5G Home Internet vs Satellite Internet

When choosing an internet service provider (ISP), two of the options that may be available to you are 5G home internet and satellite internet. Satellite internet service is wireless internet beamed down from satellites orbiting the earth by means of radio waves, and it has been readily available for almost two decades. On the other hand, 5G home internet is a fixed wireless service that uses higher frequency radio waves, and it has only been around for the past couple of years.

Besides the “age” difference in the technologies, there are differences in available speeds, coverage areas, how the service is provided, and what equipment is required. After reviewing the pros and cons of each type of service, we’re confident you will be equipped to engage with your local ISPs and decide which service is right for you.

What is 5G home internet?

5G stands for 5th generation. It is a mobile fixed wireless signal between an ISP and its clients using higher frequency radio waves than previous versions, like 4G and 3G. There are actually three versions of the 5G signal, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.

Millimeter-wave 5G

Of the three versions of 5G, millimeter-wave uses the highest frequencies. This means that it is capable of ultra-fast connection speeds, even going as high as 1Gbps. The downside is that the higher frequency radio waves are not capable of traveling over long distances or penetrating through obstacles such as buildings and mountains.

Low band 5G

Low band 5G is similar to previous 4G technology, but it’s much faster. Though not as fast as millimeter-wave 5G, low band has a longer range and works better indoors or in crowded spaces. This is the version of 5G that allows ISPs to reach a much wider coverage area.

Midband 5G

This signal splits the difference between millimeter-wave and low band 5G. It’s almost as fast as millimeter-wave and it can extend to a larger coverage area, much like low band.

Who provides 5G home internet service?

Because of the versatility of the three versions of 5G, providing high speeds with an extensive coverage area, ISPs are able to offer this service to millions of Americans. Here are some of the providers who may offer the service where you live:

  • Starry
  • T-Mobile
  • Ultra
  • Verizon

The cost of a 5G home internet connection starts at about $25/month and can range up to $80/month, depending on the provider and the plan.

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What is satellite internet?

Satellite internet relies on a wireless signal that originates from a network of satellites orbiting the earth. These satellites transfer data back and forth from network operations centers (NOCs) on the ground to the orbiting network of satellites and back down to customers. It requires a dish correctly positioned to communicate with the satellites, and a modem/router to translate the data being sent and received. The modem/router also broadcasts a Wi-Fi signal in the customer’s home for wireless devices to connect. There are two different networks of satellites used for this service.

Geostationary

These are a network of satellites orbiting 22,000 miles above the surface of our planet. They are what provide traditional satellite internet service, enabling two-way data transfer between the customer and the ISP. They are positioned over the equator and rotate with the earth so that their position is consistent. That is why it is referred to as geostationary.

Low-earth orbit

Another newer network of satellites orbits much lower—just 300 miles above the earth. Because they are closer and are a newer generation of satellites, they allow for much higher internet speeds with less latency or lag. The downside is that the lower orbit limits the coverage area. To give you an idea of the difference, thousands of low-earth orbit satellites would be needed to cover the same area as just two or three geostationary satellites. In addition to these two networks, some satellites are equipped with a technology called spot beams. These allow a satellite to focus its signal on a specific coverage area.

Who provides this type of service?

Certain ISPs seem synonymous with satellite internet because of how long this technology has been around. Here are a few of the major providers who may have services available where you live:

  • HughesNet
  • Viasat
  • Starlink

The cost of satellite internet varies quite a bit, starting as low as $40/month and ranging up to as much as $160/month depending on the provider and the plan.

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Comparison of 5G home internet and satellite internet

The nature and history of these two technologies mean that their coverage areas may not overlap as much as other internet connection types such as cable, DSL, or fiber. So, your choice may be determined by factors such as geographical location and population density.

5G home internet

Pros

  • Speed. 5G generally boasts faster speeds than satellite, with ISPs offering symmetrical or asymmetrical connections between 50 and 1000Mbps.
  • Affordability. 5G home internet plans are also usually less expensive than satellite internet.

Cons

  • Availability. While 5G home services have been rolled out and expanded rapidly, the service is still mostly available only in densely populated areas where ISPs already have infrastructure in place.
  • Reliability. While offering higher speeds, the faster 5G versions may have limited range and be unable to power through man-made or natural obstacles. You may need a mix of the three types of 5G signals to boost connectivity.

