The Best Satellite Internet Providers 2021

We compared prices, download speeds, and data caps, and found Viasat as the best choice for fastest speeds and most data, while HughesNet could be a cheaper option and Starlink is one to watch.
Fastest Satellite Internet
Monthly price
Download speeds
12100 Mbps
Data cap
12300 GB
Cheap, Slow Satellite Speeds
Monthly price
Download speeds
25 Mbps
Data cap
1050 GB
Recent Updates: 2 weeks ago
Most Viasat customers should have service back now after a train derailment damaged its ground network and caused an outage for customers in the Northeast and North Central US.13

A statement released by Viasat said that anyone affected by the outage should receive a 50% service credit for one month. You should see this credit on your October invoice or online on your MyViasat dashboard. If you were affected and don't see a credit, you should call Viasat customer service at 1-855-463-9333.
3 weeks ago
Is your Viasat internet service currently out? Chances are you're not alone.

Due to a train derailment in or near Canada, some of Viasat's ground equipment was damaged and many customers in the Northeast and North Central US don't have internet.13,14 Viasat's crew should be working on the equipment once the area is considered safe. We haven't seen any updates from Viasat itself on when the damage might be repaired and service restarted, but we're crossing our fingers it happens soon.
1 month ago
You might've thought Amazon's legal actions were the biggest potential roadblock for Starlink satellite internet, but turns out pigeons have it out for the ISP's satellite dishes too. Plus notes on how an upcoming new Starlink dish should be optimized for RVs, aircraft, and ships.
2 months ago
SpaceX is playing with lasers now. But don't worry, Elon Musk hasn't abandoned his satellite internet dreams. Instead, SpaceX is adding laser terminals to improve Starlink latency.8 (Latency that's already well below what you'd see with other satellite internet providers.)
2 months ago
We updated our notes on Starlink with the latest speed test results. Long story short, Starlink speeds are picking up but still fall short of promises depending on where you live.

Additionally, we've added news about Starlink competitor OneWeb, which recently received funding from Hanwha Systems Co., a Korean conglomerate.
Less than 6 months
We've updated this review to include Starlink, which is still in beta testing but may prove to be an excellent satellite internet provider for some.

We've also streamlined our info on Viasat and HughesNet to make it easier to get a full view of pricing that includes equipment costs.
More than 3 years
We've updated the pricing within our tables to reflect the most recent data we were able to collect from the brands and will revisit their rankings soon!
More than 4 years
We've updated our rankings to account for major changes with Exede, which is now Viasat. With its improved speeds, data, and plan structure, we've made it our top pick for satellite internet. Read our analysis to learn more.
More than 4 years
Viasat (formerly called Exede) recently announced that its ViaSat-2 satellite is “ready for service”. The new satellite should help increase Viasat Internet speeds up to 100 Mbps downstream, as well as launch new unlimited data plans. We will reevaluate the information in this article once this is available. Also, SpaceX, Elon Musk’s private aerospace company, is reportedly planning a full-scale invasion on satellite internet with intentions to launch 4,425 low-orbit satellites as early as 2019. We’ll keep an eye on both companies and update this post in full when more information is available.

The best rural satellite internet providers fully available in the US right now are Viasat (formerly Exede) and HughesNet, but Starlink is definitely an up-and-coming provider to watch.

Out of the two, Viasat is the fastest satellite internet with speeds up to 100 Mbps and larger data caps that go to 300 GB. 

HughesNet, on the other hand, offers a better price that starts at $59.99 a month for slower speeds of 25 Mbps and smaller data caps.

SpaceX’s Starlink is still in beta, which means it’s available only in some parts of the US. But features like unlimited data and fast advertised download speeds make it worth keeping an eye on Elon Musk’s satellite venture.

If you’re still hung up on which provider is best for you, we understand. Sometimes it’s not as cut and dried as price versus speed when it comes to satellite internet. Let’s dig into the features so you can choose the best satellite internet provider for your needs.

What’s the best satellite internet service?
ProviderPriceDownload speedsData capDetails
Viasat$30.00–$150.00/mo.*12–100 Mbps12–300 GBView Plans
HughesNet$59.99–$149.99/mo.**25 Mbps10–50 GBView Plans
Starlink$99.00/mo.50–150 MbpsUnlimitedRead Review

Data effective 6/16/2021. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
*Promotional price is for the first 3 months. Regular internet rate applies after 3 months. one-time installation fee may apply. Equipment lease fee is $12.99/mo. Taxes apply. Minimum 24 month service term required.
**Service plans require a 24-month commitment.

