How to Get the Best Satellite Internet Provider

Are you comparing your internet options and stuck between two satellite internet service providers (ISPs)? It can be hard to decide whether Viasat or HughesNet is best for you, so we made a list of questions to help you sort through all the info.

Let’s dig in and land on a satellite internet plan that’s just right for you.

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1. Is satellite internet available in your area?

It’s likely you’ve already answered this question, but it never hurts to check again to see if satellite internet is available near you. Chances are it is, since satellite internet is the most widely available type of internet service.

An easy way to check is to use our zip code tool. Just enter your zip code and we’ll show you all the internet options available in your area. Easy peasy.

Find the best internet providers in your area.

The main requirement to access satellite internet is a clear view of the southern sky. That makes it a great choice if you live in a rural location or journey across the country in an RV.

But large buildings or trees around your home could limit satellite internet access, so check with your potential ISP to make sure nearby obstructions won’t interfere with your signal.

2. How much does satellite equipment cost?

Satellite internet requires you to install a satellite dish at your residence, either on the roof or on the side of your house. The dish needs to be positioned in a particular way so it directly faces the ISP’s satellite orbiting the Earth.

Because of the particular positioning and extremely hands-on installation, both Viasat and HughesNet require you to pay for professional installation. (And you’ll likely have to pay if your satellite dish needs to be relocated too.)

Here’s a quick look at how much your satellite equipment and installation costs for both Viasat and HughesNet:

Viasat and HughesNet satellite internet equipment and installation costs
ProviderInstallation costEquipment rental feeEquipment buyout cost
Viasat$99.95$9.99/mo.$299.00 one-time fee
HughesNet$99.00 (if renting equipment)$14.99/mo.$449.99 one-time fee

Data effective 12/12/2020.

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Ask about installation rebates or deals
From time to time, both satellite internet providers offer free installation deals or rebate programs. If you don’t see one advertised, it’s worth asking about since it’ll save you about $100.

Aside from the satellite dish (also called a receiver), you’ll need a modem and possibly a router to send an internet signal to all the devices in your home. The modem rental is included in your satellite dish rental fee, so don’t worry about tacking on yet another cost to your estimated bill.

How much does it cost for service calls or to move your dish?

If you need to move your dish to another location on your property, heads up: it’ll cost you a hefty fee. Service calls may also cost you quite a bit of money if you’re not enrolled in Viasat’s EasyCare program or HughesNet’s Express Repair program.

Viasat and HughesNet satellite internet service call costs
ProviderService callDish relocation cost
Viasat$95.00 per visit$200.00
HughesNet$99.00 per visit$125.001

Data effective 12/12/2020.

We mentioned that both Viasat and HughesNet offer programs that subsidize part of the cost of your service calls, but you’ll need to enroll in these programs. And you should expect to pay a monthly fee to stay enrolled.

Viasat EasyCare program

Of the two satellite ISPs, we think Viasat’s EasyCare program is the best. It’s easier to understand than HughesNet’s odd vesting policies, and even gives you access to a special customer service number.

  • Monthly enrollment cost: $8.99/month
  • Service call fee: $0 (normally $95.00)
  • Dish relocation fee: $95.00 (normally $200.00). Must be relocated to a location at the same address, and can be relocated only once a year.

HughesNet Express Repair program2,3

HughesNet’s Express Repair program offers many of the same perks that Viasat’s EasyCare program does. But it comes with one quirk: you need to vest time before you can enjoy the full benefits of the program. You begin vesting once you sign up for Express Repair, and vesting completes after 30 days.

  • Onsite service call within vesting period and new contract signed: $99.00 copay
  • Onsite service call within vesting period and new contract not signed: $199.00 copay
  • Onsite service call after vesting period: $24.99 copay

We don’t think that’s a good policy. It’s too complicated, and we don’t like that you’re asked to sign a new 24-month contract to get the lower price if you need a technician to fix an issue before those 30 days are up.

To make matters more complicated, there are also two levels of the Express Repair program: Basic and Premium. Both require the same 30-day vesting period, and here’s how they compare.

HughesNet Express Repair program costs
Express Repair levelBasicPremium
Monthly fee$8.99/mo.$12.99/mo.
Response timeAs soon as 2nd business dayNext business day
Service call copay (after 30-day vesting period)$24.95$24.95

Data effective 12/12/2020.

3. Does the satellite ISP provide equipment upgrades?

Satellite internet providers launch new satellites every so often, and if your service is linked to a new satellite, you may need new equipment or a software update.

It’s worth asking whether these equipment upgrades are free and how you qualify for them. We don’t expect these costs will come around often, but it’s still good to have a heads up rather than a surprise.

4. How often does the service have outages?

All internet connections are vulnerable to occasional outages, and satellite internet connections are no different.

Your satellite internet service can be disrupted by extreme weather, but it isn’t a regular occurrence. It’s also a good idea to regularly check your satellite dish and the cables attached to it to make sure they haven’t been damaged or aren’t buried under debris. (These issues can affect your satellite internet speed too.)

