both browsers are active and work well.

Speed thrills

So, what changes have I seen? I took the opportunity to update Windows ME. With my old modem, it would take a minimum of 52 minutes (most probably 90) to download a new version of Media Player. My first attempt stalled, as the flow of info overloaded my hard drive. On the second try, the job was over in 63 seconds!

I downloaded a large screensaver from a U.K.-based site. The Webmaster provided an estimated download time of 20 minutes -- it only took one.

I can now expect transfer rates of 400 Kbps, and I've done better at times. Installing these files and software now takes longer than reception does.

Admittedly, not everything happens at high speed. "Interrogating" a slow server is still slow, but when it comes to downloading graphics and other files, the satellite connection really shines. Streaming media of any kind move fast.

Downloading from my existing e-mail account works fine, but I can't upload mail without a bit of tweaking. Upload speeds of 128 Kbps are the rule with my new e-mail account.

Trees & weather

As I write this, a small icon on the "tray" at the bottom of my screen is indicating that my satellite connection is always on. A meter suggests I'm getting a signal strength of about 78 (on a scale between 0 and 100; if signal strength drops below 30, the system shuts down).

LEDs on the large double transmitter/ receiver also indicate access. I've lost transmission capability a few times, due to factors affecting the satellite, not the dish.

At the end of my property is a tall tree whose leaves reach into the path of the new dish. In the past, before Star Choice began to use the new Anik satellite, any rain or storm would affect my TV signal. Now, when a strong wind buffets the tree, this appears to affect my transmission connections. The simplistic and drastic solution would be to drop the tree, but of course I could relocate the dish. Summer storms have not affected reception, as far as I can tell.

I was able to instruct the software to fall back on my modem for up-links automatically, should transmission become a problem. Occasionally, I need to perform a total reboot and reset, but this instantly corrects transmission problems.

Everyone who has seen my DirecWay satellite system working wants one. Paging Mr. Claus...

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