Satellite Internet Statistics


Andreas Rivera
Apr 01, 2024
Icon Time To Read4 min read

About 95% of U.S. adults say they use the internet (all forms of internet access), according to Pew Research. It gives people access to communication channels, economic and educational opportunities, and limitless entertainment. 

However, many places in the U.S. still have trouble accessing reliable internet. Satellite internet is often slower and more expensive than traditional internet services like fiber or cable, but if you need to get connected at a remote location, these satellite providers are available virtually anywhere in the country.

Read on to learn more about satellite internet, including where it’s accessible, how much it costs, who uses satellite internet, and how the technology works.

Access

The number of people who have access to satellite internet has increased by 157% in the last seven years, according to U.S. census data.

The strong investment in and evolution of satellite technology in the past decade has made access to the internet a reality for practically everyone in the world.

line graph showing Satellite Internet subscriptions

To put these huge changes into perspective and explain why this is important, let’s consider the state of internet access in the United States right now.

  • About 91.2% of people in the U.S. have access to the internet as of 2022, even though 95.7% of households have a computer.
  • This leaves 8% of people without access to the internet.
  • There has actually been a decrease in the number of households without internet by 57% since 2015, according to Pew Trusts research.

As you can see, while access to the internet has never been more widespread, there is still work to be done to ensure all Americans have the opportunity to access the web.

Many of the gaps in internet access occur in rural areas. One in four rural Americans still say that access to broadband internet is a problem in their community. As of 2022, about 13.8% (46,108,315) of Americans live in rural areas, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

As of early 2024, the Federal Communications Commission defines broadband internet as a connection that provides bandwidth of at least 100Mbps download speed and 20Mbps upload speed. All three major satellite providers offer plans that meet that definition.

What’s the breakdown of the types of internet Americans use?

The Federal Communications Commission tracks data on internet availability across the country with its broadband map. Here’s the breakdown.

0.1% of people use dial-up

Good, old-fashioned dial-up internet was the first type of internet connection offered to most American consumers. As you can see, it’s nearly extinct, with most providers having upgraded their infrastructures with better, faster technology. It’s also not fast enough to be considered broadband.

6.7% of people use satellite internet

It’s by far the most accessible type of provider. Thanks to both geostationary orbit and low-Earth orbit satellites, satellite internet is available almost anywhere in the U.S. However, it does have several things working against it.

While satellite is widely available, it’s also one of the most expensive options for internet access. This is due to the high costs of launching satellites and the limited number of companies providing internet access to consumers. Also, it’s among the slowest, due to the high latency involved in satellite internet.

11.2% of people use 5G or fixed wireless internet

This is wireless internet provided mostly by cellular companies. Besides satellite, it is the best option for people in rural areas. Using signals delivered to a home receiver from a cellular tower, some providers require specialized equipment to capture a signal. Most receivers require a clear line of sight to a tower for adequate signal, so it’s not widely available in especially rural areas with no towers, or mountainous and forested areas.

75.9% of people use wired internet (cable, fiber, or DSL)

Wired internet types are currently the most common and fastest available internet. Delivered via a wired connection through phone line, coaxial, or fiber wiring, these internet types require specially built infrastructure. Rural communities are less likely to have these infrastructures built, and it takes a lot of investment—from the providers themselves or from public sources—to build them. That’s why satellite is usually the only option for rural households.

Cost

Graphic showing $119.44 average cost per month

The satellite internet industry is a $4 billion industry, according to Markets and Markets’s industry forecasts.

A large portion of the industry is dedicated to enterprise and government contracts, while consumer internet is a fairly new expansion. As of 2024, there are only three satellite companies selling internet services directly to consumers. While the three companies pretty much have all of the U.S. covered with availability, we look forward to more enterprises like Amazon entering the industry to provide more competition.

Of the people who make less than $20,000 per year, 24.7% do not have an internet subscription, and the median income for rural Americans is $49,895, according to census data. This can make it especially tough for people to afford satellite internet, which can be among the most expensive options for internet due to the high cost of launching satellite constellations to support broadband signals.

Satellite Internet quote graphic about cost

According to Reviews.org, Americans pay an average of $81 per month for internet. However, rural Americans who use satellite internet typically pay 37% more.

  • The average monthly cost of satellite internet is $119.44, making the average annual cost $1,433.28.
  • Satellite internet users pay an average of $1.58 per Mbps.
  • Hughesnet costs an average of $64.99 per month.
  • Viasat costs an average of $109.99 per month.
  • Starlink costs an average of $165 per month.
  • Additionally, satellite internet users may need to purchase equipment, as well, which ranges from $200 to $250 or up to $2,500 for Starlink equipment.
Satellite Internet average cost per month for various providers

Satellites

Number of satellites in orbit per company

Why do Hughesnet and Viasat use only three satellites each, while Starlink has a legion of satellites in the night sky? The first two operate with high-orbit geostationary (GEO) satellites, while the latter uses low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites.

  • Low-Earth orbit: 111 to 1,242 miles from Earth
  • Medium-Earth orbit: 1,242 to 22,232 miles from Earth
  • High-Earth orbit (geostationary orbit): 22,236+ miles from Earth

Because of their orbiting height, low-Earth orbit satellites work differently than geostationary satellites. Due to their height, GEO satellites can cover huge areas with a single satellite, but LEO satellites have to be deployed in constellations that work together to provide coverage for larger areas.

The major drawback to GEO satellites has to do with latency. Latency is how long it takes for an internet signal to go from you, to your provider, and back. Out of all internet services, satellite has the highest latency measurements.

Average latency

GEO satellites ~500ms          

LEO satellites (Starlink) ~50ms         

As you can tell, LEO satellite systems make a big difference in latency. It makes Starlink and the upcoming Project Kuiper better options for video calls and gaming online.

Andreas Rivera
Written by
Andreas Rivera
Andreas Rivera is a lifelong writer with a decade-spanning career in journalism and marketing. He comes to SatelliteInternet.com with several years of experience writing about business and technology. His passion for researching the latest advancements in tech, especially the now essential need for reliable internet access, fuels his goal of educating others about how these innovations affect and improve our everyday lives. When not researching and writing about SatelliteInternet.com, you’ll likely find him buried in a good book or enjoying the great outdoors with a fishing rod.