Viasat vs. HughesNet

Fastest Speeds
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    Speed: 12-100 Mbps
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    More data
Lowest Prices
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    Speed: 25 Mbps
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    Lower prices

Kristin Cooke
Researcher & Writer
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Published on July 30, 2021

Are you comparing satellite internet in the US? Your choice will probably include a comparison of Viasat vs. HughesNet. Starlink satellite service has limited availability thus far, but that will be an additional option later this year.

Both Viasat and HughesNet are available in almost all rural parts of the 48 states, plus some limited availability in Hawaii and Alaska. So, when it comes to availability, Viasat and HughesNet are neck and neck.

At first glance, it might look like Viasat offers faster download speeds. Viasat advertises speeds up to 100 Mbps, and HughesNet internet plans all have the same speed: 25 Mbps download. But here’s the secret: Viasat’s 100 Mbps speeds aren’t available in many areas, and only four of Viasat’s 11 internet plans offer speeds faster than HughesNet.

Viasat plans and pricing

As far as price goes, 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 $59.99 (although HughesNet’s cheapest plan does deliver faster speeds up to 25 Mbps).

But—Viasat prices increase after the first three months, while HughesNet prices are locked for 24 months. After Viasat’s three-month promotional period ends, plan prices increase by $20 to $50 per month, depending on your plan.

So, what’s good about Viasat? We like Viasat’s more generous data allowance. Viasat plans offer more data than its HughesNet counterparts. And with satellite internet, data really matters. Running out of data is the most common cause of slow speeds with a satellite connection. HughesNet plans 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. and lower prices for buying extra data. But all that is a hassle, and extra data anytime of the day is worth more to most customers than extra data in the middle of the night.

If you’re lucky enough to get one of Viasat’s faster plans in your area (50 Mbps or 100 Mbps), go with Viasat. Just make sure you check plan availability first. The 50 Mbps and 100 Mbps Viasat plans offer more data and speed for your dollar. But if Viasat’s slower plans are all it offers in your area and if you don’t plan to use much data, go with HughesNet.

Provider
Introductory Price
Download Speed
Availability
Get it
Call now
Viasat$30.00–$150.00/mo.* ($50.00–$200.00 after 3 months)Up to 12–100 MbpsNationwide855-317-9185
HughesNet$59.99–$149.99/mo.†Up to 25 MbpsNationwide855-317-9185

Data effective 1/14/2021. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change. Actual speeds may vary and are not guaranteed.

Bottom Line

Get Viasat for more data. Viasat’s top plan offers six times more data than HughesNet’s max data cap. Some Viasat plans offer more speed than HughesNet too. Viasat does cost more than HughesNet, but if faster speeds and higher data caps are what matter to you, it'll be worth it.

Choose HughesNet to get the lowest satellite internet prices. HughesNet and Viasat both offer internet packages between $50 and $70 per month, but you’ll get more than twice as much speed for that price with HughesNet. All HughesNet plans are the same speed: 25 Mbps. Plus, Viasat prices go up after three months—increasing by $30 to $50 per month. HughesNet prices are locked for 24 months.

Packages and 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

Plan
Price
Speed
Data Cap
Basic 12
$40
/mo
Up to 12 Mbps15 GB
Liberty 12
$30
/mo
Up to 12 Mbps12 GB
Liberty 25
$50
/mo
Up to 12 Mbps25 GB
Liberty 50
$75
/mo
Up to 12 Mbps50 GB
Unlimited Bronze 12
$50
/mo
Up to 12 Mbps80 GB
Unlimited Gold 12
$150
/mo
Up to 12 Mbps65 GB
Unlimited Silver 25
$70
/mo
Up to 25 Mbps120 GB
Unlimited Gold 30
$100
/mo
Up to 30 Mbps100 GB
Unlimited Gold 50
$100
/mo
Up to 50 Mbps200 GB
Unlimited Platinum 100
$150
/mo
Up to 100 Mbps300 GB

Data effective 1/14/2021. 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, with all Viasat plans, the price will go up by about 33% after three months. So, prices will go up $10 to $50 per month after this promo period.

Viasat plans have a 2-year contract agreement.

Pro tip
Info

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 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 1/14/2021. 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.

HughesNet plans

HughesNet keeps things a bit simpler than Viasat with just one speed, but it still offers several data options.

