Unlimited Satellite Internet Has Its Limits

Kristin Cooke
Jul 19, 2023
Icon Time To Read4 min read

The two biggest providers of residential satellite internet in the US both offer unlimited data—at least that’s what they say. We’re here to explain what unlimited data really means for Viasat and HughesNet satellite internet, which are two of the best satellite internet providers. We’ll also answer some questions about data caps and how to get more data.

Best for basics
Our Rating
3.5 out of 5 stars
• Price: $49.99–$149.99/mo
• Download speed: 25Mbps
• Data: 15–200GB/mo.
• Installation fee: Free
Most recommended
Our Rating
4 out of 5 stars
• Price: $99.99–$119.99/mo
• Download speed: 25–150Mbps
• Data: Unlimited
• Installation fee: Free

Unlimited data: Viasat vs. Hughesnet satellite internet

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

Wait, so is there such a thing as unlimited satellite internet?

The only truly unlimited satellite internet service provider is Starlink. Viasat and Hughesnet both offer unlimited data but it's not the kind we’d like. It’s the kind where you get throttled after going over your limit. But it’s still better than getting roadblocked completely or being charged for overage fees. So, you’ll never have to worry about missing an email if you spent your month’s data revisiting Prince’s back catalog.

Viasat satellite internet

Data caps

Viasat has a simplified plan that includes unlimited data. The internet speeds available will depend on your location (25–150Mbps). There is a soft data cap of 850GB per month, which the company says is normal usage. 

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You won’t accrue any overage charges with Viasat. Instead, if you go over the data in your plan, Viasat deprioritizes your data and your speeds will be “extremely slow.”

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 Viasat network who hasn’t hit their data caps yet. This will continue until the next billing cycle.

Light Bulb

“Unlimited data plans come with a set usage threshold. When you reach your usage threshold, you can still use the internet, but you may experience slower speeds during network congestion; typically the early morning or early evening hours, when our network sees the most traffic from people who are home using the internet.”

Hughesnet unlimited internet plans

Data caps

Like Viasat, HughesNet also has data caps on its unlimited plans, but the speeds are the same across all plans: 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload speed. Plus, the highest monthly data threshold you can get from HughesNet is 200GB, which, though much better than its previous 75GB maximum, still isn't as much as you can get with Viasat: 500 GB in some areas.


You won’t be charged an extra fee when you hit your data threshold with HughesNet. But HughesNet will slow your internet speed to 1–3 Mbps until the next billing cycle.

To get your speed back to (or up to) 25 Mbps, you can purchase data tokens, which cost about $3 per GB.

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 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.

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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.

  • 3GB for $9
  • 5GB for $15
  • 10GB for $30
  • 25GB 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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Kristin Cooke
Written by
Kristin Cooke
After graduating with a degree in English from the University of Utah, Kristin learned to geek speak while working as a technical recruiter, interviewing software developers and tech companies. For over 20 years, she has created award-winning content for technology, health, and finance companies. Kristin is an advocate for affordable internet for all and writes about rural internet solutions, satellite internet news, and tech products at SatelliteInternet.com. Her work has been featured in New York Post, PCMag, Forbes, Business Insider, Telecompetitor, Space.com, and The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society.