HughesNet vs. Viasat: Which Satellite Internet Provider is Better for You?

Best for lowest prices
HughesNet
  • pro
    Prices: $54.99–$149.99/mo.
  • pro
    Bonus Zone and carry-over data
  • con
    Max 25 Mbps speeds
Best for fastest speeds
Viasat
  • con
    Prices: $69.99–$299.99/mo.
  • pro
    Bigger data caps in some areas
  • pro
    12–100 Mbps speeds

Kristin Cooke
Researcher & Writer
Read More
July 27, 2022

Viasat and HughesNet are giants of the satellite internet industry, and each provider better serves different people's needs.

Choose HughesNet for lower prices. All HughesNet plans are the same speed: 25 Mbps. That’ll let you browse the internet, check your email, and even stream TV for way less money than Viasat. You can also pay to get extra data and stretch those streaming hours if you so need. 

Get Viasat for faster speeds. Viasat’s top plan offers four times the speed of HughesNet, but for more than four times the price at up to $299.99 once your promotional period ends. But the download speeds and higher data caps might be worth it if you need to do a lot of teleconferencing or online gaming.

Find Viasat and HughesNet plans available in your area.

Viasat vs. HughesNet: Plans and pricing

Provider
Price*
Data
Download speed
Get it
$54.99–$149.99/mo.15–75 GB/mo.25 Mbps
$30.00–$169.99/mo. 35–150 GB/mo.12–100 Mbps

Data effective 10/14/2021. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change. Actual speeds may vary and are not guaranteed.

HughesNet internet plans and pricing

HughesNet keeps things simpler than Viasat. All HughesNet satellite internet plans offer the same download speed of up to 25 Mbps. The only difference between one HughesNet plan and another is how much high-speed data you get you each month.

Each HughesNet package tier has a different data limit. Once you reach that limit, your service will slow down. You can buy additional data if you still need full-speed data after that, and unlike with Viasat, unused HughesNet data you purchase will carry over into the next month. HughesNet plans also try to make up for their lower data allowances with Bonus Zone data that you can access between 2:00 a.m.–8:00 a.m.

HughestNet may have lower prices for extra data than Viasat does, but we'd can't deny that extra data anytime of the day is more convenient than extra data in the middle of the night. We’ll discuss more of the differences between how HughesNet slows your connection speed after you run out of data and how Viasat does the same in our data section.

 

Data Plan
Price
Speed
15 GB
$54.99
/mo
25 Mbps
30 GB
$64.99
/mo
25 Mbps
45 GB
$99.99
/mo
25 Mbps
75 GB
$149.99
/mo
25 Mbps

*Data effective 2/9/2022. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change. Actual speeds may vary and are not guaranteed.

As for HughesNet plans, you can get them in tiers of 15GB, 30 GB, 45 GB, or 75 GB, and HughesNet even offers a 24-month price lock with its plans. Yeah, all HughesNet plans come with 2-year contracts, same as Viasat.

But unlike with Viasat, you won’t get sudden guaranteed price hikes in the third months of your contract (giving us DIRECTV flashbacks). So if you don't want to see your monthly price jump up $100 like your Viasat bill will, HughesNet is a good choice.

That said, the prices shown in our tables are HughesNet's current promotional price. After six months, this price will return to just $10 a month more. Saving $60 over the course of your contract isn't half bad, and going up $10 a month back to normal pricing isn't nearly as bad as Viasat's punching price hike.

Overall, you could end up saving money with HughesNet because its plans are cheaper overall, but only if you don't end up buying tons of data to compensate. So keep an eye on your data needs and decide what you most need from your satellite internet service: prices that treat you right, or high, high data caps.

For more specifics on HughesNet internet service, check out our HughesNet Review.

Viasat internet plans and pricing

With Viasat, you can choose a package with the speed and data threshold that suits your needs. That means lots of confusing packages to choose from, and remember, all Viasat plan prices go up anywhere from $30 to $100 per month after the initial promo period.

Plan
Price
Speed
Data cap
Basic 12
$40.00
/mo
12 Mbps15 GB
Liberty 12
$30.00
/mo
12 Mbps12 GB
Liberty 25
$50.00
/mo
12 Mbps25 GB
Liberty 50
$75.00
/mo
12 Mbps50 GB
Unlimited Silver 12
$99.99
/mo
12 Mbps45 GB
Unlimited Gold 12
$149.99
/mo
12 Mbps65 GB
CHOICE 25 Mbps/40 GB
$69.99
/mo
25 Mbps40 GB
CHOICE 50 Mbps/60 GB
$99.99
/mo
50 Mbps60 GB
CHOICE 75 Mbps/100 GB
$149.99
/mo
75 Mbps100 GB
CHOICE 100 Mbps/150 GB
$199.99
/mo
100 Mbps150 GB
CHOICE 100 Mbps/300 GB
$299.99
/mo
100 Mbps300 GB

Data effective 2/09/2022. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

All Viasat plans come with a 2-year contract. Viasat plans start as low as $30.00 a month for 12 Mbps, which looks really good at first because it’s half the price of HughesNet’s cheapest plan that’s $64.99 (although HughesNet’s cheapest plan also delivers twice the speed at 25 Mbps).