Plan
Price
Speed
Data Cap
10 GB Data Plan
$59.99
/mo
25 Mbps10 GB + 50 GB Bonus Zone*
20 GB Data Plan
$69.99
/mo
25 Mbps20 GB + 50 GB Bonus Zone*
30 GB Data Plan
$99.99
/mo
25 Mbps30 GB + 50 GB Bonus Zone*
50 GB Data Plan
$149.99
/mo
25 Mbps50 GB + 50 GB Bonus Zone*

*Data effective 1/14/2021. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change. Actual speeds may vary and are not guaranteed.

HughesNet internet plans 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. You can buy additional data if you need full speed data after your limit, and unlike Viasat, HughesNet unused data you purchase will carry over into the next month. 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 because their plans are cheaper overall, but they do offer less data. So with Viasat, the plans are more expensive, but you actually pay less for each GB of data than you do with HughesNet. HughesNet plans come with a 2-year contract agreement.

When can I get Starlink?
Info

Wondering about Starlink and other next-generation satellite providers? We’re eagerly awaiting official release dates on new home internet plans from Starlink and Project Kuiper. These satellite providers will offer faster speeds and lower latency than HughesNet and Viasat.

To date, SpaceX has launched nearly 900 satellites into the Starlink constellation, which may eventually include up to 42,000 satellites.1,2 Currently in the private beta testing phase, Starlink is expected to continue to expand service throughout 2021. Service is expected to cost around $80 per month for unlimited data and speeds that are 100 Mbps or faster.

For more information, check out “When Will Starlink Be Available?

Pros and cons

Viasat

Pros
Pro Bullet Faster speeds
Pro Bullet Free installation
Pro Bullet Built-in Wi-Fi
Cons
Con Bullet 2-year contract required
Con Bullet Restricted streaming quality
Con Bullet Extra purchased data expires at the end of the month
Con Bullet Price hike after 3 months

HughesNet

Pros
Pro Bullet More affordable
Pro Bullet Built-in Wi-Fi
Pro Bullet Video Data Saver
Pro Bullet Extra purchased data doesn't expire
Cons
Con Bullet Throttled speeds after data allowance
Con Bullet 2-year contract required

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

While both these ISPs offer similar speeds, Viasat is often listed as the best-rated satellite internet provider thanks to having more advanced technology than HughesNet. Viasat launched satellites more recently than HughesNet (ViaSat-2 launched in 2017, while HughesNet’s most recent update was the EchoStar XIX in 2016).

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.

Both satellite companies are developing satellites for future updates but those won’t be here for a while. Viasat plans to launch its updated satellite system in late 2021, while HughesNet’s next update (the Jupiter-3) is expected in early 2022.4 

Pro tip
Info

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 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 and Viasat allow 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. Also, HughesNet Data Tokens are much cheaper than Viasat’s extra data prices.

Viasat

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!

Viasat buy more data

  • 5 GB for $48
  • 7 GB for $67
  • 10 GB for $95
  • 25 GB for $75

Data as of 1/14/2021. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

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.

If you don’t like slowing down, you can buy “Data Tokens” to add incremental amounts of data to your plan.

If you compare HughesNet Data Token prices to Viasat, you’ll see that getting extra data with HughesNet is much cheaper than with Viasat. HughesNet charges $15 for an extra 5 GB, while Viasat charges $48 for 5 GB. Plus, HughesNet rolls over any unused Data Tokens into the next month, but with Viasat it disappears.

HughesNet Data Token prices

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

Data as of 1/14/2021. 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

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

*Plus a $100 installation fee. †Applies only to lease option. Data as of 1/14/2021. 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.

Satellite internet for business plans

Provider
Price
Speeds
Learn more
Viasat Business$50.00– $500.00/mo.*Up to 12–100 Mbps
HughesNet Business$49.99– $149.99/mo. for the first 6 mos., then $69.99–$199.99/mo.*Up to 25 Mbps

 *Data current as of 1/14/2021. Prices and availability vary by location. †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. ‡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).

Add satellite TV to your internet service.

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 1/14/2021. 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

Viasat is the best satellite internet provider for speed, data plans, and performance, while HughesNet offers the the lowest prices.

To get the most speed on a budget, go with HughesNet.

If you’re looking for affordable satellite internet service in rural areas, HughesNet packages deliver twice the speed as Viasat for the same price. And if you need to buy extra data for that late-night movie binge, HughesNet extra data is much cheaper and it carries over into the next month.

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.