To get a general idea of how many outages Viasat or HughesNet experience, you can check each ISP’s DownDetector page:

If you scroll down the page, you’ll also see a spot for “Resolved issues” and a link to see an archive of past issues just below it. Now you can check how many outages each ISP had in previous months.

Just keep in mind that some reported outages may be the fault of the person reporting them, or may be tied to a weather event in a specific area. Still, DownDetector’s archives give you a general idea of how reliable your potential new satellite ISP is.

5. Do you need to sign a contract?

Both satellite internet providers require a contract. The typical length is 24 months, and signing a contract usually gives you a better monthly price or a deal on equipment or installation. For example, Viasat locks in your monthly price for those 24 months. (After a three month promotional price, of course.)

If you do end your Viasat or HughesNet service before your contract is up, you’ll be charged an early termination fee (ETF). Depending on how much time you have left on your contract, those ETFs can really add up.

  • Viasat early termination fee: $15 for every month left on your contract
  • HughesNet early termination fee: $85–$400

6. How much internet speed do you get?

HughesNet keeps things simple when it comes to internet speed: all of its plans come with 25 Mbps download speeds.

Viasat, on the other hand, offers you anywhere from 12 to 100 Mbps download speeds. Of course, you’ll pay more for faster speeds.

We recommend at least 25 Mbps download speeds if you can afford them. That allows you to handle basic online tasks and even stream a few TV shows in HD. But internet speed and data go hand-in-hand when it comes to satellite internet, so you’ll also want to consider how much data you need, which we’ll get to next.

Here’s an overview of the internet speeds and costs you can expect for both Viasat and HughesNet.

Viasat and HughesNet satellite internet prices
ProviderMonthly priceDownload speedsData capLearn more
Viasat Internet$30$150*12100 Mbps12300 GBView Plans
HughesNet Internet$59.99$149.9925 Mbps1050 GBView Plans
Data effective 11/19/18. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
* For the first 3 months.
Requires 24 month agreement.

7. How much data do you get, and how much does extra data cost?

Data caps limit how much you can download during a billing cycle, which usually equals out to a month. And those downloads include things like streaming Netflix or listening to Spotify.

Every Viasat and HughesNet satellite internet plan includes data caps, and you’ll either need to pay extra for more data or deal with slower download speeds.

We created guides to both Viasat data caps and HughesNet data caps so you can dig into the nitty gritty details. But to give you an idea of what to expect, here’s how each satellite internet provider handles data caps and overages.

Viasat data caps overview
Plan typeData per billing cycleWhat happens if you go overCan you buy more data?Extra data cost
Liberty12–50 GBDownload speeds slow to 1–5 Mbps.Yes$10.00–$95.00 for 1–10 GB
Unlimited45–300 GBDownload speeds might slow to 1–5 Mbps during times of congestion.NoN/A

Note that you can’t buy extra data for Viasat’s Unlimited plans. But instead of outright slowing your download speeds until the next month rolls around, the Unlimited plans come with a chance that your download speeds will creep along only during times of high traffic.

HughesNet data caps overview
Plan typeData per billing cycleWhat happens if you go overCan you buy more data?Extra data cost
All10–50 GBDownload speeds slow to 1–3 Mbps until next billing cycle.Yes$9.00–$75.00 for 3–25 GB

Despite its low data offerings, HughesNet also offers a Bonus Zone from 2 a.m. to 8 a.m. your local time. During these hours, you get an extra 50 GB of data that lets you zoom along at 25 Mbps.

8. Are there any discounts or deals?

It’s always worth looking for a Viasat or HughesNet deal, though the specific offers change fairly often. And you’ll likely need to be a first-time customer to cash in.

Remember, one of the best ways to get a deal is to ask for one, so don’t hesitate to press the representative you speak with about current discounts. We’ve also got a list of the best internet deals each month, and we’ve seen some discounts pop up for both satellite internet providers there.

Our satellite internet recommendation: Viasat

We recommend Viasat for its lower costs on faster speeds and higher data caps. Plus, its less-confusing EasyCare program is a perk, though we’re not fans of its three-month price hike. (The cheapest plan bumps up to $50.00 a month after your first three months are up.)

Viasat Internet
Download speeds:
12100 Mbps
Data cap:
12300 GB
Starting at $30 a month

Data effective 12/12/20. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
* For the first 3 months.

If you just need the bare minimum internet speeds and a tiny bit of data, though, HughesNet is a better buy. We dive more into the differences between both of these satellite internet providers in our Viasat vs. HughesNet review.

HughesNet Internet
Download speeds:
25 Mbps
Data cap:
1050 GB
Starting at $59.99 a month

Data effective 12/12/20. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
* Requires 24-month agreement.

Now that you know how to find the best satellite internet, check these out next.

Find out which satellite internet plans are available in your area.

Keep comparing Viasat and HughesNet satellite internet in our review.

THE BEST SATELLITE INTERNET PROVIDERS

Sources

  1. Amanda, HughesNet Community, “Have to Move Dish on Roof,” May 2019. Accessed December 12, 2020.
  2. HughesNet, “What Is Express Repair?,” Accessed December 12, 2020.
  3. HughesNet, “Express Repair Terms and Conditions,” July 2015. Accessed December 12, 2020.