Satellite internet providers

Compare plans from HughesNet and Viasat to determine if satellite internet is a good fit for you.

The best satellite internet providers

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When shopping for satellite internet, you’ll likely find two available options: HughesNet and Viasat. Which provider is best for your home may come down to your location as HughesNet is the faster, more affordable option in select areas while Viasat may be the better option in others.

Best speed and price consistency

Best speed options and data

Compare satellite internet from HughesNet and Viasat


HughesNet satellite internet plans

HughesNet service highlights

Compared to Viasat, HughesNet has more consistent pricing and speed tiers, plus more “free” data available and lower equipment costs each month.

  • Plan price and speed consistency – HughesNet speeds (up to 25 Mbps) are standard, as is plan pricing, whereas Viasat speeds and pricing may vary by location.
  • “Bonus Zone” data – HughesNet customers can enjoy an extra 50 GB of data/mo. available from the hours of 2 a.m. to 8 a.m. – a feature that Viasat doesn’t have.
  • Low equipment fees – HughesNet equipment lease starts around $10/mo., a few bucks cheaper than the Viasat rental fee.

Viasat satellite internet plans

Viasat service highlights

Viasat offers faster speeds than HughesNet, but only in select areas. Regardless of available speeds, customers will appreciate higher data allowances than what’s available with most HughesNet plans, plus a two-year price guarantee.

  • Speeds up to 100 Mbps – Viasat offers four times the speed of HughesNet, but only in select areas. In some locations, available speeds may top out at 50, 30 or 12 Mbps.
  • Higher data allowances – With data plans ranging from 40-150GB, Viasat plans give you more data for the price compared to HughesNet.
  • Two-year price lock – Standard Viasat plans come with a two-year price lock while HughesNet customers may see a price increase after six months of service.

Starlink to offer more satellite internet options

Starlink, developed under the SpaceX umbrella headed by Elon Musk, is a new type of satellite technology that uses low-orbit satellites. With the use of thousands of these low-orbiting satellites, Starlink aims to remove some of the pain points that come with satellite internet, namely latency and data restrictions. Starlink speeds (50-150 Mbps) rival DSL and basic cable internet service, but may get faster as more satellites enter the network.  

After a period of satellite launches and testing, a beta version is available for customers in select areas. Plan pricing appears to be around $99/mo., plus initial costs for equipment and installation. 

Visit starlink.com to check availability in your area.


How satellite internet works

Satellite internet is an internet connection that uses satellite signals to send and receive data. HughesNet and Viasat use geostationary (fixed position) satellites that are about 22,000 miles above the Earth’s surface. 

From this height, a single satellite can cover a broad area. However, since so many customers are connected to the same satellite, access to data is shared by potentially thousands of customers at once. With so many people connected at once, satellite internet providers use data caps to help ensure there is enough bandwidth for all.

Additionally, 22,000 miles is a long way for data to travel, which is why satellite internet has such high latency (600+ ms). Such high latency makes real-time online gaming and live streaming difficult if not impossible. 

You can use a satellite internet connection for downloading, on-demand video streaming, uploading and some gaming (turn-based strategy games are best for satellite internet). Just like other types of internet providers, satellite internet requires a modem and a router for home Wi-Fi service, in addition to a stationary satellite dish.

Is satellite internet a good option?

Satellite internet is available virtually everywhere, but it’s not for everyone. Why? Because satellite lacks the speeds and bandwidth capabilities of cable, fiber and even some DSL internet connections. 

Advantages of satellite internet

  • High speeds comparable to DSL internet.

  • Satellite internet providers are perfect for rural areas where DSL and cable internet are not available.

  • Service usually has enough bandwidth to support light to moderate usage, web browsing and streaming movies and music.

  • Faster and more reliable than dial-up internet.

Disadvantages of satellite internet

  • Prone to weather-related disruptions or lags in speed.

  • Prone to weather-related disruptions or lags in speed.

  • Satellite internet providers place monthly data caps on how much data a user may download or upload.

  • High latency makes playing real-time online gaming impractical.

  • Not known for being a cheap internet option.

