Hughesnet vs. Viasat vs. Starlink

HughesNet
Hughesnet
  • $74.99–$119.99/mo.
  • 50–100Mbps
  • 100–200GB priority data
Viasat
Viasat
  • $99.99–$119.99/mo.
  • 25–150Mbps
  • Unlimited data
Starlink
Starlink
  • $120.00–$500.00/mo.
  • 40–220Mbps
  • 60GB—2TB priority data
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Dave Schafer
Andreas Rivera
Mar 13, 2024
Icon Time To Read10 min read

In the satellite internet world, Starlink gets all the press. But it’s definitely not the only game in town—Hughesnet and Viasat each have a niche to fill. Hughesnet tends to be the budget choice, while Starlink is the fastest (and most expensive) option. Viasat falls somewhere in between.

In this article, we’ll run through all the details of how each provider compares, so you can choose the right one for you. Let’s go!

Hughesnet vs. Viasat vs. Starlink availability

HughesNetViasatStarlink
● Nationwide availability
● Single address only
● Nationwide availability
● Single address only
● Nationwide availability
● Portable service available

Hughesnet availability

As expected, Hughesnet offers essentially nationwide availability. As long as you’ve got a clear view of the sky, you should be able to get service with Hughesnet.

Viasat availability

Similarly, Viasat offers availability over basically the entire United States. This has always been satellite internet’s main selling point, and it holds true today.

Starlink availability

Starlink also offers nationwide availability at the time of this writing, although that hasn’t always been the case. Until fairly recently, there were significant wait times for service across large parts of the US. While these wait times appear to be gone—at least, according to the Starlink availability map—we don’t feel confident saying they’ll never come back. Just keep that in mind if you’re not planning on ordering now!

It’s also worth noting that Starlink is the only one of these three providers that offers portable service. Hughesnet and Viasat are for fixed locations only, whereas Starlink’s Mobility plans let you take your connection on the road. This will be a key selling point for many.

Overall recommendation

In terms of availability, we don’t see any major differences at the moment for any of these providers. Our recommendation is to choose based on other criteria, not availability. The one exception is if you need portable satellite internet—if that’s you, Starlink is your only real option at the moment.

Hughesnet vs. Viasat vs. Starlink reliability

HughesNetViasatStarlink
Most consistent speedsSecond most-consistent speedsWide variation in speeds from location to location

Hughesnet reliability

Hughesnet is nothing if not consistent. We looked at average speeds for all three of the major satellite providers, and Hughesnet is, by far, the most consistent from state to state. The service itself is also about as reliable as satellite can be. Satellite internet is still susceptible to weather interference, but in general, Hughesnet is a solid service that we don’t think people will have many issues with.

Viasat reliability

Viasat service is similarly reliable—outside of issues around weather interference, we think most people will have a pretty good experience. If you spend a lot of time browsing online, you may see a lot of complaints, but many of these are from people that are inexperienced with satellite internet and don’t know what to expect.

It’s worth noting that Viasat is not as consistent as Hughesnet from location to location—average speeds between states can jump from less than 10Mbps to over 30Mbps or even 50Mbps. This has to do with the coverage net of Viasat's GEO satellites, which Viasat had planned to expect but didn't go according to plan in 2023 (i.e., the new satellite exploded). Viasat restricts the exact details of its speeds across that coverage net.

Starlink reliability

Starlink is perhaps the least reliable of the three major providers here. Aside from the normal satellite internet stuff, Starlink’s speeds vary a lot from state to state, far more than either Hughesnet or Viasat. Additionally, Starlink has had a number of waitlist issues, as mentioned above, and its plans are also in seemingly constant flux.

We also can’t ignore the fact that Starlink is owned by SpaceX, which means we have to talk about Elon Musk. We don’t know the guy personally, so we hate to say anything bad. However, given the news around his other companies lately, his involvement here doesn’t exactly inspire confidence like it once did.

Overall recommendation

None of these three are unreliable, but if that’s your main concern, we would recommend Hughesnet, with Viasat a close second. 

