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Best Satellite Internet Providers in Canada

This article will provide an overview of different types of internet connections, the role of satellite internet and the best satellite internet providers in Canada, like Xplornet Internet, sometimes known as the best internet for rural Canada.
Best Satellite Internet Providers in Canada

Satellite Internet occupies a unique place in the internet world in the vastness of Canada. Occupying over 9 million square kilometres of land mass, it is one of the largest countries in the world with a population density ratio that is one of the lowest at less than 4 people per square kilometre.

In this land, where networks are unable to, or find it unviable to, reach vast swathes of land, satellite becomes the default connectivity provider, to households as well as businesses located in the far corners, and becomes their link to the rest of the world.

Top 5 Satellite Internet Service providers in Canada

Most Popular

Xplornet Communications Inc.

Plans Starting at $24.99 per month

Xplornet

Xplornet Internet has been providing satellite internet services to residential users in remote locations in Canada for over a decade and can rightfully be called the leader in that space and the best satellite internet provider.

In a service challenged industry, Xplornet is often commended for the effort they put into their customer service and are accessible 24x7x365 in Canada.

Products and Services – Satellite internet for residential users is their primary product. They don’t get distracted by providing a host of services to a variety of client segments. They also offer a phone service along with their internet service.

Pricing – Like their offerings, the pricing and plans of Xplornet Internet are simple. Xplornet offers plans that come with unlimited data. The price range is $59,99 to $99.99 per month and phone plans from $21.99 to $24.99 per month. A WiFi router can be added for another $6.00 per month, if you don’t have one of your own. No equipment needs to be purchased to access the service.

Canada Satellite

Plans Starting at $84.99 per month

Xplornet

Xplornet Internet has been providing satellite internet services to residential users in remote locations in Canada for over a decade and can rightfully be called the leader in that space and the best satellite internet provider.

In a service challenged industry, Xplornet is often commended for the effort they put into their customer service and are accessible 24x7x365 in Canada.

Products and Services – Satellite internet for residential users is their primary product. They don’t get distracted by providing a host of services to a variety of client segments. They also offer a phone service along with their internet service.

Pricing – Like their offerings, the pricing and plans of Xplornet Internet are simple. Xplornet offers plans that come with unlimited data. The price range is $59,99 to $99.99 per month and phone plans from $21.99 to $24.99 per month. A WiFi router can be added for another $6.00 per month, if you don’t have one of your own. No equipment needs to be purchased to access the service.

Galaxy Broadband

Plans Starting at $64.99 per month

Galaxy Broadband

Galaxy provides a large choice of satellite coverage and frequencies, for varying speed options as well as redundancy. Download speeds can go up to 80MBPS and accommodate up to 1,000 users. Though based on Ontario, it can serve many remote locations outside Ontario as well, covering the entire Canadian landmass. It promises a network that is stable and delivers a predictable performance.

It provides connectivity to many industries such as mining, energy, oil and gas, marine and others as well as remote camps and offices. 

Products and Services – Satellite internet along with satellite equipment such as dishes, routers, modems as well as the satellite itself. It can integrate with SkyVOICE to provide a complete data and telephone solution through the same connection.

Pricing – The installation cost is available upon request. Galaxy operates on a data-based pricing model, typically starting with $15 per GB of data used. Unlimited usage plans are also available.

Ground Control

Plans Starting at $74.99 per month

Ground Control

Apart from being a manufacturer of equipment required in satellite communications, Ground Control provides best-in-class satellite internet services to individuals as well as corporations. Its satellite internet operations are international and not limited to the Canadian hinterland. That being said, the company does claim that providing exceptional satellite internet services to rural Canada is a matter of great pride for them.

Products and Services – Apart from satellite internet, satellite phone services are also offered by Ground Control, apart from the Terminals, satellites, and routers required for the connectivity.

Pricing – Speeds their internet infrastructure delivers vary between 600 KBPS and 20X5 MBPS. They follow the data usage model for pricing, with pricing pr MB of data ranging from $1 to $4. Portable satellite terminals are available for $2,200 onwards.

