Q: Can I use VoIP with a WiFi connection from a satellite provider such as HughesNet?

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A: Maybe. There are three factors that influence whether or not this setup would work. First, we’ll deal with speed. VoIP connections require at least some minimum speed from an internet connection in order to support a clear conversation. Although the recommendations of different providers differ, most agree that a speed of 256 kilobits per second, or Kbps, for both upload and download, is more that sufficient. From the HughesNet website, that speed should certainly be attainable, though you would want to check your current speed with one of many available free online speed testing tools before signing up for VoIP. Many providers also maintain their own speed check tools. Some users report trouble with call quality on satellite internet connections due to lag or latency, so you may want to choose a VoIP provider with a money-back trial period, in case you are unhappy with how the service works with your satellite connection.

The second factor is latency, and this is where a satellite provider may have trouble. The term latency refers to the time it takes a packet of data to get from your computer or VoIP adapter out to its destination and back. Though they have high bandwidth, satellite connections often have a lot of latency, meaning it can frequently take a packet of data a second or two to make the trip from your VoIP adapter out to your recipient and back to you. This may have a serious negative effect on call quality.

The third factor is the wireless network. HughesNet is a satellite provider, and the internet connection from your satellite enters your home through a satellite modem provided and generally installed by HughesNet. This modem connects via an ethernet cable to your computer to provide a wired internet connection. If you wish to have a wireless (WiFi) network or to connect through cables to more than one computer, you will need either a wireless router or a wired router. If you already have a WiFi network, you have a wireless router connected to your satellite modem.

VoIP adapters are not currently able to connect wirelessly, so they must be hooked up to a wired internet connection via the router. The good news is that if you already have a WiFi network, you already have the necessary equipment. You’ll just plug your ATA, or VoIP adapter, into the wireless router, the wall, and your telephone. Some installations may have you place the ATA between your satellite modem and the router, so check the instructions your provider sends you or consult with a technical support representative. In either case, installation should be simple.If you’re concerned about quality, try signing up for a service with a free trial period (you can see which companies this includes on our comparison chart) to see how it works before you commit. Your provider may also have specific recommendations about which internet connections will work properly.

If you have more questions about VoIP connections, check out the FAQ, read previous blog posts, or take a look at our detailed comparison chart.