Hughesnet vs. Viasat vs. Starlink prices and plans

Hughesnet plans and pricing

Data plan
Price
Speed
Select$49.99/mo for 12 mo.Up to 50 Mbps
Elite$64.99/mo for 12 mo.Up to 100 Mbps
Fusion$94.99/mo for 12 mo.Up to 100 Mbps

Data as of 01/2/2024 Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
*Offer for 12 months. Service plans require a 24-month commitment. Equipment Lease or Purchase fees extra. Service plans require a 24-month commitment. Equipment Lease or Purchase fees extra.

Hughesnet is definitely the most budget-friendly of these three providers. With prices as low as $49.99 per month, you can get into a satellite plan for a lot less than, say, Starlink. For the money, you get advertised speeds of between 50–100Mbps and unlimited data, albeit with some caveats (more on that later).

In some areas, customers can also take advantage of Hughesnet’s Fusion plans, which combine satellite internet with wireless internet to help reduce latency. This does actually seem to help, so if you have it available we’d recommend it. Just note that these plans are more expensive—$79.99 per month to start.

Also, it’s important to note that the prices listed above ($49.99–$79.99) are for the first 12 months of service only. After that, prices go up between $20.00 and $30.00 per month.

Viasat

Viasat plans and pricing

Plan
Price
Data Cap
Speed
Viasat Unleashed
$99.99
/mo
UnlimitedUp to 150Mbps

Data as of 3/01/24. Prices and availability vary by location. Installation fees, monthly equipment lease fees, and taxes may apply. After 850 GB of High-Speed Data usage, you still have unlimited access to Standard Data, which may result in slower speed.

Viasat plans range from about $99.99 to $119.99 and offer varying bandwidth. It really depends on what’s available to you at your location and what your primary use is for it. Also, be aware that you’ll need to pay a monthly lease of $15 for your equipment and an upfront installation fee of up to $300, pending a soft-credit check.

Starlink

Starlink plans and pricing

Plan
Price*
Speed
Latency
Equipment fee
Starlink Standard$120/mo.*20-100 Mbps25–50ms$599.00
Starlink Priority$140.00–$500.00/mo.40–220Mbps25–50ms$2,500.00
Starlink Mobile$150.00–$200.00/mo.5–50Mbps25–50ms$599.00–$2,500.00
Starlink Mobile Priority$250.00–$5,000.00/mo.40—220Mbps25–50ms$2,500.00
* Plus hardware, shipping & handling fees, and tax. Fully refundable. Depending on location, some orders may take 2 weeks or more to fulfill.

Starlink is, without question, the most expensive of the three options here if you total up its most premium plans. That said, although you won’t necessarily get a budget plan as affordable as what Hughesnet or even Viasat offers, the Starlink Standard (Residential) plan is actually a pretty good value compared with the competition.

For example, a comparable plan with Viasat would cost more ($149.99 per month vs. $120.00 per month) and you’d get less high-speed data (150GB with Viasat, compared to unlimited with Starlink). Starlink is also fast—it won’t be as fast as cable providers like Spectrum, but it can hold its own.

Where Starlink gets really expensive is with the equipment fees—$599.00 to $2,500.00 as a one-time charge. Hughesnet and Viasat both let you pay monthly, and the buyout options are much cheaper. Starlink’s “specialty” plans, such as Starlink Mobile and Mobile Priority, can also get expensive, with the highest-tiered offerings coming in at a whopping $5,000.00 per month!

Overall recommendation

If (low) cost is important, go with Hughesnet. It’s got the most affordable options out of the three. In terms of value, Starlink’s Standard residential plan is probably the best of the bunch, especially if you anticipate using a lot of data. However, it’s a bit pricey at $120.00 per month (plus up-front equipment costs).

Hughesnet vs. Viasat vs. Starlink data

HughesNetViasatStarlink
● 100–200GB high-speed data
● Unlimited standard data at reduced speeds
● Unlimited high-speed data
● Speeds may slow after 850GB
● 60GB—2TB high-speed data
● Unlimited standard data

Hughesnet data

Hughesnet technically offers unlimited data. The emphasis there is on “technically”—the provider takes the increasingly common approach of offering a limited amount of high-speed data each month. Once that’s gone, you can continue to use your service as much as you want, but at a reduced speed.

How much high-speed data you get depends on which plan tier you choose. More affordable plans offer less data—for the author, the options are 100GB or 200GB per month.

Viasat data

While Viasat’s Unleashed plan is virtually unlimited, it does let customers know that if they go over the monthly, normal data usage, which they claim is 850GB, they will likely slow speeds down to save bandwidth.