Compare the best satellite internet options in your area.

Why are there only two satellite internet providers?

Many of the old satellite internet companies discontinued their service or were bought by another company, leaving Viasat and HughesNet as your two main options. At least for now, while we wait for Starlink service to reach its full potential.

That said, if you’re looking for alternative ways to get rural internet, we’ve got a few different options in our guide to the best rural internet service.

  • Viasat: Service is currently available in the US.
  • HughesNet: Service is currently available in the US.
  • Starlink: Beta testing is now open for parts of the US, with deposits accepted as service is built out to new areas.
  • OneWeb: Just received more funding from Hanwha Systems Co. out of Seoul, South Korea, and will start crafting its second generation of spacecraft.5 OneWeb has launched 254 satellites so far.
  • Project Kuiper (Amazon): Amazon is actively hiring Project Kuiper–related roles and recently opened a new lab space in Redmond, Washington.6

Discontinued satellite internet providers

  • Exede Internet: Changed its name to Viasat
  • WildBlue satellite internet: Bought by Exede in 2009
  • dishNET: Discontinued
  • EarthLink: Discontinued

Is satellite internet right for you?

Heads up: Satellite internet is nowhere near as good as cable or fiber internet, and isn’t as good as some DSL internet. It’s the sad truth, but for some of us, it’s the only kind of internet we can get.

Even so, internet providers are expanding their networks all the time, and new, local providers continue to crop up. So it’s worth looking to see if you can get a non-satellite internet provider like AT&T, CenturyLink, Suddenlink, or even a smaller, local provider. (We’ve got a few non-satellite recommendations in our review of the best rural internet.)

But if satellite is truly your best hope for a reliable internet connection, here are a few things to consider before you subscribe.

5 things you should check when buying satellite internet

  1. Download speeds and upload speeds and whether they meet your needs
  2. How much data comes with the plan, whether it’s enough data for you, and if you can add more data
  3. Whether satellite internet’s latency will negatively affect your online activities
  4. The cost of equipment and installation
  5. Availability of plans

Download and upload speeds

First up, you likely won’t get very fast download speeds—Viasat’s and Starlink’s download speeds are the fastest at 100 Mbps and 150 Mbps, respectively.

On the other end of that spectrum, you won’t get fast upload speeds with satellite internet. Viasat and HughesNet advertise 3 Mbps upload speeds—that’ll make uploading a YouTube video or other large file a fairly lengthy process.

Data caps

Similarly, most satellite internet plans don’t come with a lot of data. (Starlink currently offers unlimited data, but that may change in the future.) That means you’ll need to watch your data usage, especially when you stream Netflix, download video games, or join Zoom calls.

Some providers let you add data, like HughesNet, but you’ll end up paying more.


And don’t forget about latency. Satellite internet is known for its high latency, which means it takes longer for anything you do online to communicate with the satellite, get a response from the website you’re visiting, and then communicate back to your computer. That makes certain activities, like gaming and Zoom calls, laggy.

Pin icon
Starlink satellite internet has lower latency
Because Starlink uses a different satellite technology than Viasat or HughesNet, it features lower latency. Basically, its satellites are closer to the Earth, so it takes less time for your signal to reach the Starlink satellite and travel back.

Equipment and installation fees

Satellite internet equipment can cost more than the equipment that comes with a DSL, cable, or fiber internet plan. That’s because, along with a modem, you’ll need a satellite dish (also called a receiver).

Monthly rental fees for your satellite equipment aren’t too bad, but if you’d rather buy the equipment outright, you’re looking at a cost of $300 to $500, depending on which provider you go with.

On top of that, you’ll need a professional installer to set up your dish if you go with Viasat or HughesNet. (Starlink has a self-installation kit.) That usually costs around $100, but sometimes free installation promos are available.

Don’t forget too, that if you ever need to move your satellite dish to a new location, it’ll cost you. Viasat’s dish relocation fee is $200—that’s a hefty price.


Though satellite internet is technically available across the whole US, you may find that certain plans or prices aren’t available in your area. This is even more true for newcomer Starlink, which is still launching satellites and rolling out its service.

Your best bet is to check which plans are available by entering your zip code below or by calling the provider you’re interested in.