Starlink

Plans Starting at $99.99 per month

Starlink

Starlink is a relatively new service, having initiated its beta rollout across North America as recently as 2020 and is now open for common usage in some provinces of Canada. As a new provider, it has deployed updated technologies, like the lasers that travel at the speed of light and deliver broadband speed faster than the regular satellite internet.

Products and Services –.Starlink delivers satellite internet services.

Pricing – The service costs $129 per month while the dish costs $649. Download speeds delivered are between 37 MBPS and 60 MBPS. Even upload speeds are respectable at between 4.5 MBPS to 17.7 MBPS. Latency can be expected to be under 35 MS. Founder Elon Musk of Tesla and SpaceX fame has said that as the network expands, prices are likely to come down. He has also talked about providing internet at significantly lower prices to rural residents who are not able to afford the regular prices of satellite internet.

Other Types of Internet Connections

Before we get to Satellite Internet and the best satellite internet providers, let us look at the other types of internet connections that are commonplace.

Dial-up

People now in their fifties and sixties might recall the days, perhaps some time in the nineties, when they tried to connect to the internet through a dial-up connection, served through the line they received and made telephone call on. And the wonder and amazement as the computer screen gradually filled up with colours and information as the connection to a distant server was made. We could not have realized at the time how fundamentally the internet would change the world as its efficiency and coverage expanded exponentially over the next quarter of a century.

That was a dial-up connection. Though technically still available as a connection option, nowadays it is not even considered when we discuss the types of internet connections. Modern-day wireless internet connections are faster and more stable than the dial-up one.

Cable

The coaxial cable network laid out for reaching television to your house many years back, has also become a channel for serving internet into your homes and offices. It is no surprise that media corporations that serve TV programming, are also amongst the largest Internet Service Providers (ISPs). With the investment of the network already in place, it makes business sense to leverage the same network for additional services. The shoe seems to be moving to the other foot now, with TV consumers preferring the personalised streamed TV they can access through the internet. So, while internet is being delivered through the cable network, TV, for which the network was laid, is being accessed on the internet line.

Perhaps on account of being a legacy network, it is a cost-effective proposition and can provide amongst the fastest download speeds.

DSL

The other widespread network that has been in place is the copper wire network laid out many decades back to reach telephony into our houses and offices. This network, again, is now widely used to deliver internet into our homes and offices. DSL stands for Digital Subscriber Line and since it uses frequencies not used by the telephone, you can use both the internet and telephone simultaneously. As we know, fixed line telephone usage has been tapering off for several years while internet usage has been increasing.

Though DSL provides a dedicated circuit for each user, it is not able to match the speeds required by modern applications and some of the other types of internet services.

Fiber

Fiber is the latest kid on the block and, understandably, the fastest, leveraging advances in telecommunications technology. It uses fiber-optic cables to deliver internet which use light signals to send data to and from your computer. It is faster, more reliable and can carry data over much longer distances with no or relatively lower distortion.

Fiber is likely to provide a better experience to users who use network intensive applications like gaming and videoconferencing. The fiber network is relatively new and growing.

 

Satellite Internet

Laying down cable and telephone networks in the past may have been viable options in crowded, urban areas, but they have always been a challenge in areas with low population density, the investment often not being justified by the ‘market.’ That leaves large sections of a vast nation like Canada bereft of wired communication networks.

This is where Satellite Internet steps in and fulfils an essential need; of bringing communications technology to the hinterland and connecting people living in these areas to the rest of the world. It may not be the fastest connection on Earth (or in space!) but it provides a lifeline to the unconnected. Satellite internet is, by a distance, the best internet for rural Canada.

The connection is created with the help of geostationary (stationery with respect to the Earth) satellites with controllers on the ground. When you try to access a website, the signal from your device is communicated to the satellite through the antenna that is installed that connects to the satellite. The satellite communicates the signal to a receiving station on the ground through which it is communicated to the server of the website requested. The requested information then travels back via the same route, ending up on your device.

For standard applications like internet browsing, sending and receiving emails and social media posting, users may not detect much difference in a satellite connection versus a wired connection, except for ‘latency,’ which is the amount of time taken for a signal to reach the requested server and then back again. The longer the distance to be travelled, the greater the latency. It is also referred to as the ‘ping rate.’ Since information needs to travel thousands of miles to space and then back again, latency is generally higher than wired connections. Of course, you might feel the difference if you are using your satellite connection for a video conference or gaming.

