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Viasat vs. HughesNet

Viasat (formerly Exede) and HughesNet are the two biggest residential satellite internet providers. They’re both widely available and use satellite technology to deliver broadband internet service. Though these two Internet Service Providers (ISP)s might look the same on the surface, their differences could significantly impact your internet experience.

We broke down those differences to help you make the best choice for your internet needs.

Best Satellite Internet Providers

ProvidersIntro. PriceSpeedsData CapsTV Options
$50 – $150/mo.
Up to 12 Mbps – 100 Mbps
Unlimited*DISH, DIRECTVView Plans
$59.99 – $129.99/mo.Up to 25 MbpsUnlimitedDISH, DIRECTVView Plans

Data effective 9/27/2018. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

The Bottom Line

Get Viasat for the fastest satellite internet available. Viasat’s top speed is four times faster than HughesNet’s. If that particular package isn’t available in your area, you can choose between three other Viasat packages that are as fast or faster than HughesNet’s top speed.

Choose HughesNet to get the lowest satellite internet prices. HughesNet and Viasat both offer internet packages between $50 and $60 per month, but with HughesNet, you’ll get more than twice as much speed for that price. You’ll also keep that price for two years instead of just three months.

Packages & Pricing

Viasat offers a variety of speed and data options to fit your needs. HughesNet keeps things a bit simpler with just one speed, but it still offers several data options.

Viasat Plans

PackageIntro. PriceSpeedData LimitPrice Increases to
Unlimited Bronze 12$50/mo.Up to 12 MbpsUnlimited (slows after 40 GB)$70/mo. after 3 months
Unlimited Silver 12$65/mo.Up to 12 MbpsUnlimited (slows after 60 GB)$95/mo. after 3 months
Unlimited Gold 12$95/mo.Up to 12 MbpsUnlimited (slows after 100 GB)$145/mo. after 3 months
Silver 25$70/mo.Up to 25 MbpsUnlimited (slows after 60 GB)$100/mo. after 3 months
Gold 30$100/mo.Up to 30 MbpsUnlimited (slows after 100 GB)$150/mo. after 3 months
Gold 50$100/mo.Up to 50 MbpsUnlimited (slows after 100 GB)$150/mo. after 3 months
Platinum 100$150/mo.Up to 100 MbpsUnlimited (slows after 150 GB)$200/mo. after 3 months

Data effective 8/1/2018. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

With Viasat, you can choose a package with the speed and data threshold that suits your needs. Remember, no matter which Viasat package you order, the price will go up after three months.

Viasat plans have a 2-year contract agreement.

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.

While all Viasat package technically come with unlimited data, you may experience slowing after you reach your plan’s data threshold. 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

PackageStreaming Quality
Bronze360p (SD)
Gold480p (DVD)
Silver720p (HD)
Platinum1080p (HD)

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

HughesNet Plans

Introductory PriceSpeedData LimitPrice Increases to
$59.99/mo.25 Mbps10 GBNone scheduled
$69.99/mo.25 Mbps20 GBNone scheduled
$99.99/mo.25 Mbps30 GBNone scheduled
$129.99/mo.25 Mbps50 GBNone scheduled

Data effective 9/27/2018. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

HughesNet internet plans don’t have names, but they all offer the same speeds, which happen to coincide with the threshold for what the FCC defines as broadband (25 Mbps download speeds and 3 Mbps upload speed).

Each HughesNet package tier has a different data limit. Once you reach that limit, your service will slow down. We’ll discuss the differences between HughesNet’s slowing and Viasat’s slowing in the data section.

With HughesNet, you could end up saving money in the long haul. HughesNet plans come with a 2-year contract agreement, but your price is guaranteed to stay the same through the whole contract.

Pros/Cons

Viasat

Thumbs Up Pros

  • Faster speeds
  • Unlimited data
  • Free installation
  • Built-in Wi-Fi
  • Newer equipment
  • No throttling

Thumbs Down Cons

  • 2-year contract required
  • Restricted streaming quality

HughesNet

Thumbs Up Pros

  • More affordable
  • Unlimited data
  • 2-year price lock guarantee
  • Built-in Wi-Fi
  • Video Data Saver
  • Additional data doesn't expire

Thumbs Down Cons

  • Throttled speeds after data allowance
  • 2-year contract required

Important Features

Speed

While both these ISPs offer broadband speeds, Viasat uses newer satellites with more advanced technology than HughesNet, so you can get faster speeds in select areas. You can also count on those speeds to remain faster than what HughesNet can provide because Viasat plans to launch another satellite before Hughesnet launches its next one.

Satellite internet can be susceptible to lag (also known as latency) that can make your connection feel slow.

Data

Data restrictions are one of the main differences between satellite internet and other types of internet. While any type of connection could come with a data limit, satellite internet limits are usually much smaller and thus have a more significant effect on the overall service.

Viasat allows you to buy extra data. However, while HughesNet’s Data Tokens don’t expire, the extra data you buy from Viasat doesn’t roll over into the next billing cycle, so you lose any unused data.

Viasat

Instead of having data limits, Viasat packages have “data thresholds.” When you reach your data threshold, Viasat doesn’t reduce your speed, but it does de-prioritize your internet usage. Traffic from other subscribers on the network (that haven’t hit their thresholds yet) will have the “right of way,” so to speak. Essentially, meeting your data threshold won’t slow down your top speed, but you’ll be in the back of the line every time you use the internet until the next billing cycle.

HughesNet

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.

HughesNet provides several ways to help accommodate for the data limits. You can buy “Data Tokens” to add incremental amounts of data to your plan. The data from the tokens doesn’t expire, and you can use it whenever you want.

HughesNet Data Token Prices

3GB for $95GB for $1510GB for $3025GB for $75

Save Your Data

You can save your data by using the internet during the Bonus Zone with HughesNet or the Free Zone with Viasat.

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.

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 excede® 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 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 the same limitations. If you’re concerned about reliability, go with Viasat. Its newer satellites will have more advanced equipment that isn’t likely to wear out anytime soon.

Availability

Because both these ISP’s 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).

Monthly Lease PriceLifetime Lease Price / Purchase PriceInstallation Fee
Viasat$9.99$299.99Free Standard Installation
HughesNet$14.99$349.98*Free Standard Installation

*Plus a $100 installation fee.
†Applies only to lease option. Offer ends 11/28/18.

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. Viasat doesn’t offer any option for purchasing your internet equipment, so leasing is your only option.

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/mo. 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.

Add satellite TV to your internet service.

Neither HughesNet nor Viasat bundle with television, but you can get DISH or DIRECTV alongside either service.

TV ProviderIntro. Price RangeChannel CountFeaturesOrder Now
DIRECTV$35–$110/mo.*155+–330+NFL SUNDAY TICKETView Plans
DISH$59.99/mo.–$89.99/mo.190–290+HD FREE for Life®View Plans

Data effective 8/1/2018. 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 support 4K HD for a stunningly clear picture and has a huge storage capacity for virtually endless entertainment.

Our Verdict

Go with Viasat for the fastest satellite internet service. It uses newer satellites that can deliver stronger connections than HughesNet can.

To get the most speed on a small budget, go with HughesNet. While its top speed comes nowhere close to what Viasat can offer, the most affordable HughesNet package delivers twice the speed as Viasat for the same price.

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