Can You Track the IP Address on Satellite Internet?

by John Lister - Updated August 21, 2018
Woman with satellite dish

The fact that you connect to the Internet via a satellite dish rather than a cable or phone line does not in itself mean you cannot be traced. Instead, the primary relevant factor is that, as a satellite customer, you are less likely to have a fixed IP address that permanently identifies your connection and location. You can still be traced indirectly via your service provider in some circumstances.

IP Address Basics

An IP address can identify a specific device (such as a computer) on a local network, or it can identify a specific device on the Internet itself. It's the latter situation that is relevant when tracing an IP address, and in this situation the address most commonly refers to a router or a server (a computer hosting a website.) When you visit a website or use another Internet-based service, you have data delivered to your router's IP address, which is roughly equivalent to a phone number on a telephone network. Publicly available "directories" show some details linked to a device's specific IP address, such as geographic location.

Static vs. Dynamic

Your router will have one of two types of IP address, assigned to you by your Internet service provider. A static IP address is one that is permanently assigned to your router. With a dynamic IP address, your service provider has a bank of numbers available and assigns them to customers as and when they connect or reconnect to the Internet. Once a customer disconnects, the service provider reassigns the IP address to the next customer.

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Satellite Internet

Satellite Internet providers may use either static or dynamic IP addresses. As a general rule, you are more likely to get a dynamic IP address if you are on a basic or consumer package. A static IP address is more likely to be available only with more expensive or business packages.

Tracing Users

If you are using a dynamic IP address, it can be harder for somebody to trace your location. This is because there's no permanently available public information linking the dynamic IP address with your router and location. Instead, somebody looking up a dynamic IP address would normally find only the details of your service provider. He may also be able to find the general geographic area where you are based, for example if the service provider always uses a particular batch of IP addresses for a particular area.

Law Enforcement

Although somebody trying to trace your IP address won't be able to find your location immediately if it's a dynamic address, you aren't completely untraceable. Given the IP address and a particular time, your service provider will be able to work out which customer was using the dynamic address. Depending on the applicable laws in your jurisdiction, law enforcement agencies or intellectual property holders may have the right (sometimes with a court order) to force the service provider to hand over your details.

About the Author

A professional writer since 1998 with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism, John Lister ran the press department for the Plain English Campaign until 2005. He then worked as a freelance writer with credits including national newspapers, magazines and online work. He specializes in technology and communications.

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