Check rural internet prices and plans near you.

Want to read more?

Viasat: Fastest satellite internet speeds and most data

Fastest Speeds & Most Data
Viasat Internet
Download speeds:
12100 Mbps
Data cap:
12300 GB
Starting at$30/mo.
An awards badge for the Editor's Choice award 2021

Viasat is the best way to max out your download speeds and not worry about data overages, thanks to its unlimited satellite data plans.

Surprisingly, Viasat’s packages are sometimes a better deal than HughesNet when you consider the speed and data you get. Of course, you’ll still pay a pretty penny to get those max speeds of 100 Mbps along with Viasat’s largest data allowance.

Viasat plan pricing

Viasat’s internet plans come in two main flavors: Liberty plans and Unlimited plans. Liberty plans will squash your internet speed down to 1–5 Mbps once you use up all your data—but you can pay to add more data if you need it. Did we imagine that dial-up connection noise?

Viasat satellite internet Liberty plan promotional prices
PlanPriceDownload speedData capDetails
Liberty 12$30/mo.*12 Mbps12 GBView Plan
Liberty 25$50/mo.*12 Mbps25 GBView Plans
Liberty 50$75/mo.*12 Mbps50 GBView Plans
Data effective 10/06/21. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
* Promotional price is for the first 3 months. Regular internet rate applies after 3 months.

On the other hand, Viasat’s Unlimited plans offer unlimited data … sort of. You see, with the Unlimited plans you get a data “soft” cap.

That means if you use up all of your data allowance, your internet speed might get throttled to 1–5 Mbps during times where there’s lots of online traffic. Oh and, you can’t buy more data with the Viasat Unlimited plans.

Still, the Unlimited plans offer the most data and fastest internet speeds by far—even compared to HughesNet.

Viasat satellite internet Unlimited plan promotional prices
PlanPriceDownload speedData capDetails
Basic 12$40/mo.*12 Mbps15 GBView Plans
Unlimited Bronze 12$49.99/mo.12 Mbps80 GBView Plan
Unlimited Silver 25$69.99/mo.25 Mbps120 GBView Plan
Unlimited Gold 30$99.99/mo.30 Mbps100 GBView Plan
Unlimited Gold 50$99.99/mo.50 Mbps200 GBView Plan
Unlimited Silver 12$100/mo.*12 Mbps45 GBView Plan
Unlimited Platinum 100$149.99/mo.100 Mbps300 GBView Plan
Unlimited Gold 12$150/mo.*12 Mbps65 GBView Plan
Data effective 10/06/21. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
* Promotional price is for the first 3 months. Regular internet rate applies after 3 months.
Promotional price is for the first 3 months. Regular internet rate applies after 3 months. one-time installation fee may apply. Equipment lease fee is $12.99/mo. Taxes apply. Minimum 24 month service term required.

Your monthly Viasat bill will go up after three months

The introductory pricing you get when you sign up for a Viasat plan lasts only three months. After that, you’ll be paying standard pricing and your bill will increase anywhere from $20 to $50 per month depending on your plan.

Viasat does offer a 2-year price lock guarantee, so your “standard pricing” will stay the same for 24 months after you activate your service. But just be aware that the advertised price you see for Visasat plans is not what you’ll be paying long-term.

Viasat equipment pricing

As for equipment costs, Viasat offers two ways to pay for your satellite dish and router. You can pay the full price up front or rent it for a monthly fee.

Viasat equipment: should you purchase or lease?
EquipmentLifetime lease costMonthly rental cost
Satellite antenna and modem$299.99$12.99/mo.

Data effective 6/29/2021. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.

If you go with Viasat, you’ll need to lease your equipment for about $13 per month. You can also go with a lifetime lease for a one-time fee of $299.99.

If you plan to have your equipment for more than 30 months, the lifetime lease can save you some money. But you should also know that it’s not the same as purchasing equipment because you still have to return your equipment if you ever cancel your service.

Along with the fastest max speeds, here are a few other perks Viasat offers:

  • Unlimited data plans
  • Cheaper Liberty plans
  • EasyCare service program

Fastest satellite internet speeds

Viasat currently maxes out at 100 Mbps download speeds, which puts it miles ahead of HughesNet’s max speed of 25 Mbps and almost on par with Starlink’s top-end speed of 150 Mbps.

