A low-Earth orbit satellite (sometimes abbreviated to LEO satellite) is a satellite that travels in orbit 1,200 miles above the Earth or less. Although low-Earth orbit satellites have been in use since 1957—beginning with the launch of low-Earth orbit Sputnik and progressing to the International Space Station—they have only recently been employed for satellite internet service, thanks to advanced technology from SpaceX. (1)
Previously only geostationary satellites (larger satellites that orbit 22,000 miles above Earth) were used to provide satellite internet service, which is created by satellites beaming an internet signal from space. Geostationary satellites provide nationwide coverage but offer slow speeds and expensive data. Using low-Earth orbit satellites for internet services not only reduces latency, but also opens the floodgates for faster satellite internet speeds and unlimited data.
In this article, we’ll cover what the use of low-Earth orbit satellites means for satellite internet service and how they bring faster speeds and lower latency. We’ll also cover the risk of relying on low-Earth orbit satellites and why geostationary satellites are still here to stay.