Viasat vs. HughesNet
Our experts dig into the plans, pricing, and perks of these two satellite internet providers.
Viasat and HughesNet are two long-established satellite internet companies. But 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 faster land-based internet services (like fiber, cable, and DSL).
But if you live in a rural area, satellite may be the only available internet type. Between Viasat and HughesNet, we’d have to pick Viasat because of its faster internet speeds and better data allowance. But HughesNet isn’t a bad option if you prioritize your pocketbook over your internet time.
Compare Viasat and HughesNet head to head
Viasat and HughesNet have amped up their speed and quality in recent years, but their prices run higher than most land-based services. And with tight data allowances, you’re getting a lot less bang for your buck.
In comparison, many DSL and cable internet providers have data allowances around 1,000 GB. And fiber internet usually has unlimited data—real unlimited data, not the fake unlimited data that these satellite internet providers advertise.
Since Viasat and HughesNet won’t cut off your internet access or charge you overage fees after you reach your allotted data amount, both can technically claim they provide unlimited data. But once you go through your data allowance for the month, your internet speeds are likely to drop drastically.
Packages and pricing
Comparing Viasat and HughesNet plans can be tricky because Viasat leads out with its three-month promotional pricing. For Viasat’s packages, we’ve listed both the promotional and post-promotional prices for your consideration.
And to help better illustrate the size of each package’s data allowance, we’ve calculated how much TV you could stream each month—if you used your internet for only TV. We estimated 700 MB (0.7 GB) per hour, which is about how much data SD-quality video uses (you really don’t want HD-quality TV because it eats your data faster).
Viasat packages and pricing
|Price||Price after 3 mos.||Download speed||Data allowance||Video streaming||Details|
|$49.99/mo.||$69.99/mo.||12 Mbps||80 GB||114 hrs./mo.||View plan|
|$69.99/mo.||$99.99/mo.||25 Mbps||120 GB||171 hrs./mo.||View plan|
|$99.99/mo.||$149.99/mo.||50 Mbps||200 GB||286 hrs./mo.||View plan|
|$149.99/mo.||$199.99/mo.||100 Mbps||300 GB||429 hrs./mo.||View plan|
Viasat’s plans are pricey but more functional than HughesNet’s for how most people use the internet today. Unlimited Platinum 100 is our top package pick from Viasat since the 100 Mbps download speeds match our go-to internet speed recommendation.
And while you’ll have to be judicious with how you use the 300 GB data, it’s still a workable data allowance if you’re trying to work from home. You should probably bow out of video calls—latency will be a problem there—but you’ll have plenty of data to stay connected throughout the workday.
And for a good comparison of how Viasat stacks up against HughesNet, check out Viasat’s Unlimited Silver 25. This plan features the 25 Mbps download rate that every HughesNet plan has, but it comes with more than twice as much data for $50 less per month.
The differences in these data allowances and prices are exactly what we’re talking about when we say Viasat’s got more bang for your buck. If you want your money’s worth, Viasat is a no-brainer.
HughesNet packages and pricing
After seeing Viasat’s big ole data allowances, HughesNet feels like a let-down. You’ll eat through your data allowance in less than a day if you try a streaming TV marathon. And with the barely-broadband speed of 25 Mbps, your internet experience will be only passable.
But if you want a cheap satellite internet plan, HughesNet’s 10 GB Data Plan will get you online for a few precious hours a month. It’s not our top choice, but it’s the most affordable option if you want internet access for emergencies.
Both Viasat and HughesNet offer discounted bundle packages that can include digital VoIP phone service at a slight discount. VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol, which is just a techy term for internet-based telephone service that’s not attached to a telephone company.
Viasat offers its usually $39.99-per-month phone service at $29.99 for the first six months. HughesNet is the cheaper deal at $29.95 a month and $19.95 for the first six months.
While these discounts are only a tiny relief compared to satellite internet’s price tag, at least they’re 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 apps, you can track your data usage and billing cycle, plus buy more data as needed, all directly from your phone.
Low-Earth orbit satellite internet
Recently, StarLink from SpaceX has introduced a low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellite internet to the public. This tech is part of an emerging market that provides internet speeds in line with land-based providers using satellites closer to Earth than traditional satellite internet.
In the future, we may see this technology beat out the geosynchronous satellite tech that HughesNet and Viasat use. To learn more about how StarLink compares today, head over to our best satellite internet providers review.
Online gaming on satellite internet
Slow-paced games like Candy Crush Saga or Minecraft are okay to play on satellite internet, but online multiplayer modes in quick-response games like Call of Duty or Overwatch are a different story.
Because satellite internet sends data from your house all the way to satellites located 22,000 miles above the equator, it’s prone to high latency (the delay between data sent and received) and a slow gameplay experience.
For more gaming solutions, check out our “Best Internet Providers for Gaming.”
Our final take: Viasat wins by a hair
Our experts crunched the numbers for Viasat and HughesNet on bang for your buck, reliability, features, and customer satisfaction. Then we compared the satellite internet providers’ plans, prices, and perks for a clear picture of which one will best suit you. For more information on our methodology, check out our How We Rank page.
The Viasat prices listed above are for Viasat’s unlimited plans. We’ve included ongoing pricing rather than promotional pricing for a more straightforward comparison between the satellite internet providers. Viasat’s promotional pricing on unlimited plans ranges from $49.99 to $149.99 per month for the first three months. Viasat requires a minimum 24-month service term agreement.
HughesNet requires a 24-month agreement.