That’s enough speed to connect lots of devices to the internet: cell phones, tablets, smart TVs, your home security system—you name it. You might also get to stream in HD or 4K, but watch your data usage.

We should mention, though, that Viasat ranked just below HughesNet in our look at the fastest ISPs in the US. This could be attributed to HughesNet’s steady 25 Mbps speeds across the board, since Viasat speeds start at 12 Mbps.

Unlimited data plans

If you’re after unlimited satellite data, Viasat is the way to go.

Though you technically don’t get unlimited high-speed data, you do still get a hefty high-speed data allowance each month. And if you happen to use all your data, your speeds get slowed—but only if there’s a lot of internet traffic.

If you need the most priority data Viasat has to offer, go with the Unlimited Platinum 100 plan. It comes with 300 GB of data each month, not to mention 100 Mbps speeds.

Unlimited Platinum 100
Viasat Internet
Download speed:
100 Mbps
Data cap:
300 GB

Data effective 6/16/2021. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
*Promotional price is for the first 3 months. Regular internet rate applies after 3 months. one-time installation fee may apply. Equipment lease fee is $12.99/mo. Taxes apply. Minimum 24 month service term required.

Cheaper Liberty plans for light internet users

Only need a little bit of internet to check your email and Facebook? Then Viasat’s Liberty plans might be more your speed—and price.

The Liberty plans offer 12 Mbps download speeds, plus anywhere from 12 to 50 GB of data. And you can add more data to your Viasat Liberty plan.

Just know that, while the price is much lower, the Liberty plan speeds are likely too slow for you to optimally stream videos or connect more than a few devices to the internet at the same time.

EasyCare program for low-cost service visits

Servicing your satellite internet isn’t an easy task. There are a lot of things that go into positioning your dish in just the right way, not to mention hooking everything up to your home.

If something goes wrong, a service visit could cost you $95. But if you enroll in Viasat’s EasyCare program, it’s free (though the program costs $8.99 a month). (And we found the Viasat EasyCare program refreshingly simple compared to HughesNet’s similar Express Repair program.)

Is Viasat internet good?

We recommend Viasat as our first choice for satellite internet thanks to its wide range of download speeds and large data caps. You’ll want to watch out for the 3-month price hike, though, which makes Viasat’s already high prices soar even higher.

Heads Up icon
You might not see all of Viasat's plans in your area
Since satellite internet can support only so many users, some Viasat plans aren’t available in certain areas. Thankfully, Viasat is well on its way to launching yet another satellite fleet, ViaSat-3, in early 2022.12 The new constellation of three total satellites will offer tons more bandwidth, meaning it should support more people who need rural internet access.

Check Viasat satellite internet prices and speeds in your area.

HughesNet: Cheapest prices for slow speeds

Low-Cost, Low-Speed Satellite Internet
HughesNet Internet
Download speeds:
25 Mbps
Data cap:
1050 GB
Starting at$59.99

HughesNet’s small data cap plans offer excellent value when it comes to price for the speed you get—and your cost doesn’t go up after three months. (We’re giving Viasat the side-eyes right now.)

HughesNet plan pricing

HughesNet’s plans are also simpler to sift through when compared to Viasat’s smorgasbord of choices. Not that we dislike a lot of choices, but simplicity and straightforward pricing is also great.

HughesNet satellite internet promotional prices
PlanPriceDownload speedData capDetails
10 GB$59.9925 Mbps10 GBView Plan
20 GB$69.9925 Mbps20 GBView Plan
30 GB$99.9925 Mbps30 GBView Plan
50 GB$149.9925 Mbps50 GBView Plan
Data effective 10/26/20. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
Service plans require a 24-month commitment.

HughesNet’s prices start out extremely reasonable—and offer more value than Viasat’s low-data plans. And those prices are set in stone for your 2-year contract. But unfortunately, your starting cost skyrockets once you put a 30 or 50 GB plan in your shopping cart.

That’s why we recommend HughesNet as a cheap alternative to Viasat, but only for the 10 and 20 GB plans.

HughesNet equipment pricing

HughesNet offers you a chance to either rent your equipment or pay the full price up front. Either way, your HughesNet equipment costs are fairly comparable to Viasat.

HughesNet equipment: should you purchase or lease?
EquipmentCost to purchaseMonthly rental cost
Satellite antenna and modem$449.98$14.99/mo.

Data effective 6/29/2021. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.

