Stream nearly anywhere with satellite internet.
Your Guide to Streaming with Satellite Internet
From craving another run-through of Stranger Things to catching the latest Hulu Original, you can stream it all with satellite internet.
While it may not be as nice as streaming with unlimited fiber, satellite can certainly hold its own—especially if you’re setting up entertainment in an RV or live out in the country where you’re short on options.
Whatever your situation, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about streaming with satellite internet
Can I stream with satellite internet?
Let’s clear up the rumors. Yes, you can definitely stream with satellite internet! It works pretty much the same as any other internet type. You generally need 3 Mbps to 4 Mbps of internet speed for SD streaming on one device, and the lowest satellite internet plan starts at 12 Mbps. See? The math pans out. There are a few caveats you should know though:
- Satellite internet tends to have a higher latency (longer data travel time) than other types of internet.
- Many satellite internet plans have lower data caps.
- Satellite speeds can’t reach speeds as high as cable or fiber connections.
What is latency and how does it affect streaming?
Latency refers to the amount of time it takes for a piece of data (a packet) to travel from its source to its destination. Low latency is a short amount of travel time, and that’s what we want. High latency is basically a longer delay between taking an action and seeing the result. For example, if you’re into online gaming, your move might take longer to process than the move of an opponent who has a connection with lower latency.
Satellite internet is known for high latency. It’s comes with the gig. Since the signal needs to travel an enormous distance between the orbiting satellite and your device, there’s not much that can be done about this. It’s just part of the territory with satellite internet.
Our verdict: Although it’s rough for online gaming, high latency shouldn’t be a major issue with streaming since response time isn’t as crucial. But if you’re used to high-speed cable or fiber connections, you might notice it.
What are data caps and how do they affect streaming?
Data caps are limits put on the amount of data you can send or receive through your connection each month. These limits are generally imposed by the Internet Service Provider (ISP) as a way to balance large amounts of traffic on the network. Satellite internet services tend to have lower monthly data caps than other types, often in the 50 GB to 150 GB range. Exceeding the cap usually results in either slowed performance (throttling) or an additional charge.
Our verdict: If you’re a heavy streamer, you’re probably going to run into your data cap more often with satellite internet simply because it’s lower. But the speeds should be plenty fast for your streaming addiction.
How do I set up streaming with satellite internet?
It’s really easy to stream on satellite internet. Just follow these steps.
- Choose a satellite internet plan that suits your needs.
- Sign up for the streaming service you want to use.
- Grab a streaming device (TV, tablet, phone, etc.) and log in to your streaming service.
- Enjoy your shows.
Which satellite internet provider is best for streaming?
The two biggest satellite internet providers are Viasat and HughesNet. Each has pros and cons, but generally speaking Viasat allows for higher-quality streams thanks to its faster speeds. It also offers larger data caps on the high-tier packages, allowing for more streaming before running into issues.
HughesNet’s big advantage is a feature called the Bonus Zone. This is a separate data allowance that kicks in between 2:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. The extra Bonus Zone data allows you to get more mileage out of your connection by downloading shows and movies overnight to watch later.
Viasat is a good choice for heavy streamers that want the highest video quality they can get. Viasat plans start at $50 per month for 12 Mbps service, increasing to $150 per month for 100 Mbps.
The data is technically unlimited, but in practice there are soft caps where your speed will be slowed. These range from 35 GB on the base plan to 150 GB on the top-tier Platinum 100 package.
Is Viasat (formerly Exede) good for streaming?
You bet. The basic Viasat package is good for SD quality, while the Platinum 100 package can handle 1080p (HD) with ease. The higher data caps will let you stream without worrying too much, though you’ll still need to keep an eye on them to avoid pesky slowing.
The only speed HughesNet offers is 25 Mbps, so streaming in HD on multiple devices at once might be a challenge if not impossible. But if you’re fine with one device in SD, it will work great.
HughesNet plans actually start out more expensive than Viasat, at $64.99 per month, but it might be worth it for you. You get a speed of 25 Mbps with HughesNet instead of Viasat’s starting speed of 12 Mbps, which makes HughesNet a better pick for the value hunters.
Is HughesNet good for streaming?
