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The best satellite internet providers of 2021

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Providerviasat logohughesnet logo
Data15–300 GB/mo.10–50 GB/mo.
SpeedsUp to 100 MbpsUp to 25 Mbps
Price$30.00–$150.00/mo.*$59.99– $149.99/mo.
Get itView plans
or call: 855-317-9185
View plans
or call: 855-317-9185

Actual speeds may vary and are not guaranteed. 

*Promotional price is for the first 3 months. Regular internet rate applies after 3 months ($50–$200/mo.).

Service plans require a 24-month commitment.

Viasat (formerly Exede) and HughesNet deliver satellite internet with reasonable broadband speeds to most small towns and rural areas in the US. Although both providers have data restrictions, they do have the advantage of being available in areas where cable, fiber, and even phone lines don’t reach. 

Viasat offers the fastest satellite internet speeds and the most generous data allowances. If your household streams video or has multiple devices, we recommend Viasat’s Unlimited Platinum 100 plan. Priced at $150 per month (and then $200 after the introductory period), this plan includes 300 gigabytes (GB) of priority data per month, and then unlimited data thereafter at reduced speeds.

Upcoming providers

Starlink satellite internet (from SpaceX) is available in limited areas during the public beta testing phase. Since Starlink’s satellite system isn’t fully built out, Starlink has warned customers that service interruptions may occur. Starlink’s coverage area is currently limited to parts of North America and the UK. Although the initial setup cost is high ($499 for the router and satellite dish), Starlink’s $99 per month price is reasonable.  

OneWeb which was recently purchased by Bharti Global and the British Government, resumed satellite launches in December 2020 and may offer limited service to Arctic regions by late 2021. OneWeb expects to have full coverage offered sometime in 2022.

Project Kuiper (from Amazon) is also building a satellite internet constellation, although customers may not be able to sign up for Amazon internet until 2026.

Best satellite internet plans for rural areas

Best-in-class: Viasat Unlimited Platinum 100
viasat internet
  • Price: $150/mo.*
  • Download speed: Up to 100 Mbps†
  • Data: 300 GB/mo.
Best for basics: Viasat Unlimited Bronze 12
viasat internet
  • Price: $50/mo.*
  • Download speed: 12 Mbps†
  • Data: 35 GB/mo.

*Promotional price is for the first 3 months. Regular internet rate applies after 3 months. 

†Actual speeds may vary and are not guaranteed.

Why choose Viasat?

Viasat offers faster speeds than HughesNet—up to 100 Mbps in many locations. That’s four times faster than the top HughesNet speed. Viasat also offers much more data than HughesNet plans. With Viasat’s largest plan, you can get 300 GB of data per month, which is six times more data than you can get on HughesNet’s largest plan—although they’re the same price.

If you want the fastest satellite internet available with more data, get Viasat.

Why choose HughesNet?

HughesNet has the lowest prices on satellite internet—although it isn’t the best choice for everybody. HughesNet plans are cheaper because they offer plans with much less data than Viasat plans. If your household doesn’t use much data (such as if you only use internet for email and reading the news), you may be able to get by with low priced HughesN plans.

For the lowest price on satellite broadband internet, go with HughesNet.

Why choose Starlink?

The most enticing thing about Starlink so far is that it currently has no data limitations. In addition, Starlink may perform better for fast-paced gaming, since it has lower latency. It does have a hefty installation cost ($499 for equipment), but if it’s available in your area, it might be worth checking out. 

If you use oodles of data each month—and you have $499 to invest up-front in equipment—try Starlink.

Getting the most data with your satellite service

All satellite plans limit your data—that’s just how they work. Data is precious, since it travels out to space and back. If you reach your data threshold before the end of the month, your data will be deprioritized. That means your connection will be much slower for the rest of the month. 

HughesNet and Viasat offer several unlimited satellite internet plans, but bear in mind that even unlimited plans limit the amount of full speed data you can use each month. Once you reach your data threshold, you can keep the internet for the rest of the month, but your download speeds will slow down to 3 Mbps or less.

