Great question. A portable Ku antenna can deliver a pretty big satellite internet pipe: enough to support a large command center and staff with internet and phone service or deliver HD broadcast video. The amount of uplink and downlink bandwidth you can send and receive on the antenna is dependent on several variables but there is a range of service that as a client, you should be able to anticipate that a service provider can offer for a portable size antenna.
What is a portable antenna? I would define a portable antenna as one that can either
a fly away antenna that can be assembled by a single person, or a vehicle mount antenna that fits on top of standard consumer vehicles like vans or SUV’s. For all practical purposes, a portable antenna is 1.2 meters or smaller.
What factors determine how much bandwidth you can receive on your antenna?
The size of your antenna, which satellite you are on, your location, the power of your amplifier, the size and power of the antenna you are sending and receiving to, the modem you are using and the bandwidth caps imposed by the service provider to name a few.
Don’t worry, you won’t need to know all that! Just tell your service provider exactly what you want to do and where and they will recommend appropriate equipment configurations and prepare a link budget calculation to meet your needs.
How much bandwidth can you anticipate on a portable Ku band antenna?
In general, smaller antennas will provide a smaller link. Assuming that you are using a service which uses their own hub antenna to send and receive signals from yours, you might anticipate the following ranges on these size antennas. Keep in mind, these are ballpark figures and will vary based on the above variables.
- 75 cm Ku antenna – up to 2 Mb/s uplink/downlink
- 96 cm Ku antenna- up to 7 Mb/s uplink/downlink
- 1.2 m Ku antenna- up to 10 Mb/s uplink/downlink
These are NOT hard and fast rules. You may get more or less throughput on any of these sizes.
What if you are quoted a lot less bandwidth?
- Ask your provider what the reason is. Be patient with the answer. Trust that the provider understands what is capable with the resources they have available under the conditions you specify.
- Ask if there are any upgrades available such as higher power or a larger antenna that would accomplish your goal.
- Ask if the limitations are physical or specific to the provider’s network.
- Talk to other providers to see if there are other options available. For example: a different satellite may offer better coverage of your geographic area or a different technology may allow larger uplink streams.
- Be prepared to pay more for additional power, modem upgrades or other boosts to your available bandwidth.
- Know that all components are not created equally. Higher quality antennas or electronics often deliver better performance and can be much more reliable.
Often times, performance comes down to network design. There are many satellite networks out there, each designed for a specific style of usage. Ask questions of providers to determine what type of client they aim to serve. A network designed for high bandwidth uplinks will probably not be the most cost efficient choice for a rural small business whose primary applications are email and websurfing. And by comparison, a network designed for the rural small business or home user will probably not meet the needs of public safety officials for emergency communications.
But I don’t need that much bandwidth on my antenna? Why did they quote me a larger antenna than I need?
There are many good reasons to use a larger antenna. Feel free to ask your provider why they recommended a particular antenna size. Often, unless there is a specific need for a very small antenna, a provider will recommend a little big larger than the minimum requirement. Why?
- Cost – There is always a balance between antenna size and the power required for operation. Often the larger antenna costs less than increasing the power.
- Reliability – a larger antenna can allow for additional overhead during rainstorms or other interference.
Chances are there is a network and an antenna that can meet your project requirements. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of the engineers. As satellite providers our goal is to deliver high quality, cost effective satellite service and equipment in a portable format to meet your needs.