But be wise—after Viasat’s three-month promotional period ends, its prices increase by $20 to $100 per month, depending on your plan. Your price-lock guarantee kicks in for two years after that, but the extra cash still stings. Meanwhile, HughesNet prices are locked for 24 months from the very beginning. No surprise rate hikes there.

So, what is Viasat’s advantage? Despite the higher prices, Viasat plans still give you much faster download speeds than HughesNet (up to 100 Mbps versus 25 Mbps), and it has unlimited data on all its plans (sort of—we’ll talk about that more later). And remember—with satellite internet, your data limit really matters.

For more specifics on Viasat internet service, check out our entire Viasat Review.

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Pro tip

Some Viasat services were formerly known as Exede Internet. In 2018, Viasat dropped the name Exede and now calls all of its internet services Viasat Internet, all owned by Viasat Inc.

While all Viasat packages technically come with unlimited data, you will experience slowing after you reach your plan’s data threshold. Once you reach your data threshold (between 15 and 300 GB, depending on your plan), your speeds will slow down to 1–3 Mbps.

You can also buy additional data tokens to get more full speed data, but they don’t carry over into the next month. We’ll explain this in more detail in the data section below. To save data, each package tier limits your video streaming quality.

Viasat video streaming quality by package

Package
Streaming Quality
Bronze360p (SD)
Silver480p (DVD)
Gold720p (HD)
Platinum1080p (HD)

Date as of 10/14/2021. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change. Actual speeds may vary and are not guaranteed.

Unfortunately, the only way to change your video streaming on a Viasat unlimited plan is to upgrade to a better package.

Recommended: Viasat or HughesNet?

If you just want to fulfill your basic rural internet needs—paying bills online, checking your email, and occasionally relaxing with Netflix—we recommend going with HughesNet.

HughesNet offers the best price for just the right amount of basic internet

, perfect for living out-of-the-way and still having the internet access you need.

If you’re more of a digital nomad who runs office work and teleconferencing from home, Viasat might be more your speed—literally. Especially if you're lucky enough to have Viasat’s faster plans 50 Mbps or 100 Mbps plans available in your area of North America, we think it'll suit your internet-heavy work well. 

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When can I get Starlink?

Starlink is now available in select areas and availability continues to expand. But many customers are also stuck on what feel like endless waitlists.

Read our Starlink review or learn more about when Starlink will be available in your area.

Pros and cons

HughesNet

Pros
pro More affordable
pro Built-in Wi-Fi
pro Video Data Saver
pro Extra purchased data doesn't expire
Cons
con 2-year contract required
con Throttled speeds after data allowance
con Max 25 Mbps speeds

Viasat

Pros
pro Faster speeds
pro Free installation
pro Built-in Wi-Fi
pro Higher data caps
Cons
con 2-year contract required
con Extra purchased data expires at the end of the month
con Big price hike after 3 months

Important features

Speeds

The fastest satellite provider in your area isn’t necessarily Viasat, even though Viasat offers speeds up to 100 Mbps in some areas. In many areas, Viasat’s top speed is 12 Mbps. So, if you’re judging on speed alone, you’ll need to check with both providers to find out which residential satellite internet provider offers the faster service in your area.

Also, don’t forget the impact that data allowances have on your internet speed. Once you hit your monthly data threshold, your speed may be slowed to 3 Mbps or less. When it comes down to it, having a plan with a higher data allowance may have a bigger impact on your internet speed than bumping up to a faster speed plan.

Technology

Viasat's more advanced satellites mean it can currently offer faster speeds than HughesNet. That's largely because Viasat launched satellites more recently than HughesNet (ViaSat-2 launched in 2017, while HughesNet’s most recent update was the EchoStar XIX in 2016). Both providers are looking to expand their satellites, but they've both had to push back launches due to COVID-19 related delays.

That could change though—HughesNet is investing in low-Earth orbit satellite bandwidth through a partnership with OneWeb.3 Hughes Network Systems, which is also contracted to provide ground stations for OneWeb, plans to use LEO technology to improve service to rural customers. This could both increase HughesNet speeds and offer more generous data caps, so keep an eye on this one.

Both satellite companies are developing satellites for future updates but those won’t be here for a while. Cross your fingers, and maybe pandemic delays won't disrupt Viasat plans to launch its updated satellite system and HughesNet’s next update (the Jupiter-3)4 much farther. 