Satellite internet

Pros

  • Availability. In rural or remote areas, satellite internet is still the most available technology. That is because the equipment can be installed as a stand-alone service with no need for infrastructure.
  • Reliability. While initially, satellite internet service was spotty due to the need for line-of-sight connection to the satellite network, advances in the technology mean more satellites in geostationary orbit, as well as a newer network of satellites in low-earth orbit. Additionally, ISPs such as HughesNet have satellites with spot beam technology to focus on a specific coverage area.

Cons

  • Cost. Satellite internet connections are generally more costly due to the equipment and the cost of launching and maintaining the satellites.
  • Flexibility. With a small number of satellite internet providers, there aren’t many choices for those whose geographic location limits their options for internet connections.

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Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

What is 5G home internet?

5G home internet service is the 5th generation of mobile fixed wireless internet. It is available in three versions: millimeter-wave, low band, and mid-band.

Is 5G the same as 5GHz?

No. 5G stands for 5th generation, and it is a relatively new technology. 5GHz refers to the frequency of the radio signal broadcast from a Wi-Fi modem. For a number of years now, Wi-Fi modems have provided two connection frequencies: 2.4GHz and 5GHz. 5G internet is a much higher frequency than that broadcast by your router. So, having a router that broadcasts at 5GHz does not necessarily mean it’s capable of connecting to 5G service. Ask your ISP if you’ll need a new router in order to upgrade to 5G home internet.

What is satellite internet?

Satellite internet is wireless internet powered by a network of satellites orbiting the earth. There are two networks of satellites, one in geostationary orbit over the equator, and the other in low-earth orbit. The service requires a dish positioned correctly to communicate with the satellites, and a modem/router to translate the data signal being sent and received. Communication and data transfer is governed by ground stations called network operations centers (NOCs).

Which internet connection is faster—5G or satellite?

5G offers faster speeds, maxing out around 1Gbps. Satellite service only goes as high as 500Mbps. However, both are more than adequate even for activities that require more bandwidth, such as gaming and streaming content.

What are the differences between 5G home internet and satellite?

Both technologies use radio waves as a wireless signal carrier, but 5G uses much higher frequencies. The higher frequencies are what allow for faster internet speeds, but they don’t travel as far and they may not pass through certain objects. On the other hand, the lower frequencies used by satellites go longer distances, cover a larger area, and transmit through most obstacles.

Is 5G more reliable than satellite?

Both technologies are very reliable. Each may have its limitations, but technological advances in each service have minimized any issues with reliability. For example, satellites need a line of sight to connect, but adding more satellites and putting some in low-earth orbit has made satellite internet much more reliable. In the case of 5G, the millimeter-wave version offers the fastest speeds but the least range. Combining it with the low band and mid-band frequencies, however, has increased its reliability even in densely populated metropolitan areas.

Is 5G home internet available in remote areas?

Due to the infrastructure required and the age of this technology, coverage is mostly available in urban areas. For remote, rural areas with little to no infrastructure, satellite internet is still the most available option.

Which is better for gaming—5G or satellite?

Both services are available at speeds that can handle the heavy broadband usage required by online gaming and streaming services.

Is satellite high-speed internet?

Yes, with speeds ranging from 12 to 500Mbps, satellite internet qualifies as high-speed internet. You’ll need to check with your provider to verify what speeds are actually available in their plans.

What kind of equipment does satellite require?

Satellite internet requires more specialized equipment than other internet services. A satellite dish correctly positioned to make a connection with the satellite network is necessary and may need to be installed by a professional. Additionally, a modem/router is needed to translate the signal into data, and vice versa, and to broadcast a Wi-Fi signal for your devices to connect to.

What kind of equipment does 5G home internet require?

Since 5G is a wireless signal, the ISP will provide a receiver/router to connect to the signal and broadcast a Wi-Fi signal in your home. Most ISPs will deliver the receiver and no installation is necessary. Setup can usually be done by the customer by means of a mobile app.

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*Pricing varies by location and availability. Speeds may vary. All prices subject to change; for current pricing and availability visit our internet service page. Prices as of 5/19/22.

Disclosure | Updater articles are based on our own data and research, independent from partner relationships. We are not compensated by partners for information and opinions presented here. Our Editorial Terms of Service can be found here.