Viasat (formerly Exede) and HughesNet are now the only satellite internet providers available to the US. Both provide nationwide service, so you can choose between the two wherever you live.
In the past, there were more satellite options available. But keeping up with advancing satellite technology is expensive, and only Viasat and HughesNet stayed in the game. Because of this, a lot of satellite internet providers adapted or redirected their services. Take a look at some of the standouts.
Satellite Internet Providers Summary
- dishNet: Discontinued, but you can bundle DISH with internet from other providers
- EarthLink: Discontinued satellite internet but now sells HughesNet internet
- Exede: Changed branding to Viasat
- HughesNet: Available nationwide
- Viasat: Available nationwide
- WildBlue: Acquired in 2009 by Exede (now Viasat)
So, should you get Viasat or HughesNet?
Here’s a quick look at the highlights of the two leading satellite internet providers. For a more in-depth comparison, check out our Viasat vs. HughesNet review.
Why Choose Viasat?
The biggest reason to get Viasat Internet is the speed. Viasat offers speeds up to 100 Mbps, which is four times faster than the top HughesNet speed. That speed lets you do things like stream movies in HD or have several people use your connection at once.
Viasat offers free installation, a low equipment leasing fee of just $9.99 per month, and plenty of ways to contact customer service if you have any issues.
Lots of Choices
There are a variety of Viasat plans with different speeds, pricing, and data caps—although Viasat likes to call them “data thresholds” because your service won’t get cut off if you hit the limit.
When you reach the threshold, Viasat deprioritizes your data on the network. That means you’ll be at the back of the line until the new data cycle starts. This won’t be much of a problem when traffic is low, but on nights and weekends, when more people are online, your service will feel slow.
If you want the fastest satellite internet available with low fees and free installation, get Viasat.
Why Choose HughesNet?
HughesNet offers the best value on satellite internet because it gives you the most speed for the lowest price. Viasat does have one cheaper package than HughesNet, but the download speed on that package is only 12 Mbps, which falls below the FCC broadband standard. When you compare only satellite plans that meet the broadband standard, you could save over $10 per month by choosing HughesNet.
Data Bonus Zone
HughesNet data caps range from 10 GB per month up to 50 GB per month. If you hit your data limit, your service will still work, but it will be much slower. You can buy extra data if you need it, but you can save data by using the Bonus Zone. The Bonus Zone is during the off-peak hours between 2:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. Your internet usage doesn’t count against your cap during this time.
Free Installation When You Lease
HughesNet offers free installation if you lease your gateway for $14.99 per month, but it charges up to $199.00 for installation if you purchase your gateway. When you add that to the cost of the gateway, it’s easy to see why we recommend leasing the equipment.
For the lowest price on satellite broadband internet, go with HughesNet.
Pros and Cons of Satellite Internet
- 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.
- Data Allowances: Satellite internet plans come with an allotment of data—a benchmark for how much information you can download or upload. After you reach that data cap, your speeds will slow down considerably.
- Latency: Sending information to space and back takes a few seconds, making it difficult to play fast-paced online games.
Satellite vs. DSL vs. Cable
Because of small data allowances and latency issues, satellite internet can’t quite keep up with DSL or cable internet. But that doesn’t mean it’s miles behind them in every category.
|Internet Type||Max Download Speed||Max Upload Speed||Availability in US|
|Satellite||100 Mbps||3 Mbps||99%|
|DSL||75 Mbps||3 Mbps||90%|
|Cable||400 Mbps||40 Mbps||89%|
*Data is estimated from currently offered plans from popular providers and subject to change.
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.
|Internet Type||Download Speed||Introductory Price|
You may have noticed the price range for satellite internet is much broader than that of DSL and cable. The variation comes from HughesNet, which sets all its plans at 25 Mbps but adjusts the pricing based on the data allowance, unlike DSL and cable plans, which are priced by speed.
With those comparatively high prices and low data allowances, satellite internet keeps up with the competition by offering something its competitors can’t: wide availability.
Satellite internet is an excellent solution for rural areas that don’t have a connection for DSL or cable internet.