Not being tethered to a network, satellite internet can be provided anywhere. However, it must be noted that satellite internet is also a competitive business where providers jostle for business and try to carve out their own unique spaces. As such, not all services may be available in all locations. In locations served by multiple providers, each is likely to have its own strengths and weaknesses. Hence, it is recommended that intending subscribers check out the services available at their location, evaluate the offerings, and then subscribe.

Most users of satellite internet use it because they do not have any other network that reaches their location. Satellite becomes the only choice for them, except for choosing between various satellite internet providers that may be serving their location. If wired networks are available, they would normally make more sense as they provide much faster download speeds compared to satellite, and are, at least in dense urban areas, available at cheaper prices.

The only other plausible scenario is where there is another internet option available, and that is a dial-up. Satellite internet might be preferred over a dial-up connection, with faster download speeds. It will be an upgrade.

This clearly makes satellite internet the best internet for rural Canada where no other type of internet service can reach.

You will need a modem to receive and send the satellite internet signals. Most providers, like Xplornet offer modems that can be rented from them. Most providers will also permit customers to buy their own compatible modem. Generally, if you intend using the service for a long time, buying a modem might be financially a better option.

Generally, a 25 MBPS download speed is considered adequate for most requirements in a household, including multiple people using the internet simultaneously. The main exception to this is gaming, which, for a smooth experience, will need higher download speeds as well as lower latency. The following may be considered as rules of the thumb for different uses and download speeds needed:

Work from home – 2 MBPS should be adequate for most workplace requirements such as accessing emails and exchanging messages on work platforms. Video conferencing should also be possible for one person.

Social Media and Internet – Up to 10 MBPS is more then adequate for browsing the internet as well as accessing and creating content on social media platforms. This can be done by multiple people in the household.

Students – Students have greater need of the internet as a lot of content for them is available online. A starting download speed of 6 MBPS should get you started on your educational journey.

Family – Though family sizes will vary, a 25 MBPS download speed should be adequate for the requirements of all members of the household. For smaller families, even 12 MBPS might suffice.

Netflix – Video streaming, especially if you stream HD videos, can be done if you have 5 MBPS available for it.

Gaming – Though a start can be made with 1 MBPS for one person, for near real-time experience, especially where speed of response is a key factor, even the best satellite internet may struggle to keep up.

Switching providers is a one-off activity that is usually not budgeted for, and one that we tend to keep deferring. Hence, any natural upheaval, such as a relocation, could become an occasion where you can once again evaluate your options and switch, if that seems to be the right thing to do, even if your existing provider’s service extends to the new area you are moving to.

Another good time to switch providers is at the end of any promotional period in which you have been the recipient of some benefits and your fees are about to increase or facilities reduce.

Of course, it goes without saying that if you believe you are the target of unfair practices by the provider, any time would be a good time to switch. ‘Voting with your feet’ is a powerful message to a provider.

All of us want the best for the cheapest. That, we can assume, is not available. In a competitive world, choices have to be made. The choices for an internet service revolve around the following parameters:

Download speed – Most households are consumers of information and not publishers, hence download speed is the key criteria that has become a unifying measure all across the industry.

Upload speed – This is usually not relevant, unless you intend to publish and upload content to the internet. With work from home being common, if you are one of these users, you should evaluate the upload speed as well.

Availability – This is a basic filter that allows you to focus on the few who deliver service to your access point. Others can be eliminated.

Reliability and outages – Internet access has become like oxygen, essential to keep us alive and active. Continuous availability is an important consideration that you can evaluate based on reviews and user feedback.

Customer and technical service – All machines and services break down at some point or another. At such times, you become dependent on the provider for restoration. The quality of their service, though it may not be required often, should be evaluated.

Cost – Both upfront as well as recurring costs need to be evaluated. You may also need to look at the bundled offerings, in case your need is more than just a plain internet, as providers often provide attractive bundles in a bid to push multiple services.

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