HughesNet’s price to purchase your equipment went up, and now it’s likely more cost effective to rent. But don’t be caught off guard by a $99 lease setup fee that you’ll need to pay as well as your installation (unless you get a free installation deal).

In addition to budget-friendly small-data plans, here are a few more reasons to give HughesNet a good, long look.

Options to add more data

Although it doesn’t offer unlimited data plans, HughesNet knows you don’t always use the same amount of data every month. So instead, it lets you buy data tokens to add anywhere from 3 to 25 GB of extra data to your account.

HughesNet data token prices

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

We cover all the steps to buying data tokens in our HughesNet data guide, so give it a read if you’re coming up short on data at the end of the month.

Megaphone icon
Your HughesNet data token won’t expire
We’re doing a happy dance because HughesNet lets your data tokens rollover if you don’t use them up right away.

Of course, the cost of extra HughesNet data can add up quickly. If you find that you’re constantly buying more data just to watch Loki on DIsney+, you might want to swap to a different provider or check out the HughesNet Bonus Zone (which we’ll get to next).

Free Bonus Zone data

The HughesNet Bonus Zone gives you an extra 50 GB of data, but you’ll need to stay up until 2 a.m. to 8 a.m. your time to use it. But if you can keep your eyes open that long, it’s well worth it for a free chunk of data.

And for comparison’s sake, it’s worth knowing that Viasat doesn’t offer anything similar to the HughesNet Bonus Zone. (At least that we’ve seen.)

Great speed performance

HughesNet has a reputation—a reputation for giving you more speed than what it advertises. That’s a huge blessing, because faster speeds are never a bad thing. (Unless you’re paying extra money for them.)

Not to mention that HughesNet was faster on average than Viasat, even with Viasat’s faster maximum speed of 100 Mbps.

Is HughesNet internet good?

There’s something to be said for HughesNet’s excellent speed performance and clearly labeled plans (each one is named after how much data you get). Not to mention, it doesn’t spike your price after three months like Viasat.

But because HughesNet’s plans all come with the same 25 Mbps download speed and its data caps are much lower than Viasat’s, you might prefer Viasat if you need faster speeds and more data.

Compare HughesNet satellite internet prices near you.

Starlink: New satellite provider to watch

Starlink: New Satellite Tech, Great Potential
ProviderFeaturesMore Info
The logo for SpaceX's Starlink satellite internetPrice: $99/mo.
Download speed: Up to 150 Mbps
Data cap: Unlimited
Read Review

Starlink is continuing to extend its service across the US, and it’s looking like a viable satellite internet option for lots of folks. That said, some areas still can’t get Starlink service—at one of our homes in Utah, service is expected in mid to late 2021.

And if Starlink is available in your area, expect to pay a fairly steep up-front cost. Along with your monthly service cost of $99, you’ll need to pay about $500 plus shipping and handling to get your satellite dish.

But all that comes with unlimited data (for now), zippy speeds, and low latency. (Satellite internet usually has high latency, which can look like a laggy connection.)

Starlink satellite internet price
ProviderPriceDownload speedData capMore Info
Starlink satellite internet$99.00/mo.Up to 150 MbpsUnlimitedRead Review

Data effective 6/29/2021. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.

We mentioned before that Starlink equipment costs a hefty sum—$499 up front, to be exact. On top of that, you’ll have to pay the shipping and handling fee to have your satellite dish and modem sent to you.

Our shipping and handling added up to $50. So you’re not looking at too steep a cost there, especially when you consider you can self-install Starlink and avoid what’s usually about a $100 installation fee for satellite internet.

  • Starlink satellite dish and modem cost: $499 + shipping and handling

The only thing is you can also buy a lifetime lease for your satellite receiver and modem from Viasat for $299.99 or buy your equipment from HughesNet for $449.98. Or you can rent from either of those providers instead, if forking over a few hundred dollars isn’t in your budget.

With Starlink, there is no equipment rental option (yet), but hopefully that gets added in the future. And SpaceX is fully aware of how costly its equipment is for those of us interested in beaming Starlink from our own homes.

SpaceX president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell has noted that Starlink aims to cut the cost of its satellite dish and modem by about half.8 We bet you agree that paying around $250 for your user terminal is much easier to swallow than $500.

But even with that mountainous up-front cost, Starlink still boasts a lot of great features.

Bullhorn icon
Pigeons might be to blame for some Starlink outages
Professor Alan Woodward of England noticed several small outages while using Starlink.9 He blames pigeons, which seem to think the dishie on top of his kitchen roof is a bird bath.

