VPN & Satellite Internet Service Compatibility

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Getty Images/Denis Scott

VPN and satellite Internet technologies were not designed to work together. These two technical limitations of satellite Internet greatly affect the performance of a VPN:

  • Virtual private networks (VPN) require a high-​bandwidth, low-latency network to function efficiently. Satellite Internet services, on the other hand, normally suffer very high latencies due to the long distance satellite signals must travel.
  • Satellite Internet also tends to support low upstream bandwidth. Specifically, satellite bandwidth for uploads is comparable to that of dial-up Internet services. VPNs demand high bandwidth for both uploads and downloads.

Despite these limitations, it is technically possible to use most VPN solutions with most satellite Internet services. The following caveats apply:

  • 1. Overall performance of a VPN connection over satellite will be poor. VPN over satellite often performs at the speed of a dial-up Internet connection.

    2. Satellite providers generally do not offer technical support or service guarantees to VPN users.

    3. Satellite providers commonly deploy a performance boosting technique called "IP spoofing" as part of their service. This IP spoofing interferes with the ability to establish VPN connections. For VPNs to work with satellite Internet, the provider must have some provision to bypass IP spoofing for VPN connections.

    4. The same compatibility issues between VPNs and personal firewalls, and VPNs and Internet connection sharing software apply for satellite as with other types of Internet service.

    To determine if a given VPN client or protocol will work with a given satellite service, consult the satellite provider. While they may not offer technical support, providers usually list general compatibility information about VPNs on their Web sites. Note that limitations can vary depending on the package subscribed to.

    "Business" or "telecommuter" services, for example, tend to offer more VPN support than "residential" services.