5 Reasons Why Your Satellite Internet Is Slow—and How to Fix It


Kristin Cooke
Researcher & Writer
Read More
Published on June 07, 2021

Are you wondering how to speed up your satellite internet? Check out these common causes for your satellite connection slowing and how to speed it up.

Satellite internet service isn’t the fastest internet service in the world, but it’s often the only choice for rural areas. Still, satellite service should give you enough speed for everyday internet activities. Even the slowest satellite internet plans deliver download speeds of 12 Mbps, which should be fast enough for browsing the internet, email, video conferencing, and occasional streaming. If these common activities are not working on your internet connected device, you have a problem to solve.

Problem: running out of data

One of the most common reasons for slow satellite internet speeds is exceeding your data allotment. Viasat and HughesNet satellite internet services limit the amount of full-speed data you can use each month to between 10 and 300 GB per month (the amount varies by plan). Companies often refer to full-speed data as “priority data” to distinguish it from the super-slow data you’re stuck with after exceeding your limit.

If you go over your limit of priority data before the end of the month, you may still have unlimited data (depending on your plan). But your data will be much slower than usual—in most cases, it slows down to 1 to 3 Mbps or less. Ouch! With speeds this slow, you’ll have a hard time streaming video or doing a video call.

How to fix it

If you have run out of priority data, and you’re struggling to connect to an online class, there are some quick fixes and some preventative measures you should take.

You can buy extra data on an as-needed basis, depending on your plan. So, for many customers, the solution to running out of data is to buy more data. HughesNet calls this buying data tokens, while with Viasat you simply “buy more data.” But we usually don’t recommend buying extra data unless it’s extremely important or it’s an occasional splurge. Many satellite customers we’ve talked to end up burning through hundreds of dollars each month in extra data. Paying for extra data is expensive—to the tune of $10 per 1 GB.1 If you stream a single 2-hour movie in HD (which uses 3 GB per hour), you’ll pay $60 in data overage charges. Yikes!

So, we recommend satellite internet customers get a generous data plan and then keep data usage as low as possible rather than splurging on extra data every month. To find out if there are bigger data plans in your area, check out all available internet plans by typing your zip code below.

See local internet providers

You can keep track of how much data you’ve used with a data usage monitor, or with the HughesNet or Viasat apps—both of which include a data usage meter. In order to keep data usage low, you should minimize video streaming since streaming uses so much data. Instead, get satellite TV, a TV antenna, or rent DVDs for home entertainment.

Insider tip
Light Bulb

Satellite service isn’t designed to be used the same way cable internet can be used in the city—with a virtually limitless, high-speed funnel of internet bandwidth 24/7. If you can stay away from streaming video, you’ll have less frustration with your internet. 

Bumping up to a bigger data plan

If you’re running out of data each month, you can also upgrade your satellite internet plan so you have more data. Viasat and HughesNet offer tiered plans ranging from very low data up to moderate amounts. Starlink (which is available in a limited area during the beta phase) offers unlimited data, so if you can get Starlink in your area, you won’t have to worry about rationing out your data every month.

The satellite internet plan with the most data is Viasat’s Unlimited Platinum 100 plan, which gives you 300 GB of priority data each month.

Best satellite plans

Plan name

Viasat Unlimited Platinum 100

Viasat Unlimited Gold

HughesNet 50

Data300 GB/mo.

200 GB/mo.

50 Mbps
Download speed100 Mbps/mo.

50 Mbps

25 Mbps
Price

$150/mo.*

$100/mo.†

$149.99/mo.‡

Get it

* $200/mo. after 3 months.

† $150/mo. after 3 months.

‡ Requires 24-month agreement.

Problem: Your router is slowing down your internet

All satellite internet companies provide a modem and router combo unit. Usually, the equipment provided is fast enough to support the fastest possible satellite speeds, but it’s still possible to have modem or router related problems.

Slowing can happen when the router/modem unit is located too far from where you are using the internet. It’s also possible that the wireless band your router is operating on is too congested. If you live near neighbors, they could be using the same channel (or band) to broadcast their Wi-Fi network, causing some slowing and interference.

How to test your Wi-Fi network

You can find out if your slow internet speeds are due to router issues with a simple test. First, run an internet speed test with a laptop or computer connected to Wi-Fi. Next, connect a laptop or computer to your modem with an ethernet cable and disconnect the Wi-Fi. Now check the internet speed again. If your speeds are significantly faster when connected with an ethernet cable, then the slowing is due to Wi-Fi issues.

How to fix router location problems

You’ll get the fastest speeds if your router/modem combo is located in the center of your home. Using your device right next to your router/modem will give you the fastest speeds.

How to select the best band on your router

If your internet isn’t performing well, you can try switching your router to a different band. Satellite routers give you access to two bands: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. Usually, 5GHz will be faster and should be used if you’re getting slow speeds. But occasionally, the 2.4 GHz might perform better if the 5 GHz gets interference from your neighbors’ networks. The 2.4 GHz also passes through walls better than 5 GHz.

Need more help?
Info

You can do an in-depth Wi-Fi analysis with an app like NetSpot, or you can get specialized help for your modem/router by contacting customer service at HughesNet or Viasat.

Problem: Too many devices connected to Wi-Fi

Another cause for slow internet speed is overcrowding. If you have too many devices connected to the internet at the same time, speeds will just get slower and slower. And indirectly, the number of devices can further slow your internet speed by using up your priority data and getting you throttled for the rest of the month.

How to fix overcrowding

To remedy slowing caused by overcrowding, minimize the number of devices that are connected online. This includes laptops, computers, tablets, gaming systems, smart TVs, home security systems, and smartphones. Even DVRs can use internet data.

