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Best Satellite Internet Providers for 2021

Skip hard wired internet with these satellite alternatives.

Best speeds

Prices: $50—$200/mo.
Download speed: 12 Mbps—100 Mbps

Best pricing

Prices: $59.99—$149.99/mo.
Download speed: 25 Mbps

The bottom line: Viasat and HughesNet are your best, and only, satellite internet choices

Satellite internet isn’t the same thing as satellite TV. Both use a dish receiver and service remote areas where cable and fiber-optic lines don’t reach, but the similarities end there.

By “satellite internet,” we mean Viasat and HughesNet. If you’re looking for a satellite provider near you, they’re the last two companies standing in a service field that hasn’t advanced significantly since the ‘80s.

Where satellite TV can deliver Game of Thrones to you in rich HD, satellite broadband struggles to keep up with a game of Words with Friends. Bluntly put, satellite internet is no one’s first choice. Satellite internet connections are slow, prone to glitches, and can cost twice as much as land-based internet services (like fiber-optic, cable, and DSL) that offer more than twice the speed.

No, satellite internet isn’t optimal—but it’ll do if you live on the edge of the grid.

The best satellite internet service providers

Specs and features comparison

Swipe Left to See All →
ProviderPriceDownload speedsData allowances
Viasat$50–$200/mo.25 Mbps–100 Mbps 12 GB–150 GBView plans
HughesNet$59.99–$149.99/mo.25 Mbps10 GB–50 GBView plans

Data effective 12/01/2020. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

What to know about satellite internet service

Price: what you’ll pay for internet coverage. When considering satellite internet coverage, factor in your budget along with what type of tasks (answering emails, watching movies) you’ll need internet access for.

Download speeds: how quickly you can download online content. The listed download speed for an internet package is shared among every user in your home (a 25 Mbps connection will be fast for one person but slow for a five-person house), so make sure to invest in a bigger package if your internet will be used by multiple people.

Data allowances: how much data you can use per month before the carrier slows down your internet. While regular internet browsing requires little data, you can quickly hit a low cap with activities like regularly watching online movies.

Satellite internet providers have amped up their speed and quality in recent years, hitting bandwidth that matches DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) levels. Unfortunately, DSL is old news, since it’s been left in the dust by its far-faster cable and fiber-optic internet cousins.

But, if satellite internet access is your only option, old news is still pretty good news. With that in mind, here are our reviews of Viasat and HughesNet, the big (OK, only) two satellite internet providers.

Viasat – Best speeds

The specs

  • Price: $50–$200/mo.
  • Download speeds: 25 Mbps–100 Mbps
  • Data allowances: 12 GB–150 GB

View plans

Pros

  • High speeds and data allowances
  • Relatively low cost

Cons

  • Price hikes
  • Limited “unlimited” data

In 2018, Viasat (formerly known as Exede) made news by establishing a satellite internet download speed of 100 Mbps. It doesn’t sound like much, but that’s more than double what had been previously available from any satellite internet provider.

It also costs more than double a comparably speed-rated cable or DSL plan, and the satellite’s signal strength in your locale will determine whether you actually get that full 100 Mbps. But still, kind of a big deal for satellite people.

Viasat may have cracked the bandwidth (a.k.a. internet speed) code, but data transfer remains satellite internet’s biggest frustration—and Viasat’s not immune. Since data travels out of the stratosphere and back, there’s latency, or lag. Streaming HD movies or gaming over satellite internet can make you feel like you’re in the dial-up ’90s (ask your parents—or go see Captain Marvel again).

Watch out: Multiple Viasat’s satellite internet plans are labeled “Unlimited,” implying there’s no data cap to exceed. But that’s not exactly true.

Four of Viasat’s five satellite internet plans are labeled “Unlimited,” implying there’s no data cap to exceed. But that’s not exactly true. When your consumption hits a certain amount, your data will be “prioritized” behind that of other subscribers—meaning the subscribers who bought the more expensive plans—to alleviate network congestion. You won’t be charged for overages, but “unlimited” has its limits.

Also, even though you have to lock in the price with a two-year service contract, Viasat will bump up your monthly fee after three months. The Unlimited Platinum 100 plan, already pricey at $150 a month initially, will go up to $200 a month after 90 days, for example.

Still, Viasat is as good a deal as you’re going to get in satellite internet, in terms of both speed and price.

Viasat internet plans

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PlanPriceDownload speedData allowanceMusic streaming
Unlimited Bronze 12$50-$90/mo. ($70-$100/mo. after 3 months) 12 Mbps40 GB10,000 songs/mo.View plans
Basic 25$50/mo. 25 Mbps 12 GB3,000 songs/mo.View plans
Unlimited Bronze 25$50/mo. ($70/mo. after 3 months) 25 Mbps 35 GB8,750 songs/mo.View plans
Unlimited Silver 25$70-$100/mo. ($100-$150/mo. after 3 months)25 Mbps 60 GB or 100 GB depending on the specific plan15,000-25,000 songs/mo.View plans
Unlimited Gold 30$100-$150/mo. ($150-$200/mo. after 3 months)30 Mbps100 GB25,000 songs/mo.View plans
Unlimited Gold 50 $100-$120/mo. ($150-$170/mo. after 3 months) 50 Mbps 100 GB25,000 songs/mo.View plans
Unlimited Platinum 100 $150/mo. ($200/mo. after 3 months) 100 Mbps 150 GB37,500 songs/mo.View plans

Data effective 12/01/2020. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.