So, whichever provider you select, make sure you pick a plan that gives you enough priority data to last through the month and then monitor your data usage so you don’t go over your limit. For a more in-depth comparison, check out our Viasat vs. HughesNet review.

Satellite internet providers summary

  • Viasat: Available nationwide
  • HughesNet: Available nationwide
  • Starlink: Beta available in select locations
  • OneWeb: Expected to launch in 2022 (possibly sooner in Arctic regions)
  • Project Kuiper: Expected by 2026 or earlier (based on deadline set by FCC)

Discontinued satellite ISPs

  • dishNet: No longer available, but you can bundle DISH with internet from other providers
  • EarthLink: Discontinued satellite internet but now sells HughesNet internet
  • Exede: Changed branding to Viasat
  • WildBlue: Acquired in 2009 by Exede (now Viasat)

Pros and cons of satellite internet

Thumbs Up Pros

  • Availability: Satellite internet is available almost everywhere in the US. That makes it an excellent solution for rural areas.
  • Speed: Satellite internet is much faster than dial-up internet, even allowing you to stream videos online. Some plans are as fast as DSL or cable internet plans.
  • Flexibility: Satellite internet may not be good for niche activities like high-speed gaming but it performs well for most day-to-day usage like browsing, sending and checking emails, and even occasional video streaming (just watch that data cap).

Thumbs Down Cons

  • Data allowances: Most satellite internet plans come with a limited allotment of data—a benchmark for how much information you can download or upload at the speeds you're paying for. After you reach that data cap, your internet speed will slow down considerably.
  • Latency: Sending information to space and back takes a few seconds, making it difficult to play fast-paced online games.
  • Cost: The average cost of satellite internet (around $100 per month) is higher than other types of internet. Although there are some low priced satellite plans, these options offer very limited data that won’t work for most households.

Did you know?

Satellite internet service is generally not affected by natural disasters, pandemics, or other events. The exception would be if a storm or earthquake knocked over a broadcasting tower.

As a general rule, satellite internet is well equipped to keep people connected to work, school, friends, family, news, and entertainment irregardless of current events. And if hanging out with your family 24/7 is getting a bit much, you can also use your satellite connection to escape for an hour or two. Play a game of Scrabble, learn to build a bench on YouTube, or take an online yoga class.

What is satellite internet, anyway?

Find out what it is and how it works.

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.

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. Yet people in the countryside need internet service to stay connected to education, news, telehealth services, remote jobs, friends, and family. 19% of the US population lives in rural areas—which means that over 60 million people may not have access to urban internet options.

That’s where satellite internet comes in. 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. 

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, remote workers can work from almost anywhere and enjoy lower real estate prices and a healthier lifestyle away from the city.  

There are two main choices for satellite internet: Viasat and HughesNet. Starlink (from SpaceX) is currently in a beta test phase and offers satellite internet service to parts of the US, Canada, and the UK. You’ll need a small satellite dish installed on your home, a modem/router from your internet provider, and a monthly data plan. That’s all you need to get internet service from anywhere with a view of the southern sky—whether you own a small town bed and breakfast, a ranch in Texas, or a sprawling farm in the midwest.

For more on the ins and outs of satellite internet, check out How Does Satellite Internet Work?

Will low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites improve satellite internet service?

Starlink (from SpaceX) may offer faster internet speeds and less lag than other satellite internet providers because its satellites are in low-Earth orbit (LEO). Satellites that are in LEO are closer to the Earth, and since data doesn’t have to travel as far it can provide an advantage when playing high-speed games online.

Starlink Starlink is a new satellite provider that’s available to customers in parts of the US, Canada, and the UK during the public beta. Because the satellite system is not built out fully, customers may experience service interruptions occur periodically. Within the next few years, the Starlink satellite system will be fully built out and the service interruptions should not occur anymore. 