If you’ve also got some curious pigeons hanging about, try some humane deterrents like plastic predators or light and sound devices to keep them away.

Low latency

Starlink’s satellite internet latency sits around 20–40 ms, while typical satellite internet latency sits around 594–612 ms on average.1

That could be the difference between a smooth, frustration-free Zoom call with your boss versus your sound lagging out and you missing out on critical information. Or scoring the winning play of the game in Overwatch and lagging out so bad you get roflstomped by the enemy team.

Starlink is able to get such low latency thanks to its low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites, which sit lower in Earth’s orbit than Viasat’s or HughesNet’s satellites. And with the addition of laser terminals and crosslinks to all future satellites, Starlink hopes to reduce latency even further.8 Laser crosslinks will reduce the satellites’ reliance on ground stations by requiring fewer connections between the satellites and ground stations.

Potentially lower prices

While you can get a HughesNet or Viasat plan that costs less than $99, those plans for sure won’t come with unlimited data or speeds anywhere near 150 Mbps.

So once you’ve paid the up-front cost for the Starlink “dishie” satellite receiver, you’re looking at a potentially lower price for satellite internet.

A screenshot of Starlink's costs, including service, equipment, and shipping + handling

We can’t get Starlink just yet, but we can pay a $99 deposit and be one of the first in line when it does reach our street.

But we do wish Starlink had an equipment rental option like HughesNet and Viasat. The steep $499 cost of your Starlink dish and router (not to mention shipping and handling fees) might mean the difference between someone connecting to Starlink’s potentially superior speeds … or not.

Price Tag icon
Starlink is accepting deposits for beta service
While you might not have access to Starlink in your area just yet, you can put down a $99 deposit to get first dibs on Starlink when it does reach your neighborhood.

The deposit is applied to your hardware fee, or you can request a refund if you decide to not go with Starlink.2

Unlimited data

Right now, Starlink promises you’ll never hit a data cap in its beta program. That could change in the future, but if you’re able to take advantage of the unlimited data now, that’s a huge win.

No other satellite internet provider currently offers a data cap that even comes close to unlimited data. The next biggest data cap comes from Viasat’s Unlimited Platinum 100 plan, which offers 300 GB.

Is Starlink internet good?

Since Starlink is still technically in beta, it’s hard to say definitively whether it’s good or not. A look at Starlink speeds in early 2021 show that it’s getting faster, but with a few dips in median download speeds in February and June.Overall, Starlink’s median download speed for the second quarter of 2021 reached 97.2 Mbps, which allows you to do most any kind of modern online activity.

There’s also the issue of Starlink receivers shutting down due to extreme heat.4 That might seem like an issue that affects only a small group of people, but not having internet for half a day or more due to weather can really put a kink in your plans. (Trust us, we sat without internet for whole afternoons at a time due to bad storms in Georgia.)

Even so, Starlink is still in beta for now, which means things could improve in the future. And even in beta, this new satellite internet provider is offering what could be a better option for folks in rural areas.

Recap: What are the best satellite internet providers?

The best satellite internet providers that are available in most rural areas are Viasat and HughesNet.

Viasat is a great pick if you want to get the fastest possible satellite internet speeds and unlimited data, while HughesNet offers excellent value in the form of lower prices for slower speeds and lower data caps.

The best satellite internet for rural areas

  • Viasat: Fastest satellite internet speeds. When it comes to satellite internet, Viasat’s max 100 Mbps download speeds are as good as it gets. And compared to HughesNet, which might be your only other option, you get more data and the chance at higher speeds for your money.
  • HughesNet: Cheap satellite internet plans. HughesNet is a great pick if you’re more concerned about your monthly bill than you are about download speeds or data caps. Even with lower prices, HughesNet offers an okay 25 Mbps download speed with all its plans, plus 10 to 50 GB of data. (And options to add more.)
  • Starlink: A satellite internet newcomer to watch. Starlink is still in beta, but its promised speeds of up to 150 Mbps and lack of data caps make it a big improvement over other rural internet options. But a big up-front equipment cost could put Starlink just out of reach of some budget-minded folks, and its speeds are lackluster in some locations so far.


To compare satellite internet providers, we dug into a few different details:

  1. The price for the speed and data you get
  2. Whether options to add data are offered
  3. The cost of equipment

We chose to include Starlink in this review even though its service is still in a beta testing phase.