Info
Pro tip

Satellite internet has high lag (also known as latency or ping) that can make your connection feel even slower than it is. Satellite internet latency averages 594–624 milliseconds (ms). Compare this with cable internet’s average latency of 15–35 ms, and you’ll understand why gaming can be difficult on satellite internet.

Data

Data restrictions are one of the main differences between satellite internet and land-based internet services. While any internet connection type could come with a data limit, satellite internet's technological restrictions come with tighter limits by nature.

HughesNet Gen5 (the latest HughesNet technology) offers between 15 and 75 GB of data, and Viasat internet between 15 GB and 150 GB. That naturally gives Viasat the lead here, but both allow you to buy extra data if you end up needing more in a month.

HughesNet’s Data Tokens don’t expire, so you can keep carrying them into the next month until you finally need to use it. Viasat's extra purchased data doesn’t roll over into the next billing cycle, so you lose any unused data. Also, HughesNet Data Tokens are much cheaper than Viasat’s extra data prices. So that's where HughesNet keeps itself in the data race.

Additional Viasat data

Viasat packages offer unlimited data but you still have a data threshold, which is the amount of full-speed data you can use every month. When you reach your data threshold, you can keep using the internet but you’ll have reduced speed.

If you use up your data allowance before the end of the month but you need more full speed data, you can get more data with the “Buy More” feature on the app or on the Viasat website. Viasat extra data expires at the end of the billing cycle, so it’s use it or lose it!

Buy more Viasat data

  • 5 GB for $9.99
  • 10 GB for $14.99

Data as of 10/14/2021. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Additional HughesNet data

HughesNet internet packages vary in price based on their data limits. If you hit your data limit, your internet will still work, but HughesNet will slow your connection to just 1 to 3 Mbps and keep it that slow until the end of the billing cycle.

If you don’t like slowing down, you can buy “Data Tokens” to add incremental amounts of data to your plan. Plus, HughesNet rolls over any unused Data Tokens into the next month, so you can hang onto that extra data as long as you want. With Viasat, your extra purchased data just disappears with the next billing cycle.

HughesNet Data Token prices

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

HughesNet Data Tokens also sometimes go on sale, so you can always jump on the lowers prices and hoard them for later if you want.

Data as of 10/14/2021. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Save your data

You can save your data by using the internet during the Bonus Zone with HughesNet or the Free Zone with Viasat. These are only available with select plans.

HughesNet Bonus Zone

The Bonus Zone occurs between 2 a.m. and 8 a.m. local time. When you use your internet during the Bonus Zone, the data you use won't count against your monthly allowance. Instead, HughesNet gives you 50 GB of data for the Bonus Zone.

Megaphone
Pro tip

Plan ahead and use the Bonus Zone to download games and videos you can play offline during regular hours.

Viasat free zone

Older Viasat plans (marketed under the brand name Exede®) had a nightly free use zone where you could use the internet without it counting against your data allowance. The new unlimited internet packages from Viasat don’t have a free zone.

HughesNet Video Data Saver

HughesNet comes with Video Data Saver. This feature automatically adjusts your video streaming to save your data. However, this also limits the quality of video to 480p. That's still DVD quality, but not HD quality.

If you do a lot of streaming, this feature will help prevent reaching your data limit. When you want to watch something in HD, you can turn off the Video Data Saver by changing the settings when you log into your account.

Viasat video data extender

As with the Free Zone, the video data extender was available on old Exede® plans, but the Viasat unlimited plans don’t offer this feature. Instead, it varies video streaming quality by package. The intent of limiting streaming quality on lower tier packages is to save data.

Reliability

As mentioned before, satellite internet is more susceptible to lag (also known as latency or delay) than other types of internet service. The lag occurs because a signal transmitted via satellite has to travel much farther than it would with other internet types. That extra distance also leaves the signal more vulnerable to interference.

Viasat and HughesNet are both satellite internet providers, so they face similar limitations. If you’re concerned about going over your data limit, go with Viasat. Viasat delivers more data than HughesNet plans do. If cost is the biggest factor, go with HughesNet because their prices are slightly lower and don’t increase after three months.

And if superior speeds and performance are top priority, and you don’t mind the high sign up cost, check into Starlink, which offers the most data and fastest speeds of any satellite internet provider.

Availability

Because both these ISPs operate by satellite, they’re both available almost anywhere in America. However, the packages available will vary by area because the beam from the orbiting satellite will hit different locations at different angles. A more direct beam can deliver a stronger signal and a better service.

Equipment and installation

Viasat has the better satellites, but HughesNet gives you the option to buy your equipment. Viasat and HughesNet both include built-in WiFi capabilities with their gateways (modem/router combos).

