Best Routers and Modems for Satellite Internet 2020


Get the Lowdown on Satellite Internet Modems and Routers

Don’t be left scratching your head in frustration over confusing satellite internet jargon. We’ve got the answers to help you make sense of all tech talk.

In this guide:

  • What equipment do I need for satellite internet?
  • Satellite internet equipment basics
  • Do I need a modem for satellite internet?
  • Best modem for satellite internet
  • Viasat modem specs
  • HughesNet modem specs
  • Best router for satellite internet
    • Viasat
    • HughesNet
  • FAQ

What equipment do you need for satellite internet?

Satellite Internet Equipment

  • Satellite internet dish (satellite receiver)
  • Satellite modem
  • Compatible internet device
  • Router (optional)
  • Other internet-capable devices (optional)

Satellite Internet Equipment Basics

  • Satellite Internet Dish—This is the outdoor dish that receives the internet signal from the satellite. Your satellite Internet Service Provider (ISP) will supply and install it.
  • Modem—The small box inside your home that interprets the satellite internet signal for your computer and other devices is your modem. Your ISP will usually supply this, and it may contain a built-in router.
  • Compatible Internet Device—Of course, you’ll need a computer to set up your connection. You can use a Mac or a PC, but it must have an Ethernet port to set up your equipment. After the initial setup, you can connect your wireless devices.
  • Router (Optional)—Your router turns your internet connection into your home network. If you want a wireless network, make sure your router has Wi-Fi capability. Often your modem will contain a built-in router so you don’t need to worry about another piece of equipment.
  • Other Internet-Capable Devices (Optional)—To get the most out of your internet connection, you’ll probably want to connect devices other than your computer to your home network. From smartphones and gaming consoles to doorbells and thermostats, just about anything can connect to the internet these days.

Do you need a modem for satellite internet?

Yes, you will need a modem for satellite internet, but the satellite internet provider will lease it to you as part of your contract. You need a modem to translate the signal from your satellite dish. A modem is different than a router (routers create your home network), but both may be housed within the same piece of equipment. In the case of Viasat and HughesNet, both proprietary modems have built-in Wi-Fi routers.

What is the best modem for satellite internet?

The best modem for satellite internet is the one you get from your provider because it will already be calibrated to the satellite signal you’re receiving. However, you might want to use a faster or more powerful router or add a Wi-Fi extender.

Currently, the only companies offering satellite internet are Viasat and HughesNet (Starlink is expected to start its public beta in November). Both providers lease modems with built-in Wi-Fi routers to their customers. The modems from both ISPs have similar specs, but Viasat gives you more ports and security options. HughesNet uses the HT2000W satellite modem, while Viasat doesn’t list the exact model number you’ll get (it’s just called the “Viasat WiFi Modem”).

Viasat Wi-Fi Modem

Viasat Wi-Fi Modem Specs

  • Band: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz
  • Protocol: 802.11 a/b/g/n
  • Security: WPS, WEP, and WPA
  • Ethernet Ports: 4
  • Includes adapter for Viasat Voice
HughesNet Modem

HughesNet Wi-Fi Modem Specs

  • Band: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz
  • Protocol: 802.11 a/ac/an/b/g/n
  • Security: WPS, WPA/WPA2, WPA2-PSK
  • Ethernet Ports: 4

What is the best router for satellite internet?

The best router for satellite internet depends on what you want. While you must use the modem issued by your satellite internet provider, you can use any router you choose. This opens up a lot of options. Using an alternate router might enhance your network’s performance, but if you’d rather not mess with it, the modems you get with HughesNet or Viasat both come with built-in Wi-Fi routers.

For a router that delivers plenty of performance at a reasonable price, go with the TP-Link Archer AC1200 Smart Wi-Fi Router.

If you want a high-end router because you like having all the best stuff, we suggest the NETGEAR Nighthawk X6S. The fast, dual-band connection will keep your home network humming. However, this router is expensive and is way faster than most satellite internet services, so it’s probably overkill for most people.