Starlink data

Starlink really distinguishes itself here by offering truly unlimited high-speed data. If you’re a heavy user that streams a lot of HD video or downloads a lot of large files, Starlink Standard may be the way to go—$120.00 per month for unlimited data is a much better deal than $299.99 for 500GB (Viasat’s best plan).

The one caveat is that extremely heavy users may potentially see their speeds reduced, according to Starlink's terms and conditions. This won’t be a concern for the vast majority of people—it’s mainly a way for Starlink to prevent a handful of extreme users from sucking up all the bandwidth. Still, it’s worth mentioning. 

Overall recommendation

If you need a lot of data, Viasat is definitely the way to go. It’s the only one of the three to offer truly unlimited high-speed data, which we consider a big advantage in today’s stream-heavy world.

Hughesnet vs. Viasat vs. Starlink equipment

HughesNetViasatStarlink
● $14.99–$19.99/mo.
● Up to $449.99 one-time
● $15.00/mo.
● $250.00 one-time
● $599.00–$2,500.00 one-time

Hughesnet equipment

image of Hughesnet satellite on roof

Hughesnet satellite installed on writer's home roof. Image credit: Peter Christiansen. 

Hughesnet gives you the choice of either renting equipment on a month-to-month basis or buying your equipment outright. The monthly cost is either $14.99 (for the standard Hughesnet satellite service) or $19.99 (for Hughesnet Fusion). Alternatively, you can purchase the equipment outright for $449.99. This only really makes sense if you intend to stick with HughesNet for a long time, though.

Viasat equipment

picture of Viasat satellite on roof

Viasat home satellite installed on residential roof. Image credit: Cara Haynes.

Viasat offers a similar setup to Hughesnet, although the prices are a bit lower: $15 per month, or a one-time $250.

Starlink equipment

Starlink unpacked equipment

Starlink equipment laid out on home coffee table. Image credit: Mikayla Rivera.

Starlink is a bit different in that there is no rental or leasing option. Your only choice here is to pay for the equipment up front. That means $599.00 for the Standard Starlink dish, or $2,500.00 for the High Performance or Flat High Performance dish. That’s quite a lot of money for equipment that’s required to use the service.

The other major difference with Starlink is the Flat High Performance dish, which can be used in motion. In other words, you can mount it to an RV or other vehicle and stay connected on the go, without needing to stop and set things up.

Overall recommendation

In terms of equipment, the providers are all more or less the same: you get what you need to use your satellite internet service. We wouldn’t choose any of the providers on the basis of equipment or fees, with one exception: Starlink.

If you need in-motion capabilities, Starlink is your only option, which makes the choice easy. It’s also possible that you just don’t want to drop $599.00 up front to buy into Starlink—that’s definitely a steep price. If that’s the case, you can go ahead and rule out Starlink entirely.

Hughesnet vs. Viasat vs. Starlink installation

HughesNetViasatStarlink
● $90.00 installation fee (can be waived)
● Professional install only
● Installation fee determined by soft credit check
● Professional install only
● No installation fee
● Self-install only

Hughesnet installation

Hughesnet makes installation easy—your only option is to have a pro do it for you. This seems to be primarily about ensuring that the dish is aligned properly, which can have a big impact on performance. There’s a $90.00 installation fee, but it can sometimes be waived when ordering online.

Viasat installation

You’ll likely pay an upfront installation fee of up to $300, pending a soft-credit check.

Starlink installation

Starlink is, once again, the exception to the rule. Your only official option here is to install service yourself. Starlink sends you a nice kit with your equipment, and you install and align the dish using the Starlink app. It’s actually a surprisingly easy process, although if you need to mount the dish it might be a hassle.

Alternatively, you can also opt to have a third party install your Starlink equipment—either a local handyman, or a company that specializes in installing satellite equipment. Just be aware that this can be expensive. Some brief searching shows roughly $499 in the author’s area.

Overall recommendation

For installation, we’re calling a tie between Viasat and Starlink. Viasat wins for the free professional setup, while Starlink wins for the simple self-installation. Ultimately, which is best depends on whether you want to install yourself or let someone else handle it.

