Satellite internet beams information to and from satellites orbiting Earth. An antenna dish at your home picks up the signal and sends it to a modem, which translates it into something your devices can understand (and often broadcasts it as a Wi-Fi network).
The biggest advantage of satellite internet is its nearly universal availability. Since signals come from space, they don’t require wires or other infrastructure—you can get it basically anywhere you have a clear view of the sky.
However, there are two main drawbacks with satellite internet. Firstly, it tends to be expensive. It’s common to pay over $100 per month for satellite internet. While there are relatively affordable plans, they tend to have slow speeds, low data caps, or both.
The second drawback is performance. Even the fastest satellite internet plans won’t hold a candle to cable or fiber speeds. Satellite internet also tends to suffer from higher latency due to the distance signals have to travel through the air). Some internet is obviously better than no internet, but if you’re a gamer, satellite might not be your best bet.
There are currently three major players in the satellite industry space that we recommend: Viasat, Hughesnet, and Starlink.
Viasat is an excellent satellite internet provider with nearly nationwide coverage. Viasat tends to be more expensive than other providers (at least for home internet), but it offers (theoretically) faster speeds and more high-speed data.
Viasat plans range from $69.99–$299.99 per month, with speeds up to 150Mbps in some areas. The exact plans and speeds available do vary from location to location, however. We’ve found, based on millions speed test results, Viasat’s national average speed is about 23Mbps—faster than Hughesnet, but slower than Starlink.
Hughesnet is the more affordable satellite internet option. However, that affordability comes at the cost of performance—it’s the slowest of the three with max speeds of 50Mbps and average speeds of 14Mbps, based on aggregated data.
Hughesnet plans range from $49.99–$79.99 per month, which makes it a solid option for users who need basic internet access and aren’t concerned about having the fastest speeds. If you just want to check email and the weather occasionally, you may not need the performance of something like Viasat. You can get a good enough plan and save some money with Hughesnet.
Starlink sits in a weird spot in the satellite internet world right now. It’s the fastest of the three providers, often rivaling cable service in speed. And while it’s more expensive than Hughesnet, we think it’s a better deal than Viasat for equivalent speeds.
Starlink’s residential plan is $120.00 per month for speeds up to 100Mbps (48Mbps on average, based on our testing). It offers truly unlimited data, which is fantastic, and it also offers lower latency than other providers (although not by as much as you’d think).
However, there have been some availability issues that make it tough to recommend. Starlink is also associated with Elon Musk (it’s a SpaceX service), which may be more cause for concern than excitement for many these days.
Satellite internet is a fantastic option if you have no other sources for internet in your area. Because of the wide availability, it’s available even in remote places.
We generally recommend Viasat for users who are more concerned about performance and Hughesnet for those that are more concerned about price. Starlink isn’t a bad option, but it sometimes feels more like a big experiment than a serious service, so we’d just caution you to know what you’re getting yourself into.
The exception here is if you need portable internet, such as for an RV or camper. Starlink Mobile, also known as Starlink Roam, is pretty unique in this regard and doesn’t currently have a major competitor.