Provider
Monthly Lease Price
Installation Fee
Lifetime Lease Price / Purchase Price
$5.00Free Standard Installation$299.99
$14.99Free Standard Installation$449.99*

*Plus a $100 installation fee. †Applies only to lease option. Data as of 10/14/2021. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Viasat

Viasat's newer satellite technology means it can deliver a stronger service, but the equipment you get in your home has to be compatible with the latest technology—which means you have to get it from Viasat.

You have two leasing options. You can lease your Viasat equipment for $9.99 per month, or you can opt for the lifetime lease for a one-time fee of $299.99. The lifetime lease is good for as long as you keep the same model of equipment.

If you're confident that you'll be using Viasat as your ISP for more than thirty months, the lifetime lease could save you money. But, if you're just signing up for the standard 2-year agreement, go with the monthly lease. The total cost of the leasing fees for two years is less than the lifetime lease price.

HughesNet

HughesNet gives you multiple equipment leasing options, plus an option to buy. The monthly leasing option costs $14.99, though some areas may get a $5 per month discount, and the purchase option costs $349.98.

Unless you plan to be with HughesNet for a long time (55 months or more), leasing is the more cost-effective option. Also, new customers may get free installation, so you could save even more.

Satellite internet for business

Are you running a business in a rural area? You can get business internet solutions from Viasat or HughesNet. Business internet service can keep your business humming with more data and higher security than satellite service for homes.

Viasat and HughesNet business plans

Provider
Price
Speeds
Details
$59.99– $179.99/mo.*†Up to 25 Mbps
$80.00– $500.00/mo.‡Up to 35–100 Mbps

Data current as of 10/14/2021. Prices and availability vary by location.

*For the first 6 mos., then $69.99–$199.99/mo.
†HughesNet has no hard data limits, so if you reach the monthly data allotment you will have uninterrupted data, but at reduced speeds (typically 1–3 Mbps).
‡If you reach your monthly data allotment with your Viasat business plan, internet speeds may be reduced to 1 to 3 Mbps until the beginning of the next billing cycle. 

Add satellite TV to Viasat or HughesNet

Neither HughesNet nor Viasat bundle with television, but you can get DISH or DIRECTV alongside either service. The perks of satellite TV? You won’t use up data when you’re watching live TV. (Using your DVR will use up data, though.)

TV provider
Intro. price range
Channel count
Features
Order now
$64.99–$134.99/mo.*155+–330+NFL SUNDAY TICKET
$59.99/mo.–$94.99/mo.†190–290+HD FREE for Life®

Data effective 10/14/2021. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.*For 12 months with a 2-yr contract, paperless bill, & autopay. Price increases for months 13-24. †For 24 months with a 2-year contract and eAutoPay.

DISH

DISH offers high-quality satellite television on all its packages. In addition to delivering the entertainment you want, DISH also features the Hopper 3 DVR. With 2TB of space and 4K HD picture quality, you can record hours of your favorite shows with the Hopper 3, and you’ll know they’ll look great.

DIRECTV

DIRECTV satellite TV service also delivers great entertainment, especially for sports fans. The DIRECTV Genie® DVR supports 4K HD for a stunningly clear picture and has a huge storage capacity for virtually endless entertainment.

Our verdict

If you’re looking for affordable satellite internet service in rural areas, HughesNet packages deliver twice the speed as Viasat's for the same price. Plus, it offers the Bonus Zone and purchasable Data Tokens that carries over as long as you want, to help stretch its smaller data caps.

Viasat is for the satellite internet user who needs higher speeds and more data, probably for teleconferencing, working consistently from home, or maybe just streaming lots of shows.  Its costs are a punch in the wallet, but if you gotta binge-watch, you got to binge-watch. We don't judge.

Methodology

Our SatelliteInternet.com editorial team bases our analyses on research, results from our speed test tool, and proprietary internet provider data on speeds and pricing. We dig deep to get hard-to-find information on internet plans, fees, and upcoming brand developments. We make this information easy for you to find in one place via our in-depth reviews, and we use our satellite internet industry expertise to analyze the options to help you make the most informed decision for your household.

To learn more about our process, check out our Methodology page.

Sources

1. Henry, Caleb, “SpaceX Submits Paperwork for 30,000 More Starlink Satellites,” September 2019. Accessed October 6, 2020.

2. Foust, Jeff, “SpaceX Launches Starlink Satellites as It Deorbits Original Ones,” October 6, 2020. Accessed October 6, 2020.

3. Henry, Caleb, “Hughes Network Systems to Invest $50 Million in Revived OneWeb,” July 2020. Accessed January 14, 2021.

4. Werner, Debra, “EchoStar Launch of Jupiter 3 Broadband Satellite Slips to 2022,” November 2020. Accessed January 14, 2021.

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.