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The Best Satellite Internet Providers – 2017

To find the best satellite internet service of 2017, we reviewed satellite internet providers and ranked them based on price, speed, and data. Below, you'll find the definitive guide to satellite providers—HughesNet, Exede, and dishNET—so you can find the absolute best satellite internet provider for your needs...no matter where you live.

Ranking1st2nd3rd
ProviderHughes Net LogoExcede Internet Logodish internet logo
Monthly Price$2999–$8999$4999–$14999$3999–$7999
Download Speed5–15 Mbps12–25 Mbps5–10 Mbps
Upload Speed1–2 Mbps3 Mbps1–2 Mbps
Anytime Data5–50 GB10–30 GB5–15 GB
Bonus Data5–50 GBUnlimited5–15 GB
VIEW PLANSRead ReviewVIEW PLANSRead ReviewVIEW PLANSRead Review
1st
Hughes Net Logo
$2999–$8999
5–15 Mbps
1–2 Mbps
5–50 GB
5–50 GB
2nd
Excede Internet Logo
$4999–$14999
12–25 Mbps
3 Mbps
10–30 GB
Unlimited
3rd
dish internet logo
$3999–$7999
5–10 Mbps
1–2 Mbps
5–15 GB
5–15 GB

To find the best satellite internet service of 2017, we reviewed satellite internet providers and ranked them based on price, speed, and data. Below, you'll find the definitive guide to satellite providers—HughesNet, Exede, and dishNET—so you can find the absolute best satellite internet provider for your needs...no matter where you live.

The Top 3 Satellite Internet Providers

HughesNet Internet Service

1st
  • Pricing $29.99–$89.99
  • Anytime Data 5–50 GB
  • Max Download 5–15 Mbps
  • Max Upload 1–2 Mbps
  • Equipment Fee $9.99 Mo
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HughesNet Internet Service

HughesNet has some of the best-priced plans for satellite internet. Its basic service plan starts at $29.99 a month. To compare, Exede starts at $49.99 a month and dishNET at $39.99 a month.

It’s also likely that HughesNet will give you more options for service than Exede or dishNET. For example, we were able to choose from five internet service plans with HughesNet, whereas Exede and dishNET only offered three plans. Of course, it may be different where you live, but you can easily check here for service where you live.

HughesNet does offer free standard installation and discount pricing, but they’re only available in select areas.

Exede Internet Service

2nd
  • Pricing $49.99–$149.99
  • Anytime Data: 10–30 GB
  • Max Download: 12–25 Mbps
  • Max Upload: 3 Mbps
  • Equipment Fee: $9.99 Mo
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Exede Internet Service

Exede is the fastest satellite internet provider for both download and upload speeds. Every Exede plan has a max download speed of 12 Mbps, even with its most basic plan. In comparison, HughesNet’s and dishNET’s basic plans have a max download speed of 5 Mbps. Exede also has an option to upgrade to a max download speed of 25 Mbps in areas where available.  

Exede also has the best bonus data feature when compared to HughesNet and dishNET. Exede’s bonus data feature (Liberty Pass) lets you continue to browse the internet at speeds of 1–5 Mbps after you’ve used all your anytime data. HughesNet and dishNET let you continue to use the internet as well, but they limit your speed to 1 Mbps and 128 Kbps respectively.

Exede does have promotional offers, but you’ll have to contact Exede to see what’s available in your area.

dishNET Internet Service

3rd
  • Pricing: $39.99–$79.99
  • Anytime Data: 5–15 GB
  • Max Download: 5–19 Mbps
  • Max Upload: 1–2 Mbps
  • Equipment Fee: $9.99 Mo
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dishNET Internet Service

dishNET satellite internet is a good option if you want to bundle satellite internet and TV. In fact, there’s a $10 a month discount when you order dishNET and DISH TV together, so if your budget allows it, we recommend bundling your internet with TV to get the most value. dishNET’s pricing is middle-of-the-road, with its basic plan starting at $39.99 a month.

