A satellite return Internet connection is an arrangement in which incoming data arrives at your computer from a satellite downlink and outgoing data (such as your request for the next Web page) is sent over a regular telephone line.
Because most of the traffic on the Internet is toward the user (in the form of text, graphic images, streaming video, and so forth), the kind of high-speed channel that a satellite can provide (direct to the user using wireless radio) is desirable. On the other hand, the user's outgoing requests, typically for a Web page, are relatively small bursts of text, easily and more economically handled by slower telephone transmission.
In a typical satellite return connection, the outgoing data speed for "plain old telephone service" (POTS) is typically 28.8 or 57.6 Kbps (depending on the user's modem), but in practice is often slower. Incoming data from the satellite to the user's system arrives at a much higher speed. Thus, the satellite return connection is asymmetric. A medium-sized, elongated dish antenna, measuring about two feet high by three feet wide by three feet deep, receives the signals. When the Internet is heavily used, the downlink occurs at 200 to 300 Kbps. During periods of light usage, the downlink speed can be 400 to 500 Kbps, and sometimes exceeds 700 Kbps.
The author recently had AOL (America Online) Plus, a satellite return Internet service offered jointly by AOL and DirectPC, installed at his rural home office. Bandwidth tests were conducted with the new system compared with POTS. The telephone connection provided actual bandwidth ranging from 10 to 15 Kbps; the AOL Plus link worked at 250 to 770 Kbps.