Home / Comparisons / The Best Satellite Internet Providers – 2016

The Best Satellite Internet Providers – 2016

To find the best satellite internet service of 2016, 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
Download Speed
5–15 Mbps
Upload Speed
1–2 Mbps
Anytime Data
5–50 GB
Bonus Data
5–50 GB

VIEW PLANSRead Review
2nd
Excede Internet Logo$4999–$14999
Download Speed
12–25 Mbps
Upload Speed
3 Mbps
Anytime Data
10–30 GB
Bonus Data
Unlimited

VIEW PLANSRead Review
3rd
dish internet logo$3999–$7999
Download Speed
5–10 Mbps
Upload Speed
1–2 Mbps
Anytime Data
5–15 GB
Bonus Data
5–15 GB

VIEW PLANSRead Review

The Top 3 Satellite Internet Providers

1st
Hughes Net Logo
  • 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
See Pricing Read Full Review

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.

HughesNet plans

PlanChoicePrime PlusPro PlusUltraConnectConnect Pro
Advertised Price $2999/Mo$3999/Mo$6999/Mo$7999/Mo......
Regular Price$4999/Mo$5999/Mo$7999/Mo$8999/Mo$4999/Mo$5999/Mo
Max Download Speed5 Mbps10 Mbps15 Mbps15 Mbps5 Mbps5 Mbps
Max Upload Speed1 Mbps1 Mbps2 Mbps2 Mbps1 Mbps1 Mbps
Anytime Data 5 GB10 GB15 GB50 GB5 GB10 GB
Bonus Data50 GB50 GB50 GB50 GB 5 GB10 GB
Choice
Advertised Price
$2999/Mo
Regular Price
$4999/Mo
Max Download Speed
5 Mbps
Max Upload Speed
1 Mbps
Anytime Data
5 GB
Bonus Data
50 GB
Prime Plus
Advertised Price
$3999/Mo
Regular Price
$5999/Mo
Max Download Speed
10 Mbps
Max Upload Speed
1 Mbps
Anytime Data
10 GB
Bonus Data
50 GB
Pro Plus
Advertised Price
$6999/Mo
Regular Price
$7999/Mo
Max Download Speed
15 Mbps
Max Upload Speed
2 Mbps
Anytime Data
15 GB
Bonus Data
50 GB
Ultra
Advertised Price
$7999/Mo
Regular Price
$8999/Mo
Max Download Speed
15 Mbps
Max Upload Speed
2 Mbps
Anytime Data
50 GB
Bonus Data
50 GB
Connect
Advertised Price
...
Regular Price
$4999/Mo
Max Download Speed
5 Mbps
Max Upload Speed
1 Mbps
Anytime Data
5 GB
Bonus Data
5 GB
Connect Pro
Advertised Price
...
Regular Price
$5999/Mo
Max Download Speed
5 Mbps
Max Upload Speed
1 Mbps
Anytime Data
10 GB
Bonus Data
10 GB
2nd
Exede internet logo
  • Pricing $49.99–$149.99
  • Anytime Data: 10–30 GB
  • Max Download: 12–25 Mbps
  • Max Upload: 3 Mbps
  • Equipment Fee: $9.99 Mo
View Plans Read Review

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.

Exede Plans

PlanLiberty 12Liberty 18Liberty 30Essential 10
Advertised Price$4999/Mo$6999/Mo$9999/MoN/A
Regular Price$6999/Mo$9999/Mo$14999/Mo$4999/Mo
Max Download Speed12–25 Mbps12–25 Mbps12-25 Mbps12–25 Mbps
Max Upload Speed3 Mbps3 Mbps3 Mbps3 Mbps
Anytime Data Allowance12 GB18 GB30 GB10 GB
Bonus Data AllowanceUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
Liberty 12
Advertised Price
$4999/Mo
Regular Price
$6999/Mo
Max Download Speed
12–25 Mbps
Max Upload Speed
3 Mbps
Anytime Data Allowance
12 GB
Bonus Data Allowance
Unlimited
Liberty 18
Advertised Price
$6999/Mo
Regular Price
$9999/Mo
Max Download Speed
12–25 Mbps
Max Upload Speed
3 Mbps
Anytime Data Allowance
18 GB
Bonus Data Allowance
Unlimited
Liberty 30
Advertised Price
$9999/Mo
Regular Price
$14999/Mo
Max Download Speed
12-25 Mbps
Max Upload Speed
3 Mbps
Anytime Data Allowance
30 GB
Bonus Data Allowance
Unlimited
Essential 10
Advertised Price
N/A
Regular Price
$4999/Mo
Max Download Speed
12–25 Mbps
Max Upload Speed
3 Mbps
Anytime Data Allowance
10 GB
Bonus Data Allowance
Unlimited
3rd
dish internet
  • 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
View Plans Read Review

dishNET Internet Service

dishNET satellite internet is a good option if you want satellite internet and TV. In fact, there’s a $10 a month discount when you order dishNET and DISH TV together.

