Satellite internet plans usually cost more than their land-based counterparts, mostly because of the restrictions that naturally accompanies satellite technology. These include speed, data, and equipment like home satellite dishes and geostationary or low-earth orbit satellite infrastructure.
Internet packages are usually priced based on how much speed they offer. Faster packages cost more, especially with satellite internet providers. For example, Viasat internet prices its plans this way, and it makes choosing a package relatively easy. Need more speed? Just bump your plan up a tier, the max of which provides 300 Mbps.
Unlike Viasat, HughesNet's plan all offer the same download speeds: 25 Mbps for every plan. That's technically high-speed internet (according to the Federal Communications Commission), and should serve the average couple's needs. So HughesNet internet doesn't price its plans based on speed; instead, they're divvied up based on data cap size, which we’ll discuss more below.
How much internet speed you need really depends on two things:
- What are you using the internet for? Streaming HD video requires a lot more download speed than just browsing the web.
- How many people will be using the internet at the same time? If two people are streaming at once, you’ll need twice the bandwidth to avoid any performance issues.
HughesNet bases its satellite internet prices on data cap sizes rather than speed. As we mentioned, all HughesNet packages offer the same speed: 25 Mbps. Each package tier then offers 15–100 GB of data, growing more expensive the higher the data cap you want. We recommend the 30 GB plan for low-internet users and 100 GB plan for Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+ binge-watchers.
Viasat plans also have increasing data limits as the speed (and price) increases, but that’s not the main way the packages are advertised.
Both satellite internet providers technically offer unlimited data, but it's not truly unlimited as it sounds. The data caps both internet services determine how much high-speed data you can use. After that, you may have unlimited data, but it's standard data instead of premium data. That just means you'll get super slow speeds after you exceed your plan's data limit.
The average data cap for satellite internet plans is 60 GB. The highest data cap available is 300 GB on Viasat’s Unlimited Platinum 100 plan. Keep in mind that these limits are more like thresholds. When you reach them, you can still use your service, but your speed will be slowed to 1–3 Mbps (virtually unusable). But at least there are no overage fees.
Starlink offers plans with truly unlimited data, which is one reason why it's so exciting. The only problem is Starlink availability is highly limited as it continues to roll out its network.
The data amount you need largely depends on what you’re doing with your internet connection. If you only browse the web and check email occasionally, you can probably get by with a basic 30 to 35 GB plan.
But if you’re gaming or streaming music and (especially) video at higher resolution, you’ll eat through that very quickly. Watching an hour of Netflix in HD can use up to 3 GB of data, so more data is always better—especially if you stream a lot.