Satellite Internet

Satellite Internet in Morocco: Pitfalls to avoid, How to choose your subscription

Satellite Internet in Morocco is a  new high-speed  satellite  Internet solution in Morocco  to meet the growing needs of Moroccan individuals and professionals. The solution offers  an unrivaled Internet experience  in terms of  connection quality  thanks to satellite.

For all those excluded from broadband (xDSL end of line, forgotten about 4G, etc.), satellite internet access represents a possible alternative. On the other hand, it is not always easy to navigate the jungle of offers – to say the least – and conditions. Before taking the plunge, here are the points to know.

In Morocco, an overwhelming majority of residents benefit from Internet access via xDSL, optical fiber or cable, but not everyone can benefit from it in good conditions. While waiting for 2022 or better days, satellite appears to be a solution to take into account to obtain “good speed”.

At the last census, at the end of 2017, less than 100,000 subscribers subscribed to it, very often because it was the only solution. Because this technology is not without imposing some limits: current offers do not exceed 30 Mb/s (theoretical maximum), have quotas, have a high ping, require equipment and a clear view, etc.

The opportunity for us to make a major comparison of what the different operators offer and the conditions they impose on their customers. But before that, let’s start with a few reminders on how this solution works.

Two problems: very high latency, shared bandwidth

Satellite subscriptions are all based on the same principle: the customer must install a dish at their home, which is then used to send and receive data via a satellite. For its part, the satellite connects to a ground transmitting station, itself connected to the Internet.

In practice, when you want to access a site, your request is transmitted by your dish to the satellite, which sends it back to a ground station and the latter takes care of retrieving the page. The station then sends the data back to the satellite which transfers it to your dish so that it finally arrives on your computer… a journey of more than 140,000 km for each request (or approximately 3.5x the circumference of the Earth).

satellite internet

One of the main problems of the satellite arises directly from this (very) long journey: very high latency. It takes a minimum of 240 ms for a signal to travel back and forth between the earth and the satellite. Indeed, those used for the Internet are geostationary (that is to say they are always at the same position in the sky) and are located at approximately 36,000 km altitude. 240 ms represents the time necessary for the light to travel the 72,000 km round trip. 

The minimum latency is therefore around 500 ms (two round trips), but in practice the average is more around 700 ms depending on the different ISPs. While this generally doesn’t pose too much of a problem for surfing, it’s not the same for network gaming and other remote desktop solutions, which require low ping. 

Moreover, satellite ISPs generally explain that they do not recommend their offers for uses such as network games. Another important point to take into consideration: satellite bandwidth is shared between all users and is not infinitely expandable. We are not only talking about subscriptions for individuals, but also for professionals and television services that use a satellite.

Access providers therefore explain that the theoretical maximum speed can be lowered when the satellite is heavily used by all customers. The companies that manage satellites have also implemented a “   fair  use policy  ” in order to prevent that the speed may be limited in the event of high demand.

The data is often limited, sometimes with “fair use”

Thus, there are almost no unlimited offers, with one exception – SkyDSL – but at the cost of strict conditions and sometimes very difficult to understand (we will come back to this). As a result, the packages offered by ISPs for the general public generally vary between 2 and 100 GB (download and upload included).

Some ISPs, however, suggest not counting your consumption at night (generally between 0 a.m. and 6 a.m.). This period can, for example, be used to download games or updates of several GB and thus consume a significant part of your package.

If some operators cut the connection once your quota is reached, others opt for a different approach with “fair use” – that is to say a reduced speed – exactly like in mobile telephony. A majority sell recharge packs with additional GB.

In short, you will have to pay according to your usage, which is generally not the case on landlines in France.

Three satellites above our heads

ISPs can currently only rely on three satellites covering all or part of mainland France. They act as distributors with commercial agreements with one or more satellite managers such as Eutelsat, SES and Avanti, which do not directly offer subscriptions to the general public.