We felt that, despite its limited availability and slow rollout, Starlink brings new features to the satellite internet table that shouldn’t be disregarded. This includes unlimited data, lower latency, and potentially faster download speeds compared to Viasat and HughesNet.

And though Starlink could clearly be a superior satellite internet choice for some, we mainly focused on Viasat and HughesNet as proven satellite providers with countrywide availability.


Still not sure satellite internet will work for you? Maybe we can help you decide.

How does satellite internet work?

Satellite internet works by sending data from your computer to the satellite dish on your house, then to a satellite sitting in geostationary orbit above the Earth’s equator. Next, that satellite sends your data to your ISP, then all the way back to your computer.

An illustration showing how data is sent from a home, to a satellite, then to a satellite ISP and back

Want to get the full picture? Check out our full guide on how satellite internet works.

How fast is satellite internet?

Generally, satellite internet speeds range from 12 to 150 Mbps, but how many Mbps you get depends on which ISP and plan you choose.

For HughesNet, you’ve got the option of 25 Mbps download speeds—and that’s it. With Viasat, you can choose anywhere from 12–100 Mbps for your download speed. And Starlink’s max speeds top out near 150 Mbps.

Of course, those are the advertised download speeds. There are a lot of factors that can influence your speed, including your modem and even how many people are using your internet.

If your satellite internet speed is slow, there are a few tips you can try before calling your ISP’s customer service department. Check them out in our video below, or read our guide to speeding up your satellite internet.

How reliable is satellite internet?

Most satellite internet connections are pretty reliable even though your dish is outside.

That’s because modern satellite equipment is built with weather in mind, and snow, ice, or rain are usually not a big deal. And even if you lose connection during a bad storm, it should be a short disruption.

Is satellite internet a good option?

Satellite internet is a great rural internet option if you live in an area with no DSL, cable, or fiber internet options. Satellite offers faster speeds than dial-up, though it tends to be pricier than other internet options.

If you’re still not sold on satellite, check out some other rural internet options in our guide.

How much can I download on satellite internet?

How much you can download depends on your satellite internet plan and data cap. For example, if your plan comes with a 10 GB data cap per month, then that’s about four two-hour HD movies or 180 hours of streaming music.

Check out our list of the online activities that use the most data to figure out how much data you need.

Can you stream video and music on satellite internet?

You can absolutely stream both videos and music while using satellite internet. You’ll just want to be careful of your data cap, and both HughesNet and Viasat come with tools to help you do that.

HughesNet automatically adjusts video quality to a lower resolution to help you use less data. Yup, you won’t be watching anything in 1080p. Instead, expect all your Netflix shows to play in 480p.

Viasat offers a Video Data Extender tool that lets you tone down video quality to 480p too. The best part? If you want to watch the new photorealistic version of The Lion King in all (or most of) its glory, you can turn the Video Data Extender off.

Want more details? Check out our guide to streaming with satellite internet.

Is satellite internet fast enough for Netflix?

Yes, you can stream Netflix with satellite internet. All of Viasat’s and HughesNet’s plans come with enough download speed to stream Netflix in standard definition (SD) or high definition (HD). Though we recommend streaming in SD when you can since it uses less data.

If you want to stream Netflix in 4K on satellite internet, be wary of your data cap. You’ll also want one of Viasat’s faster plans that come with 50 or 100 Mbps.

HughesNet’s 25 Mbps speeds are technically enough to stream Netflix in 4K, but you’ll likely see a lot more of the buffering icon than you want to.

Can I play video games on satellite internet?

Yes, technically you can game on satellite internet. But the full answer is a bit more complicated than that.

Satellite internet isn’t a great choice for gaming because of its notoriously high latency. It takes a long time for your internet signal to reach your house from the satellite hanging out about 22,000 miles in outer space, then back to the satellite and on to the game server.

That’s going to cause a lot of in-game latency, also called “ping” or noted as “MS” on your game interface.

Even Starlink, with its promises of lower latency, ran into issues when people tried to game on it.7

But gaming on satellite internet isn’t all bad news. We’ve got some recommendations and tips in our guide to satellite internet gaming.

Do Viasat and HughesNet have early termination fees?

Yes, both Viasat and HughesNet will charge you an early termination fee if you cancel your service before your 24-month contract is up.