Starlink isn’t the only company working to leverage a LEO satellite system to deliver fast internet. OneWeb is launching satellites to meet similar goals, although funding problems have slowed the company down. According to current plans, OneWeb will cater to the aviation, maritime, and government sectors rather than to everyday folks living in sparsely populated areas. Project Kuiper (backed by Amazon) is also building a satellite network that will deliver fast internet service, although details are still sketchy on whether residential customers will be able to get internet with Project Kuiper.

Satellite vs. other internet services

Because of small data allowances and latency issues, satellite internet can’t quite keep up with other rural internet options, including DSL, cable, and in some cases even 4G LTE home internet. But that doesn’t mean it’s miles behind them in every category.

If you live in a rural area and don’t have access to other types of internet service, we recommend satellite internet. But if you can get service through another type of internet service—like cable, DSL, 4G LTE home internet, or fixed-wireless internet—check out those options first.

DSL and cable usually don’t have data caps and may be faster than satellite internet, and fixed-wireless internet tends to offer better prices for the speeds you get.

Swipe left to see all →
Internet typeMax download speedMax upload speedAvailability in US†
Satellite100 Mbps3 Mbps99%
DSL100 Mbps30 Mbps87%
Cable1,000 Mbps1,000 Mbps88%
Fixed wireless100 Mbps3 Mbps45%
LTE home internet25–60 Mbps3 MbpsN/A

*Data is estimated from currently offered plans from popular providers and subject to change. †Availability percentages as reported in FCC Fixed Broadband Deployment.

For a more accurate pricing comparison, let’s look at what a 25 Mbps plan might look like from each provider type. This is a useful speed to compare since it’s a good fit for a household of 2–4 people who need access to Ultra HD streaming.

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Internet typeDownload speedPrice
Satellite25 Mbps$49.99–$150.00/mo.
DSL25 Mbps$45.00–$50.00/mo.
Cable25 Mbps$24.99–$44.99/mo.
Fixed wireless25 Mbps$49.99–$79.99/mo.
LTE home internet25 Mbps$40.00–$60.00/mo.

You may have noticed the price range for satellite internet is much broader than that of DSL and cable. Satellite internet’s wide price range is primarily due to differences in data allowance, unlike unlike cable internet plans that are differentiated by maximum download speed. Satellite internet is a good, workable internet solution for rural areas that can’t  rural areas that can’t get DSL, LTE home internet (through a cellular data plan), fixed-wireless, fiber, or cable internet.

You can find out which plans are available in your area by typing in your zip code below.

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Are there government programs for free internet or subsidized internet in rural areas?

Yes, there are government programs to help rural and low-income Americans get low-cost internet in their homes. 

  • New: The FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit could give you up to $50 per month toward your internet bill ($75 for people living on tribal lands). It’s easier to qualify for this program than other existing programs since it takes into consideration loss of income during the pandemic. The program also offers a one-time benefit of up to $100 toward purchasing a computer, laptop, or tablet (you must put $10–$50 toward the device purchase and be eligible for the program). This is a new program recently passed into law and is expected to be available by late April 2021. Check the FCC Emergency Broadband Benefit page for the latest updates.
  • Low-income Americans all over the country benefit from The Lifeline Support for Affordable Communications, which gives qualifying individuals a $9.25 monthly discount on internet service. 
  • In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the FCC has waived Lifeline program rules to enable more Americans to get home internet.
  • For more information on inexpensive internet plans, check out the Best Cheap Internet Plans for Rural Areas.

Recognizing that many rural Americans are too wealthy for Lifeline but cannot afford to personally install hundreds of miles of fiber or cable infrastructure to connect them with existing networks, the FCC assists with several government programs to help bring internet service to rural areas. 

Some of these programs aimed at ending the digital divide include giving direct funding to expand rural broadband through programs like the Connect America Fund and the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. FCC programs tackling the digital divide also include data collecting initiatives that shed light on the extent of the digital divide and where funding could do the most good.

Satellite internet for business

Viasat and HughesNet both offer internet plans for businesses that can keep companies connected to their customers and suppliers. Business plans are more expensive than residential plans, although it’s possible to get a Viasat satellite business plan with unlimited data.

