What’s the Best Satellite Internet Provider?
Are you looking for internet service in a rural or underpopulated area? In such areas, cable, fiber, or DSL internet aren’t widely available, meaning satellite internet could be your only option. With satellite internet, you can not only get good download speeds, but also unlimited data with a number of packages.
So how do you choose the best satellite internet service? While options are limited, there are three popular providers who stand out: Viasat, HughesNet, and Starlink. The former two have been around for several years while Starlink is a relatively new player in this field. We’ve done the heavy lifting so you can compare the strengths and weaknesses of each to make the best decision for you your household.
The big players
HughesNet offers affordable plans, as it has the lowest long-term prices on satellite internet. That’s because it offers plans with much less data than other providers. If you use the internet sparingly and your household doesn’t consume much data, you could make do with a HughesNet satellite internet plan and save money.
What’s more, HughesNet plans don’t come with some of the price fluctuations you may find with other providers. However, if you’re looking for super-fast internet, HughesNet may not be the right option as it offers a maximum download speed of 25Mbps.
With download speeds up to 100Mbps, Viasat satellite internet is suitable for customers who are looking for fast speeds and higher data caps, like a family with members who work from home. For instance, with Viasat’s largest plan you get a 300GB data cap every month, which is six times more data than you would get on HughesNet’s largest plan. However, Viasat plans are the most expensive and prices increase over 20% after the three-month promotional period has ended. Also, bear in mind that you will have to sign a 2-year contract.
Starlink internet is a great fit for people who are looking for ultra-fast internet speeds without a 2-year contract. This SpaceX-operated service boasts download speeds of up to 150Mbps. It may also perform better for fast-paced gaming since it has lower latency. However, Starlink’s availability is limited as it is still in the beta phase, and it also comes with a $499 installation fee.
Viasat and HughesNet are well-established providers with impressive coverage across the United States, including remote locations. They are available across all 50 states. By comparison, Starlink is relatively new and is yet to expand its services to most parts of the US.
Generally, satellite internet doesn’t give you the fast download speeds that you get with fiber optic and cable internet. However, you can rely on Viasat and Starlink to provide you with the top speeds available from satellite internet. When it comes to upload speeds, both Viasat and HughesNet offer a 3Mbps speed, whereas Starlink offers up to 20Mbps.
All satellite ISPs other than Starlink offer limited data with their plans. This means that you will have to pay extra whenever you exceed their limits, which can really add up.
Latency is another factor that impacts your internet experience, and Starlink’s services come with the lowest latency among satellite internet providers. Comparatively, HughesNet and Viasat have more latency, which means that you might experience a lag while using their service.
When it comes to pricing, HughesNet provides you with the most affordable packages. However, this affordability comes at the expense of speed and data caps. You can get HughesNet plans ranging from $60 to $150/month for data up to 50GB. The pricing of Viasat plans ranges between $30 and $169/month, for data caps of 50 to 300GB. Starlink offers unlimited data usage for $99/month, but it comes with a $499 installation fee as well.
What others are saying
When it comes to ratings and reviews, internet users nationwide are divided between HughesNet and Viasat. Most people who have moved to remote locations from larger cities have been satisfied with these two satellite internet providers.
According to an FCC report, Viasat offers higher download and upload speeds, but when it comes to maximum advertised download speed, HughesNet is known to provide approximately 250% of its advertised speed, and it also has a much higher on-peak speed. Moreover, HughesNet trumps its competitor in terms of latency and packet loss as well.
It is also worth noting that in the J.D. Power 2020 U.S. Residential Internet Service Providers Customer Satisfaction study, HughesNet took 11th place in the Overall Customer Satisfaction Index Ranking for the Southern region. Last but not least, HughesNet has a customer satisfaction rating of 3.7 out of 5, with Viasat following close behind at 3.6.
Satellite internet provider FAQs
How does satellite internet work?
When you are connected to a satellite internet service, data goes from your device to the satellite dish, which then transmits it to a satellite in a geostationary orbit over the Earth’s equator. The data bounces back to your ISP, which sends it back to your device.
How much does satellite internet cost?
Generally, satellite internet can cost anywhere between $30 and $160/month, provided that you stay within data caps imposed by certain providers.
Is satellite internet fast?
Satellite internet isn’t as fast as fiber optic or cable options, but it can reach speeds up to 300Mbps.
Does satellite internet break down during bad weather?
Satellite equipment is built to endure extreme weather, so if there is heavy rain, snow, or even a hailstorm, your internet connection might only get disrupted for a short amount of time.
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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 1/26/22.
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.