The Best Satellite Internet Providers: It Ain’t Just About Starlink

Old-school versus new-school satellite internet

Best overall performance
Starlink
Starlink
Prices
$120-$500
Download Speeds
Data Cap
Unlimited
Cheapest introductory prices
HughesNet
HughesNet Internet
Prices
$49.99-$79.99
Download Speeds
50-100 Mbps
Data Cap
Unlimited
Fastest introductory speeds
Viasat
Viasat Internet
Prices
$69.99-$299.99
Download Speeds
12-100 Mbps
Data Cap
Unlimited
Tyler Abbott
Apr 25, 2024
Icon Time To Read8 min read

No matter where you live in the United States, you can get a home internet connection with satellite internet. For folks who live in rural areas without a reliable connection, satellite internet is often the only ticket for streaming Netflix, playing games online, working remotely, and doing other activities over the internet.

Don’t get satellite internet expecting deluxe service. Whether you go with Starlink, Hughesnet or Viasat, expect to pay a higher price for slower speeds. You may have to accept a strict data cap, too, depending on your plan. Tech CEO Marin Cristian-Ovidiu shared with Reviews.org the downside to satellite internet, warning that "While some internet experts praise satellite internet for bridging connectivity gaps, consumers often express frustration over latency issues and data limitations."

But it’s important to stay connected, and you still have options when it comes to choosing preferred speeds, data caps, and prices. Plus, satellite internet has been improving in recent years. According to satellite internet writer Peter Christiansen, "New technologies and new satellites have allowed satellite providers to offer faster connections with lower latency, giving satellite customers better value for their monthly cost.

Read on for our full guide to the best satellite internet providers.

Before you sign up for a satellite internet plan, search with your zip code below to see what other internet options are in your area.

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Best satellite internet: A tale of three providers

There are three satellite internet providers in the United States: Starlink, Hughesnet, and Viasat. All three of these providers are available basically anywhere in the United States, but each one has different advantages. As you’re weighing which option to go for, think about the download speeds you need, the amount of data you want, and how much you’re willing to pay for both.

Here’s the need-to-know information for each satellite internet provider:

Satellite internet at a glance

Provider
Download speed range
Data cap
Introductory price
Order online
Viasat Internet12-100 MbpsUnlimited$69.99-$299.99*
HughesNet Internet50-100 MbpsUnlimited$49.99-$79.99
Starlink40-220 MbpsUnlimited$120-$500
Data as of 04/05/2023. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
* Offer available to new qualifying customers. One-time standard installation fee may be due at checkout. Minimum 24-month service term required. Equipment lease fee is $12.99/mo. Taxes apply. Service is not available in all areas. Offer may be changed or withdrawn at any time.
Service plans require a 24-month commitment. Pricing not available in all areas.
Plus hardware, shipping & handling fees, and tax. Fully refundable. Depending on location, some orders may take 6 months or more to fulfill.

Before you buy, look for other options

For a lot of users, satellite internet is all about sacrifice. Prices for satellite internet tend to be a lot higher compared to other fixed broadband internet options, and you usually have to settle for much slower speeds and less data. It’s only worth investing in a satellite internet plan if you have no other options.

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Download speeds: Get as much as you can afford

Since a satellite internet connection literally travels from space to your device at home, download speeds can’t compete with the gigabit speeds you can get from fiber and cable internet providers. Generally, expect to get speeds in the range of 12Mbps to 500Mbps from a satellite plan.

Data caps: Bear with strict limits unless you have Starlink

Many satellite internet users also have to settle for extremely strict data caps. Data is a hot commodity when the connection is coming from a satellite in space. Expect to have less flexibility on a satellite internet plan to do things like stream video, make video calls, post to social media, and download files.

You don’t have to worry about that with Starlink, which has ditched data caps completely and gives customers unlimited data with any plan. However, Hughesnet and Viasat currently lag behind the trend, imposing strict data caps on most internet plans. But you can pay for a high enough data cap where you might not need to worry about hitting the limit.

Equipment and installation fees: Expect costly fees

Satellite internet equipment usually costs more than the equipment that comes with a DSL, cable, or fiber internet plan. That’s because, along with a modem, you 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 flat fee ranging from $300 to $500, depending on which provider you go with.

On top of that, you need a professional installer to set up your dish if you go with Viasat or Hughesnet. But with Starlink, you need to pay for a self-installation kit that costs $599, and then you have to use an app to set everything up yourself.

How we chose the best satellite internet providers

The main factors we value for satellite internet providers are download speeds, data caps, and price.

We strongly value unlimited data caps because users can stream as much content as they want and download all the big games on their video game consoles without stressing about passing an arbitrary limit. Of course, data caps don’t matter much if you can’t get decent enough download speeds to actually use your internet. The download speeds offered by each satellite internet provider also make a huge impact on what plans we recommend to users. With both the data caps and download speeds in mind, we look at price to determine the overall value from each provider.

Reviews.org’s reviews and guides are written with independence and transparency in mind. Though we may get paid when you click our links, our brand partners don't read or approve our articles before they are published. Learn more about Reviews.org on our About Us page.