Hughesnet vs. Viasat vs. Starlink customer service

HughesNetViasatStarlink
● Live chat
● Telephone support
● Email support
● Support articles
● Community support
● Telephone support
● Customer support portal
● Support articles
● App-based support tickets
● Website support tickets
● Email support
● FAQs

Hughesnet customer service

Hughesnet customer service offers the usual bevy of support options: live chat, telephone support (24/7!), and email support. There’s also a decent support site with articles that can help guide you through resolving common issues. Hughesnet also offers community support forums, which is a nice touch—sometimes hearing it from other customers is best, and can be faster, too. 

Viasat customer service

Viasat customer service is available by telephone and online through your customer account, along with a support site that contains helpful articles. 

Starlink customer service

Starlink customer service is definitely the worst of the three, both in terms of options and reputation. For starters, Starlink has no phone support and no live chat—your only option is to open a support ticket through either the Starlink app or website. Both of these options are difficult to find and require wading through FAQs and other support material first. You can try to reach out via email, but we have seen a lot of reports of people getting no answer at all.

As for the reputation bit, we’ve (anecdotally) seen a lot of complaints about difficulty in getting help, or at least useful help, from Starlink. We’ve also heard of people waiting weeks for a response, which is kind of shocking.

Overall recommendation

Hughesnet and Viasat both offer many support options on their website, and we’ve also seen relatively few complaints about their customer service. Starlink is more or less the exact opposite. If great customer service is important to you, you may want to steer clear.

Hughesnet vs. Viasat vs. Starlink customer reviews

Overall, the customer consensus seems to be that Hughesnet and Viasat are pretty good companies to work with, but the service is slow—even for people who know what to expect from satellite.

Starlink is basically the polar opposite. Rural customers, in particular, are generally thrilled with the speed and performance—it’s usually far faster than DSL. However, frequent plan changes and terrible customer service have left a bad impression with many users.

Hughesnet vs. Viasat vs. Starlink: Which satellite internet service is right for you?

Ultimately, these three providers all have a lot in common—after all, they’re all satellite providers aimed at getting rural customers and those without other options online. However, there are enough differences that we feel we can make some definite recommendations:

  • For budget-conscious users, go with Hughesnet. It offers the lowest prices of any of the three major satellite providers, though it’s also the slowest.
  • For the best performance, or for on-the-go use, go with Starlink. Starlink is faster than either of the other options, and it’s your only choice for in-motion use.
  • For slightly slower speeds than Starlink, but better customer service, go with Viasat. This provider may be slower than Starlink's averages, but has much more robust customer support, and it’s still faster than Hughesnet.

Methodology

At SatelliteInternet.com, we base our analyses on thorough research, including customer interviews, first-hand testing, results from our speed test tool, and proprietary internet provider data on speeds and pricing. We also dive deep to get all the details on plans, fees, and future developments. We then bring this info together in one place so you can find it easily. Finally, we use our satellite internet industry expertise to help you make the best decisions you can for your household. As always, thanks for reading!

Hughesnet vs. Viasat vs. Starlink FAQ

What are the disadvantages of Starlink?

Starlink’s biggest disadvantage is probably its price—it can be quite expensive, starting at $120.00 per month (plus $599.00 for equipment). Starlink also falls short in the customer support department: there’s no phone or chat support, and response times can be slow.

Is Starlink better than Viasat?

Starlink tends to be faster than Viasat, but it also tends to be more expensive—performance vs. price is a balance that each person will need to find for themselves. Another plus for Starlink is that it offers truly unlimited data, whereas Viasat throttles your speed once you’ve used your high-speed data allotment. This might be a big deal for some users.

Is Starlink better than Hughesnet?

Starlink is far faster, but also far more expensive, than Hughesnet. Overall, we’d suggest Starlink, unless a low price is an absolute necessity for you. Hughesnet tends to be a bit slow for users accustomed to other internet types.

Does satellite internet work in bad weather?

Yes, satellite internet works in bad weather. However, it can suffer from interference, potentially in the form of reduced performance. This is just part of the deal with satellite—there’s not a whole lot that can be done about it.

Dave Schafer
Written by
Dave Schafer
Dave has written professionally for tech companies and consumer technology sites for nearly five years, with a special focus on TV and internet. He uses his industry expertise to help readers at HighSpeedInternet.com get the most out of their services. No matter the project, he prefers his coffee black (the stronger, the better).