A satellite internet connection can get you online in places where wired internet services can’t. But for the complete internet experience, you’ll want to set up a Wi-Fi network.
Don’t worry: this is much simpler than it sounds. We’ll walk you through the whole process from start to finish, and we’ll help you pick out the best router for you.
What you’ll need
- Satellite internet service
- Satellite dish
- Wireless router
- Ethernet cable
Don’t worry about getting this stuff individually—your Internet Service Provider (ISP) will provide everything you need to get started. (And you can use your own wireless router if you want.)
Setting up wireless satellite internet
First of all, you’ll need a service package from a satellite internet provider. The big two providers on the market are Viasat and HughesNet. Viasat tends to offer faster service with no data caps, but it can be more expensive. HughesNet offers better service at the lower price tiers but falls behind Viasat on more expensive packages.
Need help picking a satellite internet provider? Check out Viasat vs. HughesNet to see how they compare.
You’ll need an ethernet cable to connect your devices if you don’t want or need to set up a Wi-Fi network. After your satellite provider installs your satellite dish and sets up your modem, plug one end of an Ethernet cable into the modem and the other into your computer to connect to the internet.
Going wireless with your satellite internet setup is simple. If you’ve already picked a service package and installed your equipment, here’s how to add Wi-Fi:
- Choose a wireless router. You can either use the router offered by your provider or purchase your own.
- Plug the router into a wall outlet and let it power on. This might take a few minutes, and the exact procedure will vary with your specific model. Check the instructions that came with your equipment to verify setup steps.
- Connect the router to your modem. If your router is a separate device, you’ll need to use an Ethernet cable to connect it to the modem.
- If you’re using the router provided by your ISP, you can skip steps two and three. Viasat and HughesNet use modem/router combos with both devices in one unit.
- Configure your network. Once your router is connected to the modem, you’ll have a working wireless network. However, it won’t be secure, and the network name will be generic and hard to remember. To fix this, change the network name and add a password using these steps:
- Access the router’s configuration panel. On your router, there should be a sticker with instructions to access its settings. Typically you enter a series of numbers (the router’s IP address) into a web browser. If you don’t see the sticker with this information, consult the router’s manual.
- Enter the username and password. You’ll also find these on the router.
- Create a new network name. Choose something easy for you to recognize. This is especially important if you live in an apartment building or anywhere with a lot of networks nearby.
- Change the network security to WPA. This is the most secure type of network on most consumer routers.
- Choose a strong password. Good passwords are long and include a combination of lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Don’t use anything guessable, like your birthday or pet’s name.
- Log in to your new wireless network. On your computer or phone, find your network in the Wi-Fi menu, enter your password, and test that things are working by loading a web page.
Pros and cons of satellite Wi-Fi
A satellite Wi-Fi connection has similar pros and cons to those of other types of internet services, but there are a few points unique to satellite internet to keep in mind.
- Move your devices around your home freely
- Connect multiple devices at once without cables
- Enjoy a truly wireless satellite experience
- High latency makes gaming more difficult
- Wi-Fi networks are prone to signal interference
Renting vs. buying equipment
Both Viasat and HughesNet offer wireless routers for customers to rent. These routers are good fits for the service since they’ve been handpicked by the providers. You also get guaranteed tech support from the ISP in case you have any issues. For most users, the provided router should be plenty.
But these routers are pretty light on features compared to high-end consumer routers from companies like NETGEAR and ASUS. If you need a specific feature, like long range or optimization for many devices, purchasing your own router might be better.
Learn more about the best satellite internet routers and modems.
Choosing the best router
If you decide to buy a router, you’ve got some options. The router you choose should meet your needs without adding a lot of unnecessary features that crank up the cost.
It’s not always a good idea to spring for the most powerful router on the market, especially with a slower internet service like satellite. Here are some questions to consider when choosing a router:
- Are you a gamer? If you’ll be doing a lot of gaming on your Wi-Fi network, a gaming router like the NETGEAR XR500 can add features to boost performance, like access to special networks that optimize your signal.
- How many devices are online at once? Routers with the MU-MIMO feature are better at handling a large number of devices.
- Can the router handle your connection speed? Check the router’s specs and make sure its speed is equal to or higher than your connection’s speed. Don’t go too much higher unless you plan to upgrade your service down the road—the router can only be as fast as your connection.
- How large is your home? Larger houses or offices may need a longer range router or mesh network like the Google Wi-Fi You can also check out 2019’s best long-range routers.
Edited by Cara Haynes