Launched in 2010, and operational since 2011, Eutelsat’s KaSat is the main satellite providing Internet in France. It offers a total bandwidth of more than 90 Gb/s. Individuals can obtain speeds of 22 Mb/s in reception and 6 Mb/s in transmission. But it is (almost) saturated.

To the point that Eutelsat stopped the marketing of consumer offers for a year in a third of the country, before relaunching them. It widely covers the old continent and is accessible throughout mainland France and Corsica.

For its part, SES launched the Astra 2F satellite in September 2012. It is not only dedicated to satellite Internet in Morocco and also offers television services. Speeds for individuals are 20 Mb/s for reception, but only 2 Mb/s for transmission. Here again, it covers all of mainland France. 

Finally, one last operator launched at the end of 2016: Avanti, via its Hylas 2 satellite. This allows you to increase up to 30 Mb/s in download and only 2 Mb/s in upload, but it does not cover all France. Around a third of the metropolitan territory is eligible (mainly in the east). A coverage map is available  on the c2m website  (a subsidiary of Avanti), the only operator to market subscriptions via Hylas 2 in France.

Regardless, satellite Internet providers generally don’t let you choose which satellite you use. You generally need to do an eligibility test to get more details about your home.

A THD in preparation, a SpaceX constellation in ambush

The next generation is being prepared at Eutelsat with KONNECT VHTS: “Weighing 6.3 tonnes and with a capacity of 500 Gb/s in Ka band, KONNECT VHTS will carry on board the most powerful digital processor ever put into orbit , capable of combining flexibility in capacity allocation, optimal use of spectrum and progressive deployment of the ground network.”

Eutelsat gets excited in its press release: “  Over the next decade, VHTS satellites will provide capacity to serve the air connectivity and very high-speed Internet markets on a large scale, offering a service comparable to that of fiber, both in terms of price and speeds  ”… ignoring the fact that, no matter the power of the satellite, it will always be limited by the speed of light. The latter implies a latency of half a second whatever happens… we are a long way from optical fiber.

Other companies are trying a different approach. This is the case of SpaceX with its Starlink constellation (read our analysis) of nearly 12,000 satellites placed in orbits between 335 and 1,325 km. The latency melts like snow in the Sun, going from 500 ms to 16/17 ms, but it is necessary to be able to synchronize the satellites revolving around the Earth. At this altitude, they are no longer geostationary. This project is only in its early stages and only two test satellites have recently been in place.

The necessary equipment, its cost and financial aid

Who says satellite, necessarily says parabolic antenna for transmitting/receiving data. You will therefore need to purchase or rent the necessary equipment. The costs are significant since it involves several hundred euros during a purchase. 

However, as the Senate recently recalled, “  more than half of the departmental councils have provided financial assistance for the installation and/or acquisition of the reception kit  ”. On the other hand, they are subject to “  various modalities, which do not facilitate the readability of the system  ” recognizes the Luxembourg Palace.

Operators offer cards allowing you to know what you are entitled to depending on your department. You will find information on the C2M website, to name but a few. In any case, do not hesitate to contact your local authority to find out what exactly is happening.

ISPs also offer to rent the equipment for 1.99 to 9.90 euros per month. If this rental is interesting on paper, be aware that there are generally additional costs (activation, commissioning, etc.) which are added when subscribing, with a sometimes longer commitment.

You must therefore take all the parameters into account when choosing the offer that interests you.

Details of the conditions? Move along, nothing to see…

While for fixed and mobile offers, operators must offer standardized information sheets bringing together all the conditions, with an organized presentation, we have almost never found any for satellite offers. And when they were, not all the details were necessarily given.

To know the restrictions, the commissioning costs and all the other little subtleties, you have to spend time searching the nooks and crannies of the sites… when this information is displayed and/or easily understandable. In short, on satellite, customer information is (very) far from clear and that’s a shame.

We questioned the fraud prevention department (DGCCRF) to find out if satellite Internet access providers were subject to the same obligations as those on landlines and mobiles. No response yet. In any case, it is a shame that the authorities let this happen, further excluding these rural subscribers from market standards.

Read More: Telecoms: Details of the new law

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