It’s basically satellite internet. VSAT stands for “very small aperture terminal” which, let’s be honest, doesn’t tell you any more than you already knew. So let’s back up a little bit.

Back in the 1960s, the only people who sent information up to satellites were big companies (like the phone company) and big governments. And the used big dishes. We’ve all seen images of those five-meter dishes out in the middle of the desert. With Mad Men technology, that’s what you needed in order to get a signal up 22,000 miles to a tiny little target. But of course, these dishes were expensive and certainly not the sort of things you find in your average backyard.

By the 1980s, with the advent of digital communication, the scientists who think up neat things like satellites had an idea. What if it were possible to use a dish smaller than three meters for two-way satellite communication. That would be pretty impressive, right? I mean, everyone wants a 10-foot dish on their roof, right?

Luckily, the push for miniaturization didn’t stop and be the 2000s it became possible to send and receive digital data with a dish only 60cm (about two feet) wide. That’s doable, right? So companies started selling VSAT service where internet service didn’t make sense. Ever see a funky looking satellite dish on a convenience store roof? That’s so the ATM machine and credit card machines can talk to the outside world… over satellite. Ever see a big dome on a cruise ship? While it could be a lot of things, if the ship offers internet service, they’re doing it through VSAT.

Today, VSAT isn’t just for big ships. It can be fitted to any craft that can accommodate that 60cm dish, which means most mid-size yachts can qualify. This means internet service even when you’re too far away from cell towers, and if you have a larger yacht, that probably happens a lot. Speeds tend to be “OK” as in you can probably watch Netflix but forget about downloading ripped movies off the internet. If you’re just trying to get email and do a little Amazon shopping, they’re fine.

VSAT service is also good for folks in rural areas who don’t have good internet service. A stationary dish on top of a building can get about 15 megabits down, which isn’t exactly warp speed but it’s better than DSL which is usually the only other option.

If you’re interested in finding out more about satellite internet, call the fine folks at Signal Connect, our commercial and installation arm, at 888-233-7563 anytime during the week. We carry the top brands like Exede, Intellian, and KVH, and we can help get you set up with internet service pretty much anywhere there’s a view of the sky.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.