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 best of satellite internet rankings.

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

DishNet Plans

Plan5 GB Internet10 GB Internet15 GB Internet
Advertised Price$3999/Mo$4999/Mo$6999/Mo
Regular Price$4999/Mo$5999/Mo$7999/Mo
Max Download Speed5 Mbps10 Mbps10 Mbps
Max Upload Speed1 Mbps1 Mbps2 Mbps
Anytime Data Allowance5 GB10 GB15 GB
Bonus Data Allowance5 GB10 GB15 GB
5 GB Internet
Advertised Price
$3999/Mo
Regular Price
$4999/Mo
Max Download Speed
5 Mbps
Max Upload Speed
1 Mbps
Anytime Data Allowance
5 GB
Bonus Data Allowance
5 GB
10 GB Internet
Advertised Price
$4999/Mo
Regular Price
$5999/Mo
Max Download Speed
10 Mbps
Max Upload Speed
1 Mbps
Anytime Data Allowance
10 GB
Bonus Data Allowance
10 GB
15 GB Internet
Advertised Price
$6999/Mo
Regular Price
$7999/Mo
Max Download Speed
10 Mbps
Max Upload Speed
2 Mbps
Anytime Data Allowance
15 GB
Bonus Data Allowance
15 GB

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 the life 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

  • ZandarKoad

    DishNet is objectively terrible, it’s just a re-branding of one of the other two. After personally installing hundreds of all three systems – DishNet, HughesNet, and Exede – I have to say that Exede always comes out ahead in performance. But their available bandwidth is filling up, so they might not even be accepting new customers in your area.

    • Jenn Diffley

      That’s really good information to have–we haven’t heard anything about Exede potentially running out of bandwidth (thought that wouldn’t be something they’d advertise, obviously). It’s also good to hear from someone who’s had hands-on experience. Hopefully DishNet and HughesNet up their games soon.

      • ZandarKoad

        Actually, DishNet can have a cost advantage, especially when it’s bundled with Dish’s TV service. And then the customer only needs to pay 1 bill which is something consumers always like.

  • Sebastiaan Bol

    Thanks for the update! How do you explain HughesNet is still your no. 1 choice, when Exede offers so much faster internet?

    Also, i called with HughesNet and they say they use Generation 4 technology and the competitors Generation 2. They claim the US military uses it and that their customers get 120% of the promised download speed. On the phone they also offered me no termination fee if you cancel within the first 30 days, and they referred to the FAQ on their website. Looking that up learned me they do not offer this at all. It’s terribly confusing and i can’t believe they are not forced by federal law to offer a 30 day try me for free period. 2 years is a long time if you are not happy with it (and $400 is a lot of money for a termination fee + the activation fee that you will not get back).

    • Hey Sebastiaan, thanks for the comment!

      It’s definitely a matter of pricing when it came to our decision. With HughesNet, their pricing lasts for the duration of the two-year contract, as opposed to Exede’s rates rising after 3 months of use.

      While Exede does have faster plans overall, their pricing leaves something to be desired. Exede’s initial prices don’t seem too far off from HughesNets, but the cost adds up quickly after 3 months. They also require an additional $10 a month on top of the advertised price to get the max download speed of 25 Mbps. So to get the top speed with the Liberty 30 plan for example, you’re looking at $99.99 + $10 = $109.99/mo for the promotional price, and then after three months it’s $169.99. While some may require these higher speeds from satellite internet, we believe most consumers would find better value with HughesNet.

      You are correct, HughesNet does not offer a 30-day trial period or money back guarantee, which is definitely a drawback. We agree that it’s a large investment both time and money-wise to sign up with a service provider, which is why we take the opportunity at Reviews.org to provide customers with more information and perspective before agreeing to a contract. We always encourage clarification with a sales agent in addition to reading to the fine print.