As for dishNET’s other features, they’re average, which is a big reason why dishNET lands at the #3 spot in our satellite internet rankings. However, while dishNET’s features may not stand out, there’s a bright side. If you hit your data limit, you won’t be charged overage fees. Instead, your internet speed will run at the speed of dial-up (128 Kbps), which isn’t ideal but still better than a fee. 

For more info on deals available in your area, contact dishNET customer service.

Finding the Right Satellite Internet

Cost

The costs of broadband internet services usually range from $40 to $60 per month. The costs will vary depending on download speed and available bandwidth. These price levels are comparative to DSL and cable internet. However, depending on your usage, higher download speeds may not be worth the money.

Speed

We recommend at least a 5 Mbps (megabits per second) download speed. With 5 Mbps, you should notice an appreciable difference in the pace at which your internet pages load or refresh. Upload speeds start at 1 Mbps and go up to 12 Mbps. Some of the slower upload speeds offered by satellite internet providers can make this medium a poor choice for heavy game users. Ultimately, it all depends on your plan and (anticipated) usage.

Data

Data allowance is an important consideration when evaluating satellite internet service. If you use social networking, watch videos, or listen to music, you’ll need plenty of data. Currently, data available from satellite internet providers range from 5 GB to 100 GB. Many satellite internet providers limit the amount of data you can use monthly, but this should not affect most casual users.

Support

As with any product, support is important. Most of the leading providers offer user-friendly online forums, 24/7 technical support, online account management, and spam and virus protection.

Satellite Internet FAQs

Q: How does it work?

Satellite internet works in the same manner as satellite TV. The concept of geosynchronous orbiting of satellites is central to the operation of satellite internet. Simply, this means that the satellite must be placed in an orbit above the equator at a distance of about 22,300 miles. At this location, the satellite will orbit at the same pace as the earth rotates. This enables your home satellite dish to constantly remain in contact with the orbiting satellite. This is also why (if you live in the northern hemisphere), you must have an unobstructed southward view of the sky from where you place your home satellite dish. The complete satellite internet system includes the following:

  • Satellite Dish
  • Modem
  • Orbiting satellite that receives and transmits data

Q: How much can I download?

This largely depends on the plan you select from a satellite internet provider. Say your plan lets you download 5 GB per month—same as the lowest data plan. Now, the next question is “How much content is 5 GB?” It’s equivalent to streaming two two-hour movies in HD or listening to 90 hours of streaming music. If you only use the internet for browsing web pages and email (no downloading or streaming), don’t worry, you’ll likely never reach 5 GB in a month. All the satellite internet providers we’ve covered have unlimited or bonus data period, usually between 12:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. So you can use this additional data judiciously at no extra cost.

Q: What speed do I get?

10 Mbps is the average speed for satellite internet, and that’s more than 178 times faster than a dial-up modem. The absolute fastest speed for satellite internet is available from Exede, which has a max download speed of 25 Mbps. The lowest option is a max of 5 Mbps, which is available from HughesNet and DishNET. What speed you get ultimately depends on your provider and plan, but we recommend going with a 10 Mbps plan.

Q: What’s the difference between satellite and cable internet?

The biggest difference is speed. If cable internet is available in your area, you’ll likely have access to plans with higher speeds (download and upload) than satellite internet; however, you might have to pay more for those plans. If you’re a serious internet user (e.g., multiplayer gaming) and cable internet is available, you should go with a cable internet plan. For the casual or average internet user (browsing, checking email, etc.), there isn’t much of a difference between satellite and cable internet.

Q: What’s the installation process?

Professional installation services and fees vary, so you’ll have to check with each satellite internet provider, or check out our reviews for Exede, HughesNet, and DishNET. Many satellite internet providers offer free installation and activation as an enticement to purchase their service. The satellite internet providers we recommend usually offer the option to either lease the equipment (normally $9.99 per month) or purchase the equipment at a cost of a few hundred dollars (but there is no rental fee associated with this option). If you live in a condo or a townhome and have a homeowners association, please check with them first. It is typically not an issue but every association has different by-laws.

Q: Can I get satellite internet for a car, RV or boat?

The short answer is no (most satellite internet services are designed to be stationary). However, DISH has an option called the TailGater® for satellite TV, and because it’s mobile it can be taken anywhere. So if you travelling cross-country and want to take TV with you, check out the TailGater® and see our article on how to get TV on road.

