Can You Stream with Satellite Internet?
Yes, you can stream video with satellite internet.
It may not be as easy as streaming with other types of internet, but satellite internet still packs enough punch to let you host a scary movie night featuring the classic, Pet Sematary.
Of course, there are a couple of things you’ll want to be aware of if you plan on streaming on satellite internet, namely data caps and latency. Read on to find out how these can affect your satellite internet streaming experience, plus find out which satellite internet provider we recommend for streaming.
How do data caps affect streaming on satellite internet?
If you reach your monthly data cap, your satellite internet provider can slow your download speeds. Typically, both Viasat and HughesNet will slow your speeds to around 1 to 5 Mbps, which puts a severe damper on your streaming dreams.
However, there are some differences in how Viasat and HughesNet approach their data caps.
How do Viasat data caps work?
Viasat has two types of plans: Liberty plans and Unlimited plans.
The Liberty plans get 12, 25, or 50 GB of “priority data” each month. Priority data lets you stream at a reasonable 12 Mbps. But if you use up all your priority data for the month, your speeds slow to 1 to 5 Mbps.
Viasat’s Unlimited plans technically don’t come with a set amount of monthly data, but instead, you get a data “soft cap” to work with. If you haven’t exceeded your data soft cap, you’ll continue to cruise along those digital highways at 25 to 100 Mbps, depending on which plan you have.
Once you exceed that data soft cap, Viasat says it might slow your speeds down to 1 to 5 Mbps during times when there’s a lot of internet traffic. So, if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to keep streaming Once Upon a Time at 25 to 100 Mbps.
How do HughesNet data caps work?
HughesNet is more straightforward when it comes to data caps: you get 10 to 50 GB of data per month, depending on your plan. After that, your speeds are slowed from 25 Mbps down to 1 to 3 Mbps.
Those speeds make us cringe even more than the, uh, inspired creations featured in Nailed It!. And those speeds certainly aren’t optimal for streaming either.
There is one saving grace to HughesNet, though. It gives you an extra 50 GB of data to use at 25 Mbps each month. But you’ll need to sign in to your Netflix during the HughesNet Bonus Zone hours to get it—and those Bonus Zone hours are 2 a.m. to 8 a.m. local time. We hope you’re an early bird.
How does latency affect streaming on satellite internet?
Satellite internet is notorious for high latency (also called ping), but that shouldn’t affect your video streaming much.
Latency measures how long it takes for data to travel from your device to your internet provider, then on to the streaming service, and back to your device.
Because Viasat and HughesNet deliver your connection through satellites sitting thousands of miles above Earth’s orbit, that travel time can take a hot minute. This extreme distance is why high latency is pretty much a given with satellite internet.
But high latency mostly affects online activities like gaming, where the time it takes for you to press a button and for that button press to register in the game can mean the difference between your character’s life and death.
With video streaming, this kind of responsiveness is less critical, so you shouldn’t be too bothered by high latency. (However, if you plan on live streaming on YouTube, Facebook, or Twitch, you’ll see a lag between your actions on camera and your video feed.)
What’s the best satellite internet provider for streaming?
We recommend Viasat (formerly Exede) as the best satellite internet provider for streaming. That’s because Viasat comes with faster speeds of up to 100 Mbps and higher data caps (up to 150 GB per month) than your only other option, HughesNet.
|Provider||Monthly price||Download speeds||Data cap||Learn more|
|Viasat Internet||$30–$150*||12–100 Mbps||12–150 GB||View Plans|
|HughesNet Internet||$59.99–$150†||25 Mbps||10–50 GB||View Plans|
Viasat (formerly Exede) satellite internet
Viasat is our top pick for satellite internet thanks to its fast speeds and high data caps.
We recommend the Viasat Unlimited plans over its Liberty plans for streaming Trolls World Tour because you’ll get more data and faster speeds. Plus, the Unlimited plans won’t automatically slow your download speeds if you end up using too much data in a month.
- Fastest max speeds of 100 Mbps
- Highest max data caps up to 150 GB
- Unlimited plans don’t automatically slow your speed once you hit your data cap
- Price increases after three months
- Higher latency and lower data caps than DSL, cable, and fiber options
You can learn more about why we recommend Viasat in our in-depth Viasat (Exede) review.
Can you stream Netflix with Viasat satellite internet?
Yes, you can stream Netflix (and Hulu, Disney+, and many others) with Viasat satellite internet.
Netflix recommends the following speeds for streaming its latest original shows and fan favorites:
- Standard Definition (SD): 3 Mbps
- High Definition (HD): 5 Mbps
- Ultra HD/4K: 25 Mbps
So all of Viasat’s internet plans offer enough speed to stream in SD and HD, and its Unlimited plans come with fast enough download speeds for 4K.
But heads up: we recommend streaming in SD if you’re on a satellite internet connection.
HughesNet satellite internet
All of HughesNet’s internet plans come with 25 Mbps download speeds, which means you can technically stream in up to 4K. But you’ll want more data and faster download speeds to keep your entire home and family connected.
Still, HughesNet may be a better deal if you’re looking to spend less money and don’t need faster speeds or more data.
- Potentially lower cost
- Offers 50 GB of extra high-speed data each month from 2 a.m. to 8 a.m.
- Higher latency and lower data caps than DSL, cable, and fiber options
Want to dig in a little more? Give our full-length HughesNet review a look.
Is HughesNet fast enough for Netflix?
Yup, HughesNet’s 25 Mbps download speeds are fast enough to stream Netflix, Hulu, CBS All Access, or whatever streaming service you prefer.
Here are the speeds Hulu recommends for streaming:
- Hulu library (SD and HD): 3 Mbps
- Live streams (SD and HD): 8 Mbps
- 4K: 16 Mbps
Of course, while HughesNet speeds would technically cut it for HD and 4K streaming, we recommend sticking to SD streaming with satellite internet.
How much data do you need for streaming with satellite internet?
The amount of data you need each month depends on how often you stream and what quality you stream in, along with what other activities you do online, of course.
No matter how much you stream, we recommend doing it in SD. That’s because streaming in HD or better uses 2.5 to 8 GB of data per hour.
That’s not a sustainable amount of data usage if you’re on a satellite internet plan with a low data cap. Higher video quality uses a lot more data, so you’ll gobble up your data cap quicker than a marathon runner gobbles up a protein snack after a run.
|Video quality||Data usage per hour|
How much data do you need for streaming each month?
As a baseline, we think 25 GB of data each month is the bare minimum you’d need for streaming with satellite internet. That’s enough for a few two-hour movies (even if you stream them in HD), some episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and other online fun, like browsing through Facebook.
But we mentioned before and we’ll say it again: how much data you need depends on what you do online. So if you’re working from home while you catch all the 90s vibes watching several episodes of The Simpsons, you’ll need a lot more data each month than someone who watches Back to the Future in SD and sends a few emails.
To give you a better idea of how much data you might need each month, here’s how much data a two-hour movie and a 45-minute TV episode need depending on what quality you stream in.
|Video type and quality||Total data used|
|2-hour SD movie||1.4 GB|
|2-hour HD movie||5 GB|
|2-hour 4K movie||16 GB|
|45-minute SD TV episode||0.5 GB|
|45-minute HD TV episode||1.9 GB|
|45-minute 4K TV episode||6 GB|