Starlink: Best overall performance

Newer technology, better performance
Starlink
Starlink
Download Speeds
40-220 Mbps
Data Cap
Unlimited
Starts at
$120
/mo
Data as of 04/05/2023. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.

Instead of using one massive satellite like Viasat and Hughesnet, Starlink launched thousands of small satellites in low orbit around the Earth. Because the satellites orbit closer to Earth’s surface, your internet connection doesn’t need to travel nearly as far, and as a result, you get a more responsive internet connection.

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Starlink offers two residential internet plans.

Plans
Price
Download speed
Equipment cost
Data cap
Starlink Standard$120/mo.^20-100 Mbps$120Unlimited
Priority 40 GB$140/mo.40 Mbps$2,500Unlimited
Priority 1 TB$250/mo.^40 Mbps$2,500Unlimited
^ Plus hardware, shipping & handling fees, and tax. Fully refundable. Depending on location, some orders may take 2 weeks or more to fulfill.

The Starlink Standard plan works well for most satellite-powered households, offering download speeds ranging from 20 to 100Mbps. Assuming your real-life download speeds fall somewhere in the median between the two extremes, you shouldn’t have any issue with standard streaming and gaming.

The Priority 40GB and 1TB plans exist for power users who want prioritized high-speed data for things like competitive online gaming or 4K streaming. If neither of those things sound like part of your daily internet routine, then you can get along fine with the Starlink Standard plan. It’s also worth calling out that the Priority internet plans comes with a hefty $2,500 cost for the equipment.

Miles Wray, a Starlink user who lives in rural Oregon, hasn’t had any issue with streaming NBA games with the Starlink Standard plan. “Starlink beats what I was getting with the DSL internet provider I was using before,” Wray tells Reviews.org. “I can watch Jazz games on my TV without any issue, but sometimes the connection gets a little spotty if my wife streams a movie on her phone at the same time.”

Starlink also offers another internet plan for folks who want to live out of their RV or boats and take an internet connection with them.

Overall, Starlink offers the best satellite internet technology and gives you a responsive internet connection for a reasonable monthly price.

Hughesnet: Cheapest satellite internet provider

Affordable pricing, but with a few catches
HughesNet
HughesNet Internet
Download Speeds
50-100 Mbps
Data Cap
Unlimited
Starts at
$49.99
/mo
Data as of 04/05/2023. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.

Hughesnet offers a cheaper satellite internet plan than anything Starlink or Viasat offers, but the slower download speeds leave a little something to be desired. The best-case scenario with the cheapest Hughesnet plan gets you 50Mbps, but you may end up with speeds half that fast. Even if you get download speeds closer to 25Mbps than 50Mbps, you can still do some basic streaming and gaming with your satellite home internet connection.

Hughesnet satellite internet plans
Plan
Price
Download speed
Data cap
Details
Select$49.99/mo for 12 mo.°Up to 50 MbpsUnlimited
Elite$64.99/mo for 12 mo.°Up to 100 MbpsUnlimited
Fusion$94.99/mo for 12 mo.°Up to 100 MbpsUnlimited
° Offer for 12 months. Service plans require a 24-month commitment. Equipment Lease or Purchase fees extra. Service plans require a 24-month commitment. Equipment Lease or Purchase fees extra.

Before we get too excited about the price, note that the price jumps up by $25 per month after the first year of service with all HughesNet internet plans. You also need to pony up for the satellite and antenna equipment, which can either cost you between $299.99 to $449.99 to purchase or $14.99 to $19.99 per month to rent. Hughesnet isn’t the amazing value it seems like on the surface, but even with the price hikes and equipment, the pricing beats out Starlink.

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If you decide to go with the Select plan, you get 100GB of prioritized data. That’s not a whole lot of data at all, so be careful about what you do online throughout the month. “The speed was close to the advertised speed, except during rain storms and peak hours when everyone was online,” one longtime Hughesnet user says on Reddit. “Once I hit the absurdly low data cap, which took a day or two, my speed was throttled to less than 1Mbps.”

It’s nice that you still get an internet connection even after hitting your cap, but the lack of unlimited, guaranteed, high-speed data makes Hughesnet a weaker pick compared to Starlink with its truly unlimited data caps. To sum it up with Hughesnet, as long as you can stay below the soft data cap, you should get a solid internet experience and good value for what it costs.

Viasat: Faster download speeds for less

Pay less than Starlink for more download speeds
Viasat
Viasat Internet
Download Speeds
12-100 Mbps
Data Cap
Unlimited
Starts at
$99.99
/mo
Data as of 04/05/2023. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.

Viasat offers more download speed than Starlink's entry-level plan as well as Hughesnet, making it a better choice for users who want to save more each month without sacrificing speeds.

Starlink's Standard plan only offers up to 100Mbps download speed, and HughesNet's speeds max out at 100Mbps, while you can get up to 150Mbps with Viasat Unleashed.

Take a look at Viasat's internet plans.

