Best satellite internet plans for rural areas
Viasat Choice 100
• Price: $149.99–$199.99/mo.*
• Download speed: Up to 100 Mbps†
• Data: 150GB/mo.
*$10 off for 6 months. 24 mo. commitment required. Pricing not available in all areas. Offer valid 6/31/22-8/31/22
The Viasat Choice 100 plan is about as fast as satellite internet can get (pending Project Kuiper and Starlink). With speeds up to 100 Mbps and a nice data cap, you can get rural internet that keeps up with a modern lifestyle. The catch? Viasat's fastest plan is expensive, isn't available everywhere, and of course, the unlimited satellite internet isn't truly unlimited.
Although Viasat internet is available all across North America, its fastest speeds are offered only to select areas. You'll have to see which satellite internet plans are available where you live using Viasat's website.
If you just need an internet plan but don't plan on using it much, go with the HughesNet 30GB Data Plan. You'll get speeds up to 25 Mbps, which is fast enough for a few people to do most things online. The price is also impossible to beat. Choose this plan if you just want your satellite internet to be available but not used very often.
Learn more about Viasat vs. HughesNet.
Satellite internet services
HughesNet, Viasat, and Starlink are the best satellite internet providers, but there are more satellite internet providers around the globe or on their way like Amazon's satellite internet, Project Kuiper. See the full list of available or upcoming providers that will be able to offer satellite WiFi.
All satellite internet providers
Click on the links above to read our full reviews on each, but here's the most important highlights you'll need to know about these other satellite internet providers.
People like to call Project Kuiper Amazons internet, and they're not wrong. Specifically, Project Kuiper is Amazon's new satellite internet service that's meant to help internet users in underserved areas get the connection they need. It's not yet available but set to launch by 2029.
Prototype testing suggests Project Kuiper internet may reach up to 400 Mbps, which would make it even faster than Starlink. But we'll have to see once the satellite internet system is actually up and running.
OneWeb is a satellite internet service that's backed by both commercial and government cash. It's mostly for European use, with backing specifically from the UK government. Read our OneWeb review for more.
Continuing the international internet connection bend, Telesat is actually a Canadian company that sells satellite internet services to enterprises and other businesses. In other words, you can't sign up for Telesat like you can one day sign up for Project Kuiper and OneWeb. But if you're a large business, this baby might be up your alley.
What is satellite internet and how does it work?
Satellite internet is wireless internet that beams a connection from a satellite in space to a satellite on your house. The satellite on your house then translates the signal through your router/modem, which beams satellite WiFi through your entire home. Although it's available nationwide, satellite with internet is more common in rural areas.
Satellite internet solves the problem of how to get internet to small towns and rural areas, where fiber and cable infrastructure aren't in place. Take a look at how this year's best rural internet options compare to last year's fastest and slowest rural cities.
In urban areas, homes and skyscrapers are wired with cable and fiber lines that bring the internet to people living in cities and areas with dense populations. Installing fiber is cheap in an apartment building, where the cost per customer is minimal. But what about people who live beyond the city limits? Running fiber lines out to each home in rural America would be extremely costly.
How to get high speed internet in rural areas
Unlike most other types of internet service, satellite internet doesn’t need any land-based infrastructure running out to your home. Instead, a home satellite dish communicates with a satellite in space to provide internet service. So satellite with internet is available virtually everywhere.
That means you can get satellite internet anywhere you are, so long as you have a clear view of the southern sky and a place to install your satellite dish.
With satellite internet, data transfers from your home internet devices to the satellite in space and then to the Network Operations Center back on Earth. All of this happens in about half a second. Thanks to satellite internet, people can still enjoy an internet connection even if where they live lacks cable or fiber infrastructure.
Satellite internet services and latency
Your satellite internet speeds and experience will depend on which satellite provider you go with and which plan. Different providers use different technology that will alter your internet speeds and latency.
For example, Starlink satellites are different from existing satellite internet providers like Viasat and HughesNet. Starlink relies on low Earth orbit satellites (LEO satellites), which means it has thousands more satellites that circle the Earth at a lower altitude, making it possible to offer faster speeds and lower latency.
Providers like Viasat and HughesNet use satellites operating in geostationary orbit. The distance of these satellites increases your latency and sometimes offer slower speeds, but there are limitations to low Earth orbit technology that may make Starlink by SpaceX service more spotty than Viasat's and HughesNet's.
Other players in the low Earth orbit satellite provider game include Jeff Bezos with Project Kuiper. Kuiper plans to offer a similar product to Starlink, but with a smaller terminal and at a more affordable cost. It wants to make internet access affordable to remote locations. Kuiper by Jeff Bezos is not yet available as a satellite provider, but it will be within the next couple of years.
Another way that satellite providers are dealing with high latency is through multitransport connections like HughesNet Fusion. HughesNet Fusion deals with latency by making use of terrestrial wireless networks for latency-sensitive data. This means that if you start watching a Twitch stream or make a Zoom call, your HughesNet equipment will switch over to a wireless connection to deliver that data to your device without the lag you’d get using your satellite connection.
Like LEO satellites, hybrid satellite internet like HughesNet Fusion have the potential to deliver a much better online experience to rural communities that lack access to cable or fiber internet.
Learn more about how satellite internet works.
Unlimited satellite internet
Is there such thing as unlimited satellite internet?
Satellite providers claim they offer unlimited satellite internet, but like mobile providers, this claim is based on a technicality. Truly unlimited satellite internet—or satellite internet service with no data caps or data slowdowns—doesn't exist, but Starlink's 1 TB data cap during daytime hours and unlimited data during the night is pretty close.
Unlimited satellite internet is more difficult to obtain than unlimited internet with other internet types like cable or fiber. That's because of all the reasons we spelled out above—satellite internet systems have more complicated infrastructure from the get go. But people used to say 1 Gbps speeds with cable would be impossible, and now they're common.
That said, it wouldn't surprise us if unlimited satellite internet became the standard in the next few decades. Just keep an eye on on our website for all satellite internet and satellite tech updates; we'll let you know when we see the dream of truly unlimited satellite internet on the horizon.
Is HughesNet internet Unlimited? Does Viasat have an unlimited plan?
Technically, all HughesNet and Viasat plans offer unlimited satellite internet. But it's not truly unlimited. You get a set amount of priority data, or high-speed data, at the speeds you sign up for. After you run through that, you're not disconnected from the internet, but your speeds are usually throttled.
We've experimented with HughesNet, and after we blew through out data one month, we found our speeds weren't affected. That might be because there weren't a lot of other HughesNet internet users in our area, and therefore, there was no reason to throttle our speeds and clear the internet highways. But you can't rely on that, so remember: technically unlimited satellite internet isn't the same as truly unlimited satellite internet. Just like with cellphone data plans!
Can you get unlimited internet with Starlink?
Elon Musk's internet service used to offer truly unlimited data, but unfortunately, Starlink no longer has actually unlimited satellite internet—or at least, not all the time.
Because Starlink has been running into major network congestion issues (that's when too many people in an area are using the service, so the entire service in that area slows down to pittance—much like with cable internet providers, only slower), Starlink internet has to start limited data in a new way. Instead of limiting your data by plan, Starlink Residential users are now allowed to use unlimited satellite internet only during the night. Your total daytime data caps out at 1 TB per month.
As far as satellite internet data caps go, Starlink's is still the most generous around, but the limitations are still important to note. Keep in mind that these are just the numbers for Starlink Residential, too. Starlink RV (now called Starlink Roam) comes with different rules around network congestion speeds and data caps as well.
Use your zip code to find satellite internet providers near you.