What you should know about satellite internet data caps

Both HughesNet and Viasat plans have monthly data allowances. Viasat plans tend to offer a higher monthly data allowance than HughesNet. 

Viasat plans generally come with more data than HughesNet – 40-150GB/mo. vs 10-50GB/mo. – but data allowances from both providers are significantly lower than other internet types which tend to offer 1 TB/mo. or more.

HughesNet and Viasat both offer “unlimited” data

Fortunately, both HughesNet and Viasat plans come with no hard data limits. Once you reach your data limit, you will experience reduced, or throttled internet speeds, but not an interruption in service or fees for going over your data limit. Your regular speeds will resume after the billing period in which you’ve gone over your limit ends.

Both providers also give you the option to purchase additional data “tokens” if you don’t want the speed reductions. Price and data amount for data tokens varies by satellite internet provider and plans.

How much data do I need?

To give you an idea of how much data you’ll need with your satellite internet plan, here is an estimate of data consumption for various online activities.

  • Browsing the web/social media for 200 hours – 3 GB
  • Streaming 200 hours of music – 0.8 GB
  • Streaming 50 hours of SD video – 35 GB
  • Streaming 20 hours of HD video – 50 GB
  • Downloading a full-length SD movie – 4 GB
  • Downloading a full-length HD movie – 10 GB
  • Downloading a video game – 40+ GB

Satellite vs. other types of internet

How does satellite internet compare to these other types of internet service connections?

  • Speeds – Max download speeds for satellite internet are currently lower than you’ll find with fiber or cable internet connections, but may be faster than DSL service in many areas.
  • Pricing – Considering the speeds you get for the price, satellite internet is one of the more expensive internet options. While starting pricing for HughesNet and Viasat is around $50/mo., the speeds and data that come with it are lower than you’ll find from other internet types with plans around the same price.
  • Data caps – As we’ve mentioned above, satellite internet plans typically come with far less data than DSL, cable or fiber plans. However, HughesNet and Viasat do not charge overage fees for going over your data limit.
  • Latency – Also as mentioned above, latency is much higher with satellite internet than other internet types, which can limit what you do online.
  • Contracts – HughesNet and Viasat service comes with a two-year contract. While contracts vary more by provider than internet type, a two-year contract is still longer than what is required from many other internet providers.

Our take on satellite internet

If you’re looking for reliable satellite internet in a rural area, Viasat or HughesNet (and in some areas, Starlink) are your best options. Choose HughesNet if you want a simple, less-expensive plan, with options for extra “Bonus Data.” Go with Viasat if speed and larger data amounts are among your internet priorities. If your address is eligible for Starlink’s beta service, we’d recommend trying it out to experience the faster speeds and lower latency, but beware that starting pricing is higher than HughesNet or Viasat.


Satellite internet FAQs

What providers offer satellite internet?

HughesNet and Viasat are the two most popular satellite internet providers with service available throughout all 50 states. Starlink, a new satellite internet provider using low-orbiting satellites, has recently launched a beta version of service in select areas. 

The speeds available with satellite internet (12-100 Mbps) are good for streaming on-demand video, but the high latency makes it difficult to stream live TV. Keep in mind that streaming video can consume a lot of data, which may quickly use up the relatively low data allowances that come with satellite internet plans.

Bad weather and extensive cloud coverage can interfere with your satellite signal, but if that doesn’t seem to be an issue, check out our tips to boost your satellite Wi-Fi signal.

Due to high latency, playing real-time multiplayer online games with any satellite internet provider is impractical. Turn-based online games should work fine.

Where available, Viasat offers the fastest satellite internet speeds with download speeds up to 100 Mbps. These speeds are not available in all Viasat service areas, however. In some areas, Viasat only offers speeds up to 12 Mbps, which would make HughesNet the fastest satellite internet provider in that area with speeds up to 25 Mbps.

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David Anders

Written by:

David Anders

Senior Writer, Broadband Content

David joined the Allconnect team in 2017, specializing in broadband and TV content. His work has been referenced by a variety of sources, including ArcGIS, DIRECTV and more. As a Senior Writer, David is motivate… Read more

Robin Layton

Edited by:

Robin Layton

Editor, Broadband & Wireless Content

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