Pro tip: If you opt to get your own router, either switch the router you get from your provider to bridge mode, or turn off its Wi-Fi function entirely. Otherwise the extra signal could interfere with your live Wi-Fi connection.

For online activities, your speed will be limited by either your router or your internet service—whichever is slower. Most routers have more bandwidth than satellite internet can offer, so your router probably won’t affect your internet speed, but it will help you get the most out of your home network.

What is the best router for HughesNet?

The HT2000W modem and Wi-Fi router combo unit issued by HughesNet will work just fine for most folks.

HT2000W Specs

  • Band: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz
  • Protocol: 802.11 a/ac/an/b/g/n
  • Security: WPS, WPA/WPA2, WPA2-PSK
  • Ethernet Ports: 4

If you want a better router to boost your home network performance, here are a couple recommendations.

Best Budget Upgrade

TP-Link AC1200 Smart Wi-Fi Router

Best Overall

NETGEAR Nighthawk X6S Smart WiFi Router

What is the best router for Viasat?

As part of your service agreement, Viasat will lease you a modem/router combo with Wi-Fi capabilities. Viasat doesn’t publish the model number of their routers, but the specs they supply are probably sufficient for most users.

 Viasat Wi-Fi Modem Specs

  • Band: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz
  • Protocol: 802.11 a/b/g/n
  • Security: WPS, WEP, and WPA
  • Ethernet Ports: 4
  • Includes adapter for Viasat Voice

If you have a large home and want to produce a stronger Wi-Fi signal for a better home network, we have a couple router upgrade suggestions.

Best Budget Upgrade

TP-Link AC1200 Smart Wi-Fi Router

Best Overall

NETGEAR Nighthawk X6S Smart WiFi Router

What is the ideal position for my Wi-Fi router?

You should position your router as close to the center of your network as possible. A router sends its Wi-Fi signal in all directions, so centralizing it maximizes the signal strength to the widest area. Also, avoid placing your router on or near metal objects like filing cabinets or safes. Metal can interfere with the signal.

Should I buy or rent my modem and router?

Whether you should buy or rent your modem will depend on the specifics of your internet service agreement. Your ISP, the length of your contract, the equipment fees, and your home networking needs all play a role.

For satellite internet customers, both HughesNet and Viasat will lease you a modem/router combo. You should use this for its modem compatibility, but you can turn off the router and use your own.

Unfortunately, you’ll still have to pay the monthly equipment fee, so you won’t save any money by using your own router. However, a third-party router may improve the strength of the Wi-Fi signal on your home network, especially if you’re trying to create a network that covers a large area.

How does satellite internet work?

Satellite internet works by using wireless transmitters orbiting the earth to send signals between the ISP and end users on the ground. This technology creates a wide area of availability, making it great for rural areas, but it also causes lag time due to the enormous distance the signal must travel.

Is satellite internet a good option?

Satellite internet is a good option for rural areas or places where dial-up is your only other option. The biggest advantage satellite internet has going for it is that it’s available almost anywhere in the US. It can offer speeds as fast as many DSL and cable providers, but it often feels slower due to latency or lag. There’s no way of getting around that lag. It’s inherent to the technology because it takes time for a signal to travel to space and back.

You’ll notice the lag most with real-time tasks online, like gaming or drafting your fantasy football team. For activities like streaming, the lag may delay the initial load, but it should no longer be an issue once the stream starts because your download will be ahead of it.

Unless you love real-time online gaming, satellite internet is a good option that offers affordable plans with reasonable download speeds.

How do I get satellite internet?

We make getting satellite internet easy. Enter your address below to see plans offered near you. Then click Search to compare your options. Once you have an idea of the service you want, call to order. You’ll find the phone numbers for Viasat and HughesNet on their corresponding pages.

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If you’re looking for a deeper dive, check out our detailed comparison of the two leading satellite internet providers on our Viasat vs. HughesNet page.

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