      Thanks again!
      Let us know who you end up going with and how your experience is!

  • This is a really great article. I had Exede for a long time and luckily am living in Kansas now with Google fiber, thankfully, but I didn’t have issues with Exede as far as satellite internet goes. I do agree with ZandarKoad though, you need to know if there are data limits.

    • Thanks! We’ll think of how to make data limits more clear to readers.

      Also, we’re happy you had a good experience with Exede, but we’re jealous you have Google Fiber, ha. (We’d review Google Fiber if it had a larger footprint.)

  • A Name

    I am a little curious about the differences in service. I mean, you guys rate Hughesnet #1, but every other consumer review site I’ve seen with thousands of reviews of Hughesnet’s service has them rated at a solid 1/5 stars. So I can’t help but think you guys must have gotten different service than the other thousands of people did.

    • When it comes to customer service, no internet service provider does an outstanding job; in fact, all ISPs could improve their customer service. We’d be curious to know what other reviews you’ve read.

      Also, user reviews can be especially harsh because people usually don’t take time to review a service unless they’ve had a negative experience. If you go to a Yelp page for an ISP or a website like Consumer Affairs (in no way related to Consumer Reports), you’ll find plenty of one-star reviews. However, those websites also try to sale their services to brands to improve their ratings, so we don’t trust them. If you’re looking for reliable information, you can start with the American Customer Satisfaction Index’s annual report on ISPs. It’s one of the first sources we go to for information on customer satisfaction.

    • Consumer reviews can be especially harsh because people usually don’t take time to review a service unless they’ve had a negative experience. If you go to a Yelp page for an ISP or a website like Consumer Affairs (in no way related to Consumer Reports), you’ll find one-star reviews. However, those websites also try to sale their services to brands to improve their ratings, so we don’t trust them.

      According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (a source we trust), which surveys tens of thousands of customers, internet service is “the weakest among the 43 industries” it covers—people just don’t like their internet service. Using our criteria, we still think HughesNet is #1. There are only three major competitors in satellite internet, and it happens to be best of what’s available (emphasis on what’s available). If you have access to DSL, cable, or fiber internet, we would always recommend those services first over satellite internet.

      Also, we’re working on a user review system for our website so users can leave their own reviews.

  • Jenn Diffley

    You’re right–data limits are brutal. We can emphasize them more from here on out. Streaming is such a big deal now that data limits are especially important.

  • rightislight

    I have/had Exede – WORST service I’ve ever seen both in terms of product and customer service. I warn you to keep away from them unless it’s the only option. Simply horrible!

    • I’m hesitant to ask what made it so bad, but did you find another option for satellite internet? If so, how is it?

      • rightislight

        They said i was getting 12meg. My web searches painted as if it was a 56k speed. I’m not sure how pings come back at 12M but larger format (large packets perhaps) content came back painfully slow.

        Modem needed to be rebooted every morning in order to connect

        Customer service told me to “pound sand” effectively

        After 1 week I realized it wasn’t going to meet my needed. Exede is making pay for my contract anyway. When I’m done I’ll have paid exede $600 for 1 week of extremely poor service

        I learned that I have Charter Cable at the street. They’ll be here next week to run a line to my home. I’m lucky… I know.

        • Dang, that’s unfortunate to hear. Sorry you had a bad experience, let us know how your experience with Charter Cable internet, we’ll be getting to that review a little later, so it would be helpful to hear your thoughts!

  • iwfau cotmpaiwku

    Satellite internet data package is enough to almost cover one day at my house. What is the point.

    • Satellite internet is for those who have no other option for internet service.

      • It’s still not good enough. If counting upload and download bandwidth, I use around 200GB a month, every month. I pay about $70 a month for DSL (it’s way overpriced but I don’t have any better options). Hughesnet says after you hit the limit, they will reduce your net speeds to just a little more than dialup speeds. Their highest plan for my area is $130 a month and only includes 75GB. That’s not enough for the price. For $130 a month, I should get 500GB of data at a reasonably fast speed.

        • If you have the choice between DSL and satellite internet, always go with DSL. There’s no question of that here.

  • iwfau cotmpaiwku

    Monthly data allowance lasts one day to be clear.

    • Well, it just depends on how much you use. Data allowance is like a package of Oreos: it could last weeks or a be gone in one day.