Disconnect devices from the internet if you don’t need them consistently. Turn off Wi-Fi on laptops and other devices when they aren’t in use. And if you have satellite internet, you might want to rethink your dreams of having a smart home—at least for the near future.

You can minimize data used on your phone by keeping phones on roaming Wi-Fi rather than connecting to your home network. And as long as you have a good cell phone connection inside your home, you can watch video streaming with your phone instead of using laptops and avoid maxing out your home data plan.

Insider tip
Light Bulb

If you can get a good cell phone signal in your home, check into an internet plan from a 4G LTE home internet provider. LTE home internet is available from T-Mobile, Verizon, and many other providers. This type of internet service connects your home to the internet using cellular data. LTE home internet plans typically give you more than twice as much data as you can get with satellite internet for about the same price.

 

Problem: Bad browsing habits

Do your browsing habits waste data or slow your speeds? A lot of people don’t think about how much data they’re pulling while browsing with multiple windows open. Each advertisement, social media site, and website open on your browser pulls data. On some browsers, you are even pulling data on minimized tabs.

When you’re reading email, browsing the news, listening to music, and shopping all at the same time, you’re using the internet like somebody with unlimited data. Many of us have a bad habit of letting tabs pile up, but this can cause slowing on any internet connection—and especially on satellite internet.

Insider tip
Light Bulb

If you’ve lived in the city, it can be frustrating to adjust to satellite internet’s slower speeds. But sometimes, the slowing gets worse because of our city habits—like streaming all our entertainment or keeping 30 tabs open on multiple browsers.

Sure, if you have a fiber internet connection speed of 1,000 Mbps and unlimited data, you can keep dozens of tabs open at the same time with nary a care. But if you’re relying on satellite data, it’s a different story. Each tab you leave open can keep pulling data (using up your precious data allotment) and slow down your browsing speed. Minimizing browser windows doesn’t always stop the data pull.

How to fix bad browsing habits

To prevent slowing while you’re browsing online or trying to send an email, stick with one tab and one browser at a time. If your computer is older, or has limited memory, you also may have faster processing speeds (which may include browsing speeds) if you don’t have multiple programs open at once.

Problem: Malware or viruses

If you’re getting excessive pop-up ads, or remarkable slowing on all activities, you could have a computer virus or malware. Viruses and malware most often cause a sharp decline in processing speed, rather than a generalized slowness that hasn’t changed much over the years.

How to fix malware or viruses

You can follow anti-virus steps from Norton or McAfee to get rid of viruses. You can also drop off your laptop to a computer repair place to get it running smoothly (which we’ve done sometimes). Virus removal is tricky. You may lose most of what you have on your computer, which is why it’s always best to have a backup of the hard drive.

If the slowness has been slowly building over months, you might not have a virus or malware—you might just have an overloaded hard drive. If you have too little available memory on your device, it will cause slowing. You can optimize your hard drive yourself. Cookies can also cause internet slowing. To fix this, you can clear your cache in your browser, which could increase your internet speeds.

FAQ

Will a satellite internet booster help my internet speed up?

A booster probably won’t help increase your satellite internet speed. A booster or extender will allow the signal to travel farther away from your modem/router, so it can be helpful if you’re trying to get a weak signal to stretch into the backyard or outbuildings. But a booster won’t make a satellite internet signal any faster.

How can I make satellite internet faster?

Making satellite internet faster usually boils down to having enough data. The most common cause for satellite internet slowing is maxing out your data allotment (and then getting your speed throttled). So monitor your data usage and avoid streaming video (which uses between 1–3 GB of data per hour).

There are two other quick things you can do to get the most out of your satellite connection when speed really matters: skip Wi-Fi and connect a single device at a time. The fastest internet connection you can get is with an ethernet cable, when you plug your computer directly into the modem/router. In addition, make sure nobody else in your home is online at the same time. If you’re trying to video call grandma at the same time that somebody is gaming, and someone else is checking social media, that could slow down your connection and make the call fail.

How can I make my Viasat internet faster?

Viasat is one of the only satellite internet companies that offer varying speed tiers, so if slow speed is a consistent problem, you could increase your speed and data cap. If that isn’t an option, make the most of the speed and data you have by not streaming video. Rent DVDs, get a TV antenna, or install satellite TV for your household entertainment instead. Streaming uses a lot of data, and once your data is gone, your satellite internet speeds will drop.

Is satellite internet the fastest internet in my area?

Satellite internet varies in speed from 12 Mbps to a speedy 140 Mbps, but it probably won’t ever reach fiber optic speeds available in urban areas. That said, satellite internet service is faster than dial-up and can be a good way to keep customers connected in rural areas. Satellite internet isn’t the only type of internet service in rural areas, however, so we recommend you check out other options as well. Many types of internet service—like fixed wireless, ADSL, and LTE home internet service—are usually better options if you have them available in your area. Learn more by checking out our guide to the “Best Internet Options for Rural Areas.”

Sources

1. Viasat website, “How to Buy More Data with My Viasat,” October 2020. Accessed January 27, 2021.

Kristin Cooke
Written by
Kristin Cooke
After graduating with a degree in English from the University of Utah, Kristin learned to geek speak while working as a technical recruiter, interviewing software developers and tech companies. For over 20 years, she has created award-winning content for technology, health, and finance companies. Kristin is an advocate for affordable internet for all and writes about rural internet solutions, satellite internet news, and tech products at SatelliteInternet.com. Her work has been featured in New York Post, PCMag, Forbes, Business Insider, Telecompetitor, Space.com, and The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society.