Unlimited Satellite Internet Has Its Limits

The two biggest providers of residential satellite internet in the US both offer unlimited data—at least that’s what it says on paper. We’re here to explain what unlimited really means on Viasat and HughesNet internet plans. We’ll also answer some questions about data caps and how to get more data. So, let’s pop the cap off this thing.

Viasat Unlimited Plans vs. HughesNet Unlimited Plans

Both Viasat and HughesNet offer plans they call “unlimited.” The “unlimited” in unlimited plans refers to the amount of monthly data you can use. While these packages from both satellite providers do technically allow you to use as much data as you like, they still come with data thresholds (more on that below).

Viasat Unlimited Internet Plans

PlanSpeedData Deprioritized AfterIntroductory PricePrice Increase
Unlimited Bronze 12Up to 12 Mbps40 GB$50/mo.$70/mo. after 3 mos.
Unlimited Silver 12Up to 12 Mbps60 GB$65/mo.$95/mo. after 3 mos.
Unlimited Gold 12Up to 12 Mbps100 GB$95/mo.$145/mo. after 3 mos.
Unlimited Bronze 25Up to 25 Mbps35 GB$50/mo.$70/mo. after 3 mos.
Unlimited Silver 25Up to 25 Mbps60 GB$70/mo.$100/mo. after 3 mos.
Unlimited Gold 30Up to 30 Mbps100 GB$100/mo.$150/mo. after 3 mos.
Unlimited Gold 50Up to 50 Mbps100 GB$100/mo.$150/mo. after 3 mos.
Unlimited Platinum 100Up to 100 Mbps150 GB$150/mo.$200/mo. after 3 mos.

Data valid as of 02/21/2019. Speeds and pricing vary by area and are subject to change.

As you can see in the chart, Viasat prices go up after three months. You can get around the 3-month price increase by taking advantage of Viasat’s 2-Year Price-Lock Guarantee*.

Data Caps

Even on its unlimited packages, Viasat uses data thresholds.  Once you meet your data threshold, your connection will be deprioritized. (That means it’ll feel slower.) Viasat offers a variety of data thresholds across several internet speed packages. The internet speeds available will depend on where you live, but you can get up to 100 GB of data no matter what speed you get. So, since these aren’t hard data caps, what happens when you go over your data threshold?

Overages

You won’t accrue any overage charges with Viasat. Instead, if you go over your threshold, Viasat deprioritizes your data.

Here’s what that means for you: Whenever you click something online, it sends a request to a server on your provider’s network. After your data is deprioritized, all your requests have to wait in line behind the requests of everyone on the network who hasn’t hit their data thresholds yet. Your speed will stay the same, but if there’s any traffic, you’ll be delayed. This will continue until the next billing cycle.

Free Zone

You may have heard about Viasat offering a Free Zone, but that’s not quite accurate. Only customers who subscribe to some Liberty internet plans (sold when Viasat was still using the name Exede) can use the Free Zone to extend their data. The Free Zone is a period between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. where data usage doesn’t count against your threshold.

Unfortunately, the Free Zone is not available on the current Viasat Unlimited plans.

HughesNet Unlimited Internet Plans

PlanSpeedData Deprioritized AfterIntroductory Price
HughesNet 10 GBUp to 25 Mbps10 GB$49.99/mo.
HughesNet 20 GBUp to 25 Mbps20 GB$69.99/mo.
HughesNet 30 GBUp to 25 Mbps30 GB$99.99/mo.
HughesNet 50 GBUp to 25 Mbps50 GB$129.99/mo.

Data valid as of 02/21/2019. Speeds and pricing vary by area and are subject to change.

Data Caps

HughesNet also has data thresholds on its unlimited plans, but the speeds are all 25 Mbps. Plus, the highest monthly data threshold you can get from HughesNet is 50 GB—half of what you can get with Viasat.

Overages

You won’t be charged an extra fee when you hit your data threshold with HughesNet. But HughesNet will slow your service to just 3 Mbps until the next billing cycle.

To get your speed back to 25 Mbps, you can purchase data tokens.

Bonus Zone

Much like the discontinued Viasat Free Zone, the HughesNet Bonus Zone is a period during off-peak hours when the data you use doesn’t count against your main monthly allowance. The Bonus Zone runs from 2 a.m. to 8 a.m. The HughesNet Bonus Zone data is not unlimited, but it does give you an extra 50 GB for the month. In most cases, that’s more than you can use in such a small window of time, so it should last you through the month.

Pro Tip:

Get the most out of your data by downloading videos during the Bonus Zone. That way you can save data by watching them offline instead of streaming in real time.

Beyond the Limits

Despite some limitations, satellite internet is a smart alternative to dial-up and a reliable choice for broadband internet in rural areas. As long as you’re aware of how your data usage affects your service, you can plan ahead to avoid going over your monthly allowance.

*The price lock guarantee applies only to the standard monthly internet service fee and the monthly equipment lease fee (in each case, before any promotional discounts) and excludes all taxes and surcharges. The price lock guarantee runs for 24 consecutive months from the date of account activation, requires that the customer’s account remain in good standing, and may terminate with certain account changes.

FAQ

What are HughesNet data tokens?

Data tokens are chunks of extra data you can buy from HughesNet. You can use data tokens to get your service back to full speed after you use all your regular monthly data. They come in a variety of prices and data amounts.

  • 3 GB for $9
  • 5 GB for $15
  • 10 GB for $30
  • 25 GB for $75

Is there any unlimited satellite internet?

Technically both HughesNet and Viasat offer unlimited satellite internet because they never cut your service off. (Although they will restrict it after you hit your monthly data threshold.)

That’s as close to unlimited satellite internet as you can get for residential service.

Is HughesNet unlimited internet?

You’ll never run out of data on a HughesNet plan, but your download speeds will slow from 25 Mbps to 3 Mbps if you hit your monthly data allowance. So, while it has unlimited data, it does not have unlimited data at full speed.

Is Viasat internet unlimited?

Viasat internet won’t shut off your service if you use too much data. But its plans do have monthly data thresholds. After you reach that threshold, Viasat puts you at the back of the line for all internet traffic on their network. It’s technically not slowing you down, but it will feel like that during busy times.

What’s the best satellite internet you can get?

Viasat offers more speed and more data than HughesNet at similar price points. If you have both options, we recommend Viasat.

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Edited by Cara Haynes

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