Satellite Internet: What It Is and How It Works
Satellite internet uses a satellite in space, a satellite dish at your home, and the provider’s Network Operation Center (NOC) to provide you with internet services, even in hard-to-reach rural areas. Thanks to its advanced technology, satellite internet offers high-speeds that greatly surpass dial-up internet.
Sitting over the equator, satellites can send and receive signals through “spot beams” that cover most of the US. As long as you’re within one of these beams and other users aren’t using all the data capacity, you can get satellite internet service.
There are two main choices for satellite internet: Viasat (formerly Exede) and HughesNet. Either can set you up with a small satellite dish pointed toward its satellite in the southern sky and a modem/router for your home.
Data transfers from your home internet devices to the satellite in space and then to the NOC back on Earth—and back. All of this happens in a fraction of a second.
For more on the ins and outs of satellite internet, check out “How Does Satellite Internet Work?”
Satellite Internet FAQs
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 provider can set you up with a modem/router and satellite dish.
Which modems and routers work with satellite internet?
Both HughesNet and Viasat have their own modems because satellite internet modems don’t have industry standards. While they also have modem/router combos, you can buy your own router, such as the NETGEAR Nighthawk. Almost any modern router will be compatible.
How fast is satellite internet?
Viasat has a wide range of plans with maximum download speeds from 12 Mbps to 100 Mbps. All HughesNet plans come with up to 25 Mbps. Most satellite internet plans have 3 Mbps upload speeds.
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.
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, and 25 Mbps is the current FCC standard for high-speed internet.
What is satellite broadband?
Satellite broadband is another term for high-speed satellite internet. The FCC standard for broadband requires a minimum download speed of 25 Mbps.
Is satellite internet good for gaming?
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 and other first-person shooters, will be unplayable with satellite internet’s delay.
Is satellite internet a good option?
Satellite internet is a great option when DSL, cable, and fiber internet aren’t available. It comes in high speeds up to 100 Mbps, but it can be a bit pricey. Data caps and lag associated with satellite internet make it less than perfect as well, but it can get the job done and is certainly better than no internet at all.
Is satellite internet better than DSL?
Depending on the provider, DSL and satellite internet speeds are on par with each other. Satellite is more widely available, but DSL usually has higher data caps. Refer to our Satellite vs. DSL vs. Cable section to determine which internet type is best for you.
Can you stream with satellite internet?
Yes, it’s easy to stream with satellite internet. You may notice some lag if you’re skipping around the video, but once a show starts streaming, it will download at a normal pace. Both HughesNet and Viasat have options to help you save data when you stream so you don’t use up your data allowance too quickly.
Satellite Internet: Fact vs. Fiction
FICTION: Satellite internet is slow.
While satellite internet can’t deliver the gigabit speeds of some fiber-optic internet providers, its top speeds still reach up to 100 Mbps, which is competitive with many cable and DSL providers. Eight of the twelve residential satellite internet packages available qualify as broadband. Most performance issues with satellite internet aren’t caused by low speed—they’re caused by high latency.
FACT: Satellite internet has high latency.
Latency, sometimes called lag, ping, or ping rate, is the time it takes a digital signal to travel from your computer to your provider’s server and back.
With satellite internet, the signal travels farther than it would with a cable, DSL, or fiber connection because it literally goes to space and back. Traveling that extra distance takes extra time. That’s why satellite internet has higher latency than other types of internet technology.
You’ll notice the latency the most during real-time online activities like video chatting.
FICTION: Satellite internet is expensive.
Satellite internet prices are comparable with other types of internet. Most internet packages offered in America range in introductory price from about $45 to $150 per month, and it’s the same with satellite internet.
Even after the introductory price expires, the long-term prices still fall in line with industry norms on almost every package.
FACT (sometimes): Bad weather interferes with satellite internet signals.
Bad weather occasionally interferes with the signal, but that issue is often blown out of proportion. Despite the potential for weather interference, satellite internet customers gave their providers higher customer satisfaction scores for reliability in 2018 than any other internet customers gave their providers.
FICTION: You can’t play video games on satellite internet.
Latency can make online gaming problematic, but it can still be done. The trick is to choose the right games and optimize your setup. Check out “Your Guide to Gaming on Satellite Internet” for more details.