Q: Is there unlimited satellite internet?

Yes, it does exist, but there’s a caveat. It’s only available from Exede, and it’s limited to the hours of 12:00–5:00 a.m. If you’re thinking you won’t use the internet during these hours, consider this: you can schedule nightly backups or your downloads during these hours and it won’t count against your monthly data allowance. All of the other satellite internet companies have a set limit during the night in addition to the day, but Exede doesn’t and this is just one reason why we ranked them number one.

Q: Should I lease or purchase satellite internet equipment?

For most satellite internet providers, equipment leases for $9.99 per month for the two-year contract period. Currently, there is only one internet service provider that gives you the option to buy or lease the satellite internet equipment. HughesNet offers an option to purchase your satellite equipment upfront for a cost of $299.99. This offer is extended to new customers only.

Additionally, there is a $100 instant savings on standard installation included in the total cost of $299.99. The lease option offered by HughesNET (for new customers only) features a $0 upfront cost component combined with the equipment lease fee of $9.99 monthly.

If you lease, you’ll save $60 over the life of a two-year contract. Additionally, you do not have to come up with three hundred dollars upfront. However, as we mention below, these advantages disappear over time. The initial 24-month savings is a mere $2.50 per month.

If you purchase, you’ll start saving money after 30 months (2 ½ years). If you know you want satellite internet service for a period longer than that, it would make sense to purchase the equipment.

We think leasing is the best option, because after two and a half years the equipment will be dated, and hanging on to equipment is a terrible reason to stick with an internet service provider.

Satellite Internet Myths and Facts

#1 Satellite internet is too slow

While that may have been true a few years ago, it’s not anymore. At the advent of satellite internet, download speeds approximated 750 Kbps with upload speeds of about 256 Kbps. With advancements in technology and the launch of new, more powerful satellites, speeds have increased dramatically. Presently, download speeds up to 25 Mbps and upload speeds of 12 Mbps are possible—speeds that are comparable to DSL and cable.

#2 It takes a long time to receive a signal

Do you have a second?

Latency is defined as the amount of time it takes from the request of a packet of data until it is received. In general, latency is expressed in terms of milliseconds (ms), or 1000th of a second. Latency has long been a criticism of satellite internet technology, but in our opinion, a bit overblown for the common internet user.

It is true that satellite internet latency is much greater than terrestrial internet latency (DSL, cable). Terrestrial latency ranges in the 20–50 ms range where satellite internet ranges can be 500 ms or more. The main reason is the distance satellite internet communications must travel.

The geosynchronous satellites employed for satellite internet are positioned about 22,000 miles above the earth. That is a long way to travel, yet it is accomplished in milliseconds! Most satellite internet customers are located in areas where DSL or cable are not available, so the main alternative is satellite internet.

The most obvious effect of latency is on gaming, where ultra-quick responses are necessary. Satellite internet is not suitable for heavy gaming applications; however, normal email, browsing, photo sharing, etc., are not affected that much by latency.

#3 Satellite internet doesn’t work when it’s cloudy, rainy, or during storms

While it’s true a severe thunderstorm, heavy snow, or blizzard can interrupt satellite transmission temporarily, the problem isn’t as significant as it has been popularized to be. This condition is commonly called “rain fade.” The signal is restored as soon as the storm passes. Heavy accumulations of snow can be removed from around the satellite dish to restore communications.

In contrast, a heavy thunderstorm with fallen trees, etc. could disable cable or DSL for days. Again, most satellite internet customers are in rural areas that do not have access to DSL or cable, so the problems associated with rain fade are minimal when compared to alternative, slower means of internet service.

#4 Satellite internet is too expensive

The monthly costs of satellite internet have decreased substantially over the past few years in light of the advancements in speed and bandwidth (data allowance). An entry level service that provides broadband internet now costs as low as $29 a month, which is comparable to DSL and cable internet plans.

Want to Know More?

If you want to know more about the best satellite internet or you think we missed something, leave us a comment below. We love hearing from you.

BY: Scott Teran

Staff Writer