HughesNet – Best pricing

HughesNet Satellite Internet

The specs

  • Price: $59.99–$149.99/mo.
  • Download speed: 25 Mbps
  • Data allowances: 10 GB–50 GB

View plans

Pros

  • Simple pricing structure
  • Transparent plans

Cons

  • Low download speed
  • Data overage throttling

HughesNet does have one advantage over Viasat: transparent pricing. HughesNet’s satellite internet plans aren’t fantastic, but they at least spell out what you’re getting more clearly.

HughesNet’s plans are titled and priced according to data allowance, not speed. As mentioned earlier, allotted GBs of data will affect your internet speed at least as much as Mbps. Also, the only download speed HughesNet offers across its four plans is 25 Mbps—there’s no way to slap a “Gold” or “Platinum” moniker on that.

Unlike Viasat, HughesNet states plainly in its basic 10 GB Data Plan that, if you go over 10 GB within the billing month, your internet speed will be throttled down from 25 Mbps to 1–3 Mbps. For perspective, 10 GB is equal to about four full-length HD movies, and 1–3 Mbps . . . is . . . too . . . slow . . . to . . . comprehend . . . in . . . 2019.

Watch out, again: This is how satellite internet providers get away with the claim of “unlimited” data—it’s not a data “cap” if they don’t shut you off completely or charge a penalty.

This is how satellite internet providers get away with the claim of “unlimited” data—it’s not a data “cap” if they don’t shut you off completely or charge a penalty. And yes, unfortunately HughesNet and Viasat both do it; HughesNet is just more up front with the info.

Like Viasat, HughesNet’s satellite internet service comes with a two-year contract—but at least HughesNet’s plans have no surprise price bumps after three months. That’s a small, but positive, check in the HughesNet column.

Swipe Left to See All →
PlanPriceDownload speedData allowanceMusic streaming
10 GB Data Plan $59.99/mo. 25 Mbps 10 GB2,500 songs/mo.View plans
20 GB Data Plan $69.99/mo. 25 Mbps 20 GB5,000 songs/mo.View plans
30 GB Data Plan$99.99/mo. 25 Mbps 30 GB7,500 songs/mo.View plans
50 GB Data Plan$149.99/mo. 25 Mbps 50 GB12,500 songs/mo.View plans

Data effective 12/01/2020. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Satellite internet features to look for

Bundling options

Both Viasat and HughesNet offer bundle packages that can include digital VoIP phone or satellite TV or both with your internet service at a slight discount.

(VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol, which is just a tech-y term for internet-based telephone service that’s not attached to a telephone company.)

Unlike each provider’s high internet fees, standard pricing applies to the offered phone (starting at $19.99 a month) and satellite TV (starting at $35 a month) bundle add-ons. A small bit of satellite price-tag relief, but at least it’s something.

Data tracker apps

Since every digit of data is precious with satellite internet, you’ll want to download the free mobile Android or IOS apps that both Viasat and HughesNet offer. With these, you can track your data usage and where you are in your billing cycle, as well as manage your account and buy more data as needed, all directly from your phone.

Both providers’ apps average around three out of five stars in the Apple and Google Play app stores. Tellingly, most user reviews claim that the apps function better than Viasat and HughesNet’s satellite internet service does.

Low-Earth orbit satellite internet

Low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellite internet is an emerging market that provides internet speeds in line with land-based providers using satellites that are closer to Earth compared to traditional satellite internet.

But although companies such as Amazon, SpaceX, and OneWeb have invested in LEO technology, it’s still getting off the ground. At the moment, many LEO internet providers are building out their networks and aren’t expecting to launch wider coverage until at least 2021.

Online gaming on satellite internet

Slow-paced games like Candy Crush Saga or Minecraft are fine to play on satellite internet, but providers have struggled to handle online multiplayer modes in quick response games like Call of Duty or Overwatch.

Because satellite internet sends data from your house all the way to satellites, it’s prone to high latency (the delay between data being sent and received) and a slow gameplay experience.

Our final take: Viasat wins by a hair

While satellite TV service is virtually indistinguishable from HD cable TV, satellite internet is more like an over-the-air TV antenna: it works, but not without limitations.

If you live in an unwired area where the internet can be accessed only with a satellite dish, your options are just Viasat and HughesNet, plain and simple. Both have their strong points, but we recommend Viasat for its range of plan options and relatively lower prices—just be aware of that three-month fee bump.

Also, invest in a good snow brush that’s long enough to reach your satellite dish. You won’t want to be caught off-guard and internet-less come winter.

Bill Frost has been a journalist and TV reviewer since the 4:3-aspect-ratio ’90s. His pulse-pounding prose has been featured in The Salt Lake Tribune, Pacific Northwest Inlander, Coachella Valley Independent, Salt Lake City Weekly, and many other dead-tree publications. In addition to his CableTV.com work, Bill is a senior writer and streaming TV columnist at SLUGMag.com. By night, Bill cranks a Flying V with his band at the bar.

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