Internet Via Satellite

If you're in an area where cable TV doesn't exist, or you already have a DirecTV or Dish Network satellite dish, take a look at the southern sky from your home, condo, or apartment building.

If you have a good, clear 45° window view to the sky toward the equator and you want fast downloads of big files, a satellite-based service such as DirecWAY (formerly DirecPC) or StarBand might be the high-speed choice for you. Depending on the product you choose for satellite Internet, you might be able to use a single dish for both satellite Internet and satellite TV.


DirecWAY was originally called DirecPC, but Hughes Network Systems renamed it in mid-2001, shortly after rolling out a two-way version of the DirecPC service. The original version of DirecPC/DirecWAY, and the only version available until early 2001, is strictly a hybrid system, meaning that incoming and outgoing data streams and other operations are actually routed two different ways:

  • Downloading uses the 400Kbps (peak speed) satellite connection. At top speed, a DirecWAY customer can receive data at speeds about seven times faster than with a 56Kbps modem. Peak traffic loads can slow the satellite-based service download speed.

  • Uploads and Web page requests require the use of a conventional analog modem.

This version of DirecWAY is no longer on the market, having been replaced by the current two-way service. For more information on one-way (telco return) DirecPC/DirecWAY, see Upgrading and Repairing PCs, 13th Edition, available on the DVD packaged with this book.


The DirecWAY service requires you to purchase and install a small satellite dish as part of the necessary hardware. It's similar but not compatible to those used for DirecTV and USSB satellite services. You can add DirecTV to DirecWAY service at any time because the DirecWAY satellite dish is also compatible with DirecTV signals.

The dish is connected to what's called a satellite modem, a USB device used to receive data. The current two-way DirecWAY service uses the 35'' wide DirecWAY satellite dish to send and receive data. DirecWAY works with Windows 98SE, Windows 2000, Windows Me, and Windows XP on systems with a 333MHz AMD K6 or Intel Pentium II–class processor or faster.

Windows 98SE and Windows Me systems need at least 64MB of RAM, whereas Windows 2000 and Windows XP systems need at least 128MB of RAM. The software installs from a CD-ROM drive. Your analog modem is used only for initial account setup (a process called commissioning by DirecWAY) or troubleshooting with a two-way system.

Purchasing Service

DirecWAY can be purchased from several partners in the United States, including these:

  • Earthlink. Earthlink Satellite Powered by DirecWAY; its Web site is at .

  • DirecTV.

  • AgriStar.

  • National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative (NRTC).

Depending on the vendor you choose and the payment plan offered, you might be able to spread the cost of the satellite dish and satellite modem out over an extended time, instead of paying for all the equipment up front. You also must have the system professionally installed.

The cost might be included in your system, or there might be an additional charge, although some vendors provide price breaks on equipment or installation. Monthly service charges are around $70/month when equipment is purchased up-front; charges can vary. Check the Get DirecWAY Service link at the DirecWAY Web sitefor the latest vendor and pricing information.

Brakes on High-Speed Downloading?

A big concern for those wanting to exploit the high-speed download feature continues to be DirecWAY's Fair Access Policy (FAP), which was introduced long after the original DirecPC service was started. FAP uses unpublished algorithms to determine who is "abusing" the service with large downloads.

Abusers have their download bandwidths reduced by about 50% or more until their behavior changes. A class-action lawsuit was filed in July 1998 by DirecPC users who objected to this policy.

Users said that Hughes Network Systems, Inc., the developer of DirecPC, was simultaneously selling the system on the basis of very fast download times and then punishing those who wanted to use it in the way DirecPC had sold it to the public. As a result of the class-action lawsuit, DirecWAY partners' Web sites now offer usage guidelines that are supposed to help you avoid being "FAPped."


In April 2000, StarBand—the first consumer-oriented two-way satellite network—was introduced after being tested as Gilat-At-Home. StarBand uses an external USB modem and a satellite dish that supports both StarBand Internet and Dish Network satellite TV. In fact, the feature set of DirecWAY in its current two-way form is almost identical to StarBand.

StarBand provides download speeds ranging from 150Kbps to 1,000Mbps (1Gbps) and upload speeds ranging from 50Kbps to 150Kbps or higher, depending on the satellite modem used. StarBand's satellite modems include the new StarBand Model 480Pro, released in early 2003.

The 480Pro contains a four-port router and can be used with non-Windows operating systems. The Model 360 is the standard model for residential users; it's a smaller, faster model than the original Model 180 and can be interfaced through either USB or Ethernet ports. StarBand supports Windows 98/98SE, Windows Me, Windows 2000, and Windows XP.

StarBand has partnered with several other companies, including W.A.Y.S. Inc. LLC, SIA, and US Online. StarBand equipment pricing and monthly service fees are generally similar to DirecWAY two-way's price structure, although some vendors might offer special promotional packages and bundles.