Viasat unlimited plans don’t have a hard data cap but they do have a soft cap, which means that your data may be slowed after you reach a set amount. Customers with business satellite internet plans also get quicker repairs and higher security features than residential customers. For more information about business plans, check out our Viasat for Business Review and HughesNet Business Review.

 

Swipe left to see all →
ProviderDataPriceGet service
Viasat for BusinessUnlimited$175–$500/mo.View plans
HughesNet Business35–250 GB/mo.$69.99–$199.99/mo.View plans

Satellite internet FAQ

What equipment will I need for satellite internet to work?

To use satellite internet, you’ll need an internet-ready device (like a computer, tablet, or gaming console), a modem/router, and a satellite dish. You probably already have internet-ready devices at home, and your satellite internet service provider can set you up with a modem/router and satellite dish.

How fast is satellite internet?

Download speeds for Viasat satellite internet range from 12 Mbps to 100 Mbps, depending on the plan you choose. HughesNet plans all offer the same download speed of 25 Mbps. But keep in mind those are advertised speeds. The speeds you actually experience may be slower. Starlink speeds (as reported during the public beta test) range from 50 to 150 Mbps, so it’s faster than some plans but slower than others.

Is satellite internet faster than cable?

No, satellite internet is not faster than cable or fiber internet, although it can be faster than dial-up and some DSL providers. But, it’s fast enough for most online activities— satellite internet service can support email, streaming, social media, and video conferencing. Satellite internet is almost always slower than cable or fiber internet providers. Additionally, satellite service usually caps the amount of full speed data you can get each month, which leads to throttling and sluggish speeds.

When will Starlink satellite internet be available? 

Currently Starlink is available in parts of the US, Canada, and the UK during the public beta. As new satellites are launched, additional areas will be added. It may take a year or more before Starlink is available globally. You can sign up on Starlink’s website and get a notification when Starlink internet is available in your area.

Who has the fastest satellite internet?

In many areas, Viasat offers download speeds up to 100 Mbps. Some beta testers of Starlink report slightly higher speeds for the new LEO service, with download speeds reaching up to 150 Mbps, although speeds vary widely since the Starlink constellation isn’t fully built out yet. Starlink’s advertised speeds are 50 to 150 Mbps.

Is satellite internet as fast as cable internet?

No, satellite internet is not as fast as cable internet. Satellite speeds top out at 150 Mbps while cable speeds can reach up to 1,000 Mbps. Some satellite internet plans technically offer download speeds as fast as cable internet in some areas, but it likely wouldn’t seem faster because of satellite internet’s higher latency

Is satellite internet good enough for streaming (e.g., Netflix)?

Yes, you can stream with satellite internet, but there are a lot of factors to consider before you do—especially data caps. With satellite internet, you’ll be picking a data plan as well as a speed, and your data plan can make a big difference in your speed. If you use too much data, your speeds will be slowed for the rest of the month, which can impact the ability to stream video.

Since streaming can be tricky on satellite, we wrote two guides to help you get the most out of your internet connection: Your Guide to Streaming with Satellite Internet and How to Stop Buffering When Streaming with Satellite Internet.

Should I get satellite internet or fixed-wireless internet?

If you have a choice between satellite internet or fixed-wireless internet, you may get more data for your dollar by opting for fixed wireless. Many fixed-wireless plans offer higher data caps or even unlimited data and are usually cheaper than satellite internet service. Satellite internet typically has more limited data plans (10 GB to 150 GB per month). For more information on fixed-wireless internet, check out the best fixed-wireless providers for rural areas.

How do I know if I qualify for subsidized broadband internet service through the FCC Lifeline program?

The Lifeline program offers a $9.25 per month discount on internet service with Viasat, HughesNet, or dozens of other internet providers. If you live on Tribal Lands, you may qualify for a monthly internet discount up to $34.25.

How can I get internet access on Tribal Lands?

Many Tribal Lands are underserved in regards to high-speed internet services. NPR reported that only 50% of individuals on Tribal Lands had access to high-speed internet.

If you live on Tribal Lands, your internet options may include some of the following.