It is, but for different reasons than Viasat. HughesNet data caps range from 15 GB to 75 GB—a lot less than what Viasat offers.
Like Viasat, your speed will be slowed after reaching this limit, making streaming tough. HughesNet makes up for it with the Bonus Zone, though, giving you an extra 50 GB per month during the overnight hours. You can download your favorite shows while you sleep, and then watch them whenever you like without eating into your normal data allowance.
Is there an unlimited satellite internet option?
Unfortunately, no. While Viasat and HughesNet are both technically unlimited, they have data thresholds where your speeds will be reduced. You’ll still have internet, but your connection will be so slow that you almost can’t even use it.
Which streaming services are best for satellite internet?
Up to 4K
Up to 1080p
Amazon Prime Video
Up to 4K
Up to 720p
Up to 1080p
Up to 1080p
Up to 1080p
Choosing a streaming service comes down to your show preferences and budget. All of them will work just fine with satellite internet, but keep in mind that bandwidth is limited with many satellite plans, so streaming in 4K probably won’t happen without some hiccups (unless you get a big Viasat plan).
Yes, you can watch Netflix with satellite internet. Netflix is one of the most popular streaming services, and for good reason. It offers a wide variety of movies and shows on demand, and it has some of the best original programming of any streaming platform, including hits like Bird Box and House of Cards. Prices start at $8.99 per month for a Basic plan.
In many ways, Hulu is a cousin to Netflix. The two services are fairly similar, but they offer different enough content that many people subscribe to both. Hulu actually offers two different services: the standard on-demand option, and a live TV service that can serve as a cable replacement. Standard Hulu starts at just $5.99 per month, while Hulu + Live TV starts at $44.99 per month.
Amazon Prime Video
Amazon Prime Video offers a similar experience to Netflix and Hulu, with an array of content available on demand and its own excellent original lineup.
The best part of Amazon Prime Video, though, is that it comes included with an Amazon Prime subscription. So if you’re already taking advantage of the free shipping and other benefits of Prime, you don’t have to shell out any more cash to get your stream on.
Sling TV is another livestreaming service that aims to replace your cable subscription. Sling differentiates itself by being extremely affordable: packages start at just $25 per month, and you can get the full service for just $40 per month.
PlayStation Vue offers livestreaming for PlayStation owners—but you don’t need Sony’s game console to watch. PS Vue is supported on a wide array of devices and is great for sports fans. Packages start at $44.99 per month.
YouTube TV is one of the newest players in the streaming game, with live programming and an unlimited cloud DVR available for $49.99 per month. YouTube TV comes with access to YouTube Originals, though we can’t say this is as exciting as what Netflix or Hulu offer.
How much data will streaming use?
It depends on the quality of stream you’re looking for, but generally streaming video is one of the most data-intensive online activities. These numbers from Netflix should give you a general idea:
- SD video: 1 GB/hr.
- HD video: 3 GB/.hr.
Basically, the higher the video quality, the more data it’s going to eat up. If you’re trying to save data, know that many streaming services set the quality automatically based on your connection’s speed. This can be changed manually if you’re trying to conserve data.
Which streaming devices work best with satellite internet?
Most popular streaming devices will work just fine with satellite internet. Roku devices are popular for their wide support of different services and easy-to-use interfaces, while the Xbox and PlayStation consoles allow you to play games and stream from the same device, making them an easy choice for gamers.
Here are all the popular streaming devices that we recommend to work best with satellite internet:
There’s no way around it: streaming video eats through data fast. HD video is especially hungry at around 3 GB per hour. If your data cap is 50 GB, you could chew through that in a week by streaming just a little over two hours a day.
DISH offers affordable packages and the best DVR in the business, while DIRECTV has a better selection of packages and excellent sports programming. Both services are solid, so choosing one comes down to priorities. If you like to record a lot of shows for weekend binges, DISH is the better bet. If you just can’t miss the big game, go with DIRECTV.
Don't miss an episode.
Satellite internet might have some limitations, but catching up on your favorite bingeworthy shows isn’t one of them. Just get the right plan and watch your data cap, and you’ll be blissfully streaming from wherever you call home.
Learn more about Viasat vs. HughesNet.