Viasat early termination fee

With Viasat, you’re stuck paying $15 per month for every month remaining on your contract. For example, if you cancelled your service only a month after installation, it would cost you $345 in early termination fees. It’s not cheap.

On the other hand, you could get your Viasat satellite internet service with no contract. But it’ll cost you $300 up front.

HughesNet early termination fee

If you cancel your HughesNet service after installation but before your contract is up, HughesNet can charge you $15 for every month you have left on your contract, up to $400.

Can I get satellite internet for an RV or boat?

Yes, you can get satellite internet for your RV or boat through a broadband global area network (BGAN).

But be warned, the equipment and service plans for RV-ready satellite internet will likely be much more expensive than what you’d pay to slap a dish on your cabin roof. Check out all the options in our guide to satellite internet for your RV.

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Starlink doesn't work on RVs currently, but may in the future
The Starlink dishie isn’t ready to get mounted to the top of your RV just yet (or your Tesla, as one inventive driver tried to do10).

But Elon Musk said new terminals will be optimized for aircraft, ships, large trucks, and RVs.11 (But they’ll still be too big for smaller cars like your Tesla.)

Is there unlimited satellite internet?

Yes and no. Viasat advertises unlimited satellite internet plans, but you won’t get unlimited high-speed data. And Starlink’s beta program currently offers unlimited data with no caveats.

More on Viasat’s data policy: Instead of disconnecting your internet service if you go over your data cap, Viasat slows your download speed during times when there’s a lot of internet traffic. We cover more of the details in our Viasat data guide.

What’s the satellite internet installation process?

Professional installation services and fees vary, so it depends on the satellite provider you choose and on where you live.

For Viasat and HughesNet, you have to choose professional installation. But with Starlink, you’ll get a self-installation kit and use an app to set everything up yourself.

One thing to note: Viasat and HughesNet might offer free installation in one location but charge a fee in another. Most of the time, though, installation should be free.

As for the actual pro installation process, it’s usually done by third-party contractors. So feel free to ask your satellite internet provider lots of questions and make sure to look over the paperwork carefully.

And if you live in a townhouse, condo, or any other living situation with a homeowners association (HOA), double-check that you’re allowed to install a satellite dish before you schedule installation.


  1. Starlink, “Frequently Asked Questions,” 2021. Accessed June 29, 2021.
  2. Starlink, “Starlink Pre-Order Agreement,” 2021. Accessed June 29, 2021.
  3. Isla McKetta, SpeedTest, “How Starlink’s Satellite Internet Stacks Up Against HughesNet and Viasat Around the Globe” August 2021. Accessed August 13, 2021.
  4. Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica, “Starlink Dishes Go Into ‘Thermal Shutdown’ Once They Hit 122° Fahrenheit,” June 2021. Accessed June 29, 2021.
  5. Thomas Seal, Bloomberg, “Musk Rival OneWeb Gets Funding for Next Satellites From Hanwha,” August 2021. Accessed August 17, 2021.
  6. Amazon Staff, Amazon, “AWS and Project Kuiper are Driving Innovation in Redmond, Washington,” June 2021. Accessed June 29, 2021.
  7. Reddit, “Starlink Gaming Ping/Stability,” November 2020. Accessed July 16, 2021.
  8. Jason Rainbow, SpaceNews, “All Future Starlink Satellites Will Have Laser Crosslinks,” August 2021. Accessed August 27, 2021.
  9. Chris Vallance, BBC News, “Why Pigeons Mean Peril for Satellite Broadband,” August 2021. Accessed September 3, 2021.
  10. Michael Sheetz, CNBC, “California Highway Patrol Tickets Driver with Apparent SpaceX Starlink Dish Bolted to Car Hood,” July 2021. Accessed September 3, 2021.
  11. Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica, “SpaceX Previews Ruggedized Starlink Dish for Vehicles, Ships, and Aircraft,” August 2021. Accessed September 3, 2021.
  12. Viasat, Inc., PR Newswire, “Viasat’s First ViaSat-3 Satellite Achieves Major Mileston; ViaSat-3 (Americas) Currently at Boeing Undergoing Final Spacecraft Integration and Testing in Preparation for Launch,” June 2021. Accessed September 23, 2021.
  13. WGRZ staff, WGRZ, “Viasat Internet Outage Fixed After Train Derailment in Canada Damaged Network,” September 2021. Accessed October 1, 2021.