Viasat satellite internet unlimited data plan prices
Plan
Price
Download speed
Data cap
Soft data cap
Details
Viasat Unleashed$99.99/mo.**Up to 150 MbpsUnlimited850GB
Unlimited Bronze 12
(Only available in Colorado)
$69.99/mo. for 3 mo††12 MbpsUnlimited35GB, 40GB, or 80GB
(varies with location)
Unlimited Silver 12
(Only available in Colorado)
$99.99/mo. for 3 mo.††12 MbpsUnlimited45GB
Unlimited Gold 12
(Only available in Colorado)
$149.99/mo. for 3 mo.††12 MbpsUnlimited65GB
** Prices, speeds and availability vary by location. Prices are subject to change. No annual contract or installation fees are required. Monthly equipment lease fees and taxes may apply.
†† Offer available to new qualifying customers. One-time standard installation fee may be due at checkout. Minimum 24-month service term required. Equipment lease fee is $14.99/mo. Taxes apply. Speeds are “up to,” will vary and are not guaranteed. Service is not available in all areas. Offer may be changed or withdrawn at any time.

Just like Hughesnet, Viasat tells you that it offers unlimited data caps, but in reality, there’s a soft data cap. Once you pass that data allotment in a month, your speeds slow down significantly. The good news is that with up to 850GB of data, Viasat Unleashed subscribers won't have to worry about throttled speeds.

Out of all the options, you get the most value out of the Viasat Unleashed plan. This plan offers the highest download speed you can get from a satellite internet provider and the most high-speed data. Even for Colorado residents, Unleashed might be a better choice, considering Bronze, Silver, and Gold packages spike in price after three months.

Unleashed is also exempt from Viasat's notorious three-month price hikes. Plus, it doesn't require 24-month contracts or early termination fees. You get enough download speeds for an average household of three to four people. With 850GB of high-speed data, we're pretty sure you won't have to worry about hitting a soft cap.

Best value
3.8 out of 5 stars
3.75
pro No price hikes
pro No contracts
pro 850GB of priority data
Download Speed
Up to 150 Mbps
Data Cap
Unlimited
Starts at
$99.99/mo.

A Viasat contract installation tech on Reddit explained that “Viasat is the best of the old-guard satellite systems,” but the satellite internet technology just can’t compare with what Starlink currently offers. However, if you’re looking for a fast satellite plan that's cheaper than Starlink and has a generous data cap, Viasat could reasonably work for you.

Where is Viasat Unleashed available?

Viasat's Unleashed plan is available to more than 90% of current users, and the satellite service continues to expand across the US. According to the Federal Communications Commission's provider maps, Viasat offers 100.9% availability nationwide. This is great news for those in rural areas or locations lacking traditional internet infrastructure.

Want to know if Unleashed is available in your area? Drop your zip code below.

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How does satellite internet work?

Satellite internet transmits signals between your house and a literal satellite in orbit. The plus side of your internet source coming from a satellite is that it's accessible from just about anywhere, the bad news is that your signal needs to travel thousands of miles to reach a satellite. 

Or at least, that’s how it used to work. Starlink changed the game when it launched thousands of smaller satellites in lower orbit (hundreds of miles away instead of thousands of miles away) that reduce the distance data needs to travel. The less distance your data needs to travel, the faster and more reliable your internet connection feels.

Satellite internet expert at HighSpeedInternet.com, Peter Christiansen, explained the difference between types of satellite systems: "Traditional communication satellites are placed in a geosynchronous orbit (GSO) more than 20,000 miles above the Earth's surface so that they stay in roughly the same position in the sky." Despite being so far away, GSO satellites are capable of single-handedly delivering signals to entire continents.

"In contrast," continued Christiansen, "low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellite internet like Starlink, OneWeb, or Project Kuiper use a constellation of hundreds or thousands of smaller satellites darting across the sky to ensure that subscribers can always see at least one satellite above them at all times to maintain their internet connection."

The two old-school satellite internet providers, Viasat and Hughesnet, still use satellites thousands of miles away. The result yields slower download speeds and limited data caps. Starlink, on the other hand, can give users a much smoother experience.

Recap: The best satellite internet providers

There are currently three big satellite internet providers in the United States, but one of them feels way ahead of the others. Viasat and Hughesnet use the traditional method of having a few massive satellites that power their whole system, but Starlink instead uses a vast network of thousands of satellites in lower orbit that provide a better internet experience.

  1. Starlink: Starlink uses newer technology that gives users a faster internet connection with lower latency and unlimited data caps.
  2. Hughesnet: Hughesnet undercuts the price of both Starlink and Viasat and offers decent speeds, but the value is hampered by the soft data caps.
  3. Viasat: Viasat offers the most download speed compared to Starlink's Standard plan and all of HughesNet's plans. Viasat Unleashed is a great option for those who want fast download speeds without spending over $100/month.
Tyler Abbott
Written by
Tyler Abbott
Tyler has been obsessed with watching sports as efficiently as possible since the creation of the DVR. He is always on the lookout for the best tech in TV and wireless so he can watch all the sports and still have enough time to hang out with his baby. He has written about streaming, wireless, and TV for over three years. He hopes the Lakers will eventually get better.

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