Best Routers and Modems for Satellite Internet 2021

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.

What equipment do you need for satellite internet?

Satellite internet equipment

  • Satellite internet dish (satellite receiver)
  • Satellite modem/router
  • Router (optional)
  • Compatible internet device

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. The satellite dish is often mounted on your roof or the side of your house, but it can also be placed on a pole mount in your yard.
  • 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 supply this, and it may contain a built-in router.
  • Router (optional)—Your router broadcasts your internet connection around your home, so you can use it on devices that aren’t plugged into the modem. A wireless router creates a Wi-Fi signal you can use to connect gaming systems, laptops, tablets, smart TVs, and home security systems to the internet. Viasat, HughesNet, and Starlink modems come with built in routers, so you can use the one provided or you can use your own router to set up a customized home network.
  • Internet-compatible device—Of course, you’ll need a computer to set up your internet 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 other wireless devices to your home Wi-Fi network. From smartphones and gaming consoles to doorbells and thermostats, just about anything can connect to the internet these days.

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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?

Viasat and HughesNet require customers to use their modem, so you can’t use your own modem with satellite internet . The modems you can purchase in stores or on Amazon usually don’t work with satellite internet anyway. 

Both HughesNet and Viasat have modem and router combos, which simplifies the equipment needs for many customers. You don’t need to get a separate router, although if you already have one you could try it out to see if the network performs better. If you have a large home or you want to stretch your signal out to the yard, you might want to upgrade your router or add a Wi-Fi extender.

Viasat, HughesNet, and Starlink lease modems with built-in Wi-Fi routers to their customers. The modems 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”). Like the HughesNet modem, the Starlink modem has only one port. You can rent the Viasat modem for only $5 per month, while the HughesNet modem is $14.99 per month. The Starlink modem can’t be rented—instead you need to buy it for $499 when you sign up.

Viasat Wi-Fi Modem
HughesNet Modem

Viasat Wi-Fi modem/router specs

  • Rental fee: $5.00/mo.
  • Purchase price: $299.99
  • 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 Wi-Fi modem/router specs

  • Rental fee: $14.99/mo.
  • Purchase price: $350
  • 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

Starlink Wi-Fi modem/router specs

  • Rental: purchase only
  • Purchase price: $499
  • Band: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz
  • Protocol: 802.11 b, a/g, n, ac
  • Ethernet Ports: 1

What is the best router for satellite internet?

The best satellite broadband router is often the one that is provided by your ISP, or it might be an upgraded router that covers a bigger area (if your home is large). It depends on what you need. 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, or it might not perform any better than the router that’s already built into your modem. Satellite internet speeds aren’t fast enough that they’re going to push the speed limits of any modern router, so pairing a fancy router with slow but steady satellite service might not be worth the effort or the cost. Cable modems and routers are designed to deliver speeds of 1 Gbps (1,000 Mbps) or more, which isn’t necessary for satellite internet (which tops out at 100 Mbps).

So, if you’d rather not spend extra money on additional equipment, you can just use the built-in router that comes with your ISP-issued modem, which generally performs fairly well. The exception would be if you have a large or rambling home.

The best router for Viasat internet in a big house is one with a large coverage area, so you can get Wi-Fi on any story of the house or even out in the barn. Boosters and extenders can also help strengthen Wi-Fi signals across large areas, however, and may be less expensive than a top-of-the-line router. See our review on how to extend your Wi-Fi with boosters and extenders for more information.

Alternative routers for satellite internet

If you want to upgrade your router, here are a few to try. For a router that delivers plenty of performance at a reasonable price, go with the TP-Link AC1900 Smart WiFi Router. This router integrates with Alexa for voice commands and uses beamforming to support faster Wi-Fi speeds.

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. It can blanket up to 3,500 square feet with a steady Wi-Fi signal, which can be helpful for large, sprawling homes. 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 AC1900 Smart WiFi Router

TP-Link AC1900 Smart WiFi 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 AC1900 Smart WiFi Router

TP-Link AC1900 Smart WiFi Router

Best Overall

NETGEAR Nighthawk X6S Smart WiFi Router

FAQ about satellite internet modems and routers

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.

How can I maximize my satellite internet speed?

You can get maximum internet speed from your satellite connection by connecting your computer to the modem with an Ethernet cable. If you’re on satellite internet, this won’t send you into gigabit speed bliss, but it might bump up your speed just enough to help things like work and video conferencing go more smoothly.

Should I buy or rent my modem and router?

Most customers rent their modem and router. Rental equipment prices are $5 per month for Viasat’s modem/router or $14.99 per month for HughesNet’s modem/router. Purchasing the modem/router outright costs $299.99 for Viasat or $350.00 for HughesNet. Starlink doesn’t offer rental, so you will have to buy it upfront for $499. If you plan to stay with your internet provider for many years, buying your satellite internet modem outright might be a good idea, but in most cases renting costs less.

Do I have to use the HughesNet or Viasat modem?

Yes, you must use the modem provided by HughesNet or Viasat. Standard modems you can find in stores or online aren’t compatible with satellite internet (although some routers are). Both HughesNet and Viasat will lease you a modem/router combo. You must use the ISP-issued modem, but you can use your own router with satellite internet service.

Unfortunately, you’ll still have to pay the full 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. If you have other internet options (like cable, DSL, or fixed-wireless internet), we recommend you check these out first because you can probably get faster speeds and more data at a lower price than you can get with a satellite connection.

A satellite internet connection can offer speeds as fast as some DSL, fixed-wireless, and cable providers, but all satellite plans come with data limitations. Once you reach your data threshold for the month, your speeds will be slowed way down unless you buy extra data for the month (which can get expensive).

Additionally, satellite internet 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.

Do I need a modem and a router with satellite internet?

You will need a modem, but your satellite internet installation will come with a modem/router combo unit—so you don’t need to buy your own. If your only internet-connected devices are all connected to your modem with an Ethernet cable, then you wouldn’t need the router feature (which broadcasts your internet signal into a home Wi-Fi network that all your devices can connect to).

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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We’re here to answer all your questions about satellite internet.

Our team at SatelliteInternet.com keeps a finger on the pulse of the satellite internet industry, continually gathering expert insights and thorough research to be your go-to resource on the topic.

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. And if you’d like to learn more about Starlink and other LEO internet providers, check out our Starlink review and our guide to how low-Earth orbit is changing satellite internet.

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