Satellite communication relies on having a clear view of the sky, so people living in heavily wooded areas or narrow canyons (where there isn’t a clear view of the sky overhead) may not be able to get satellite internet. 

You can find out more about bringing internet service to your area (or your home) by checking into the FCC’s internet assistance programs for tribal lands. Recognizing that rural areas are more likely to not have access to internet, the FCC offers Enhanced Lifeline Benefits for Tribal Lands.

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How does satellite TV work?

Satellite TV works in a relay system similar to satellite internet, but it uses a set-top box and a TV instead of a modem and internet-ready device. Live satellite TV does not use internet data, so it’s a good choice for customers who have internet plans with data limits. For tips on picking a satellite TV provider, check out our guide to the best satellite TV providers.

How can I get high-speed internet in rural areas?

Satellite internet is available in almost every rural area in the US. Satellite internet plans come with download speeds from 12 Mbps to 100 Mbps. Any internet plan with download speeds above 25 Mbps is considered broadband (high-speed) internet by the FCC.

In many rural areas, satellite internet isn’t the only option anymore. Many areas have additional options that offer more data and lower prices. Check out our guide to the Best Internet for Rural Areas to find out about 4G LTE home internet, fixed-wireless, and other options that work away from the city.

Can I get satellite internet for RV?

It is possible to equip an RV with satellite internet, but this isn’t currently practical for most people. VSAT (very small aperture terminal) equipment is the only type of satellite internet equipment that is transportable, but this type of mobile satellite internet equipment is expensive ($5,000 and up) and delivers a really slow internet speed (less than 1 Mbps).

Still, satellite internet for RV can be the best option for people who work in extremely remote locations or in marine vessels on the open ocean. For more information, check out our guides to internet for RV and best internet for boats.

For most people who are planning to use the internet recreationally while traveling, we recommend using cellular internet in your RV and adding some equipment to make the signal stronger. You can strengthen your mobile phone signal by using a booster made for RVs, using a mobile hotspot, getting a portable 4G LTE home internet plan that isn’t tied to your location, or hotspotting off your phone (with a mobile plan that has a generous hotspot allowance). 

Is satellite internet good for gaming?

Some games work with satellite internet, but not all games. Because of the distance satellite internet data has to travel—22,000 miles to outer space and back twice—lag is unavoidable. Any game that requires rapid response, like Call of Duty, Apex Legends, or Fortnite—will be unplayable with satellite internet’s delay. For more tips, check out Your Guide to Gaming on Satellite Internet, written by an avid gamer who grew up in a small midwestern town.

When Starlink’s LEO satellite constellation is more fully built out, Starlink internet may be fast enough for competitive gaming. Currently, Starlink is in a public beta and customers may have service interruptions which would be a problem with online gaming.

Is satellite internet a good option?

Satellite internet is a great option when DSL, cable, or fiber internet aren’t available. In some areas, satellite service offers speeds up to 100 Mbps. Other parts of the country may have slower speeds of around 12 Mbps available in their area. Data caps and latency issues take some getting used to, but satellite internet service can effectively connect people who live away from city services to online school, jobs, news, entertainment, and more.

Is satellite internet better than DSL internet?

Satellite internet is available in more remote areas, but DSL internet sometimes has higher data caps. That means that DSL internet customers won’t be as likely to experience throttling. You can check out Satellite vs. DSL to determine which internet type is best for you.

Can you stream with satellite internet?

Yes, most satellite internet plans allow for some video streaming. But, you will need to carefully monitor your data usage because streaming uses a lot of data.

The problem with streaming on satellite internet has more to do with data caps than with speed, since nearly any satellite plan will deliver fast enough speeds for Netflix, Hulu, or other streaming service. But, if you binge watch all weekend and exceed your data cap, your satellite providers will throttle speeds down to 1 to 3 Mbps, which will cause problems with streaming and many other internet activities. 

HughesNet and Viasat have options to help you save data when you stream so you don’t use up your data allowance as quickly. We recommend you stream in the lowest quality when possible, since this will save data.

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