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Satellite internet service

What is satellite internet?

Satellite internet is an internet connection that uses satellite signals to send and receive data. Using geostationary (fixed position) satellites, providers can offer a reliable internet connection to nearly anywhere in the U.S.

Modern satellite dishes used for satellite internet are capable of sending and receiving data. This means you can use a satellite internet connection for downloading, streaming and uploading. In addition to a fixed satellite dish, satellite internet requires a modem and a router for home Wi-Fi service.

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The Best Satellite Internet Providers

  • HughesNet Best for consistent pricing and speeds. Available throughout the U.S. including Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.
  • Viasat – Best for speed options. Available throughout most of the U.S. excluding Alaska and parts of Arizona.
  • DishNET – Best for bundle discounts. DishNET service is no longer available. However, DISH offers TV and internet bundle incentives with various providers.

HughesNet and Viasat will be your two best satellite internet options. Click below to shop available satellite internet plans for your address.
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Satellite internet plans from HughesNet and Viasat

All HughesNet plans include download speeds up to 25 Mbps but vary by monthly data allowances. Viasat satellite internet plans offer varying speeds ranging from 12 to 100 Mbps where available.

HughesNet satellite internet plans

PlanPrice starting at*Speeds up to**Data allowance
Gen5 10 GB$59.99/mo.25 Mbps10 GB/mo.
Gen5 20 GB$69.99/mo.25 Mbps20 GB/mo.
Gen5 30 GB$99.99/mo.25 Mbsp30 GB/mo.
Gen5 50 GB$149.99/mo.25 Mbps50 GB/mo.

*Pricing per month plus taxes for length of contract. Additional fees and terms may apply. Pricing varies by location and availability. All prices subject to change at any time. May or may not be available based on service address. Speeds may vary. As of 07/16/19.**Actual speeds may vary and are not guaranteed.

Viasat satellite internet plans

PlanPrice starting at*Speeds up toData allowance
Unlimited Bronze 12$50/mo.12 Mbps40 GB/mo.
Unlimited Silver 25$70/mo.25 Mbps60 GB/mo.
Unlimited Gold 50$100/mo.50 Mbps100 GB/mo.
Unlimited Platinum 100$150/mo.100 Mbps150 GB/mo.

*Pricing per month plus taxes for length of contract. Additional fees and terms may apply. Pricing varies by location and availability. All prices subject to change at any time. May or may not be available based on service address. Speeds may vary. As of 07/16/19.

When comparing HughesNet and Viasat satellite internet plans, it’s important to note that while HughesNet’s plans, speeds and pricing are consistent throughout the U.S., Viasat’s are not. Your address will determine which Viasat plans are available. For example, if only speeds of up to 12 Mbps are available in your area, plan tiers will vary by monthly data allowance, similar to HughesNet plans.

You’ll also want to consider monthly price increases when comparing Viasat and HughesNet. Viasat pricing increases after three months of service and could raise your monthly bill anywhere from $20 to $50/mo. New HughesNet customers, however, get the same introductory price for 12 months.

Satellite internet and data caps

Monthly data allowances are a catch that come with satellite internet plans, no matter which provider you choose. Viasat plans tend to offer a higher monthly data allowance than HughesNet, depending on the plan.

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

How much data am I using?

  • 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

Source: AT&T data calculator, Forbes.com

As you can see, streaming and downloading are the biggest data consumers. To minimize how much data you use, consider streaming video in standard definition. For large downloads, such as an HD movie or video game, HughesNet customers can save data by scheduling these downloads during the “Bonus Zone” hours.

Unlimited satellite internet services

Fortunately, both HughesNet and Viasat offer “unlimited data.” 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. HughesNet’s “Bonus Zone” offers an additional 50 GB of data per month for free available during the hours of 2 to 8 a.m.

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.

Who is satellite internet a good option for?

Satellite internet is available virtually everywhere, but it’s not for everyone. Satellite internet is best for residents of rural or suburban areas where cable or fiber internet connections are not available.

Satellite internet is improving, but still currently lacks the speeds and bandwidth capabilities of cable and fiber internet. In areas where satellite and DSL internet are the only available options, satellite internet may be your best option for broadband speeds.

Compare your available internet options and see if satellite internet is right for your home with our free ZIP code check service.

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Pros and cons of satellite internet

  • Prone to weather-related disruptions or lags in speed.
  • Service can be more expensive than cable or DSL service.
  • Many 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.

Satellite internet frequently asked questions

Current satellite internet technology offers speeds comparable to DSL internet, but cannot deliver the speeds available with cable or fiber-optic services. Satellite internet speeds max out at up to 100 Mbps, while most cable providers can offer up to 10 times that speed.

Yes. Satellite internet is already significantly faster than it was in previous years and new, low-orbiting satellites could bring even faster speeds. Amazon recently announced Project Kuiper, which aims to launch over 3,000 satellites across the world to provide broadband internet access. Additionally, the low-orbiting satellites could also drastically reduce latency issues with satellite internet.

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

  • Reset your router
  • Disconnect Wi-Fi devices currently not in use
  • Adjust the router antennas for better signal coverage
  • Upgrade your router equipment

Both Viasat and HughesNet offer “unlimited” data internet plans. These plans have monthly data allowances, but not hard data limits. This means that customers who go over their monthly data allowance won’t incur extra fees or service interruptions, but may experience reduced speeds until the next billing period begins.

Satellite internet has high latency compared to other types of internet. This makes playing real-time multiplayer online games impractical. Satellite internet can, however, support turn-based online games.

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.

Last updated 07/16/19.

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