An internet connection has become a necessity. However, if you live in a rural part of the country, the odds are that you don’t have access to more mainstream ground-based internet services.
The best satellite internet providers offer reliable and functional connections to traditionally underserved areas of the country. Read on to find the satellite internet plans that best suit your needs.
Our Top Picks for Best Satellite Internet Providers
- Viasat – Best for fast connection speeds
- HughesNet – Most affordable
- Starlink – Best for heavy Internet users
Best Satellite Internet Reviews
Why we chose it: Viasat’s wide availability and plans with up to 100 Mbps download speeds make it our choice for the best satellite internet service with fast connection speeds.
- Fastest connections speeds with nationwide coverage
- Higher maximum data cap than HughesNet
- 50GB/mo of additional data available to all customers during low-traffic hours
- Prices are overall higher than its nationwide competitor, HughesNet
- Price increases after the first three months of a contract
- Only 24-month contract options available
|Speed||Data Cap||Price Range||Equipment Cost||Installation Costs|
|12 Mbps download||40 GB||$69.99 – $200/month for residential internet||$12.99/month equipment lease fee.||Free – $300 determined on an individual basis|
|25 Mbps download||60 GB|
|50 Mbps download||100 GB||$69.99 – $299.99/month for business internet||$299.99 equipment purchase fee|
|100 Mbps download||150 GB|
Viasat is one of two nationwide satellite internet providers in the U.S. and boasts the highest maximum connection speeds. While this is great for those who can afford its most expensive plans, individuals with a tighter budget will have to make do with lower speeds than HughesNet’s similar entry-level plan can offer.
Viasat offers four different speed tiers for residential and business satellite internet. Speed tiers range from a minimum download speed of 12 Mbps (good enough for streaming high-definition video from a single device) to a maximum of 100 Mbps (suitable for multiple devices connected simultaneously).
Viasat’s data caps are unlimited, but there is a limit to how much data you can use in a month before your connection gets deprioritized, resulting in slower speeds. Despite this, its most affordable plan’s 40 GB data cap is reasonably generous, allowing you to stream days of video content in standard definition.
Viasat’s Internet plans start at $69.99, going up to $199.99 for their fastest plan or $299.99 for business internet.
Like all satellite internet providers, Viasat charges equipment fees. Customers can rent the equipment ($12.99 per month) or purchase it for the duration of the contract ($299.99). Installation can be free or cost up to $300, depending on the location.
Viasat only offers two-year contracts, so factor this into your decision. Likewise, you will be required to pay a $360 cancellation fee if you terminate your service within the first month after installation.
In addition to satellite internet service, Viasat offers home phone service for $29.99 per month. It includes unlimited voice calls and call forwarding to a specific mobile number of your choosing.
“Easy Care” is a tech support and repair service for any major tech issues that may come up throughout the contract. The service costs $8.99 per month. Without this service, one-time repair visits cost $90. Think of the Easy Care subscription as an insurance plan for your equipment. You may not need it all the time, but it can save you from a relatively large expense whenever you require technical assistance.
Viasat is an excellent option for users who prefer or need fast internet speeds with generous data caps. Although prices are higher than its main nationwide competitors, the significant increase in data availability and speeds makes up for it.
Why we chose it: HughesNet’s wide availability, equal connection speeds for all plans and lower prices make it our pick for the most affordable satellite internet provider.
- Uniform connection speeds across all plans
- Prices remain the same for the duration of the contract
- Available in Alaska
- Lowest maximum download speeds
- Lowest maximum data cap
|Speed||Data Cap||Price||Equipment Cost||Installation Costs|
|24 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload on all plans||15 GB||$64.99/month||$14.99/month modem fee.||Standard installation is free.
|45 GB||$109.99/month||$99 fee charged for leased equipment setup.|
HughesNet stands out for providing the same connection speed for all its plans — 24Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload. This means customers on a tight budget can also enjoy fast download speeds.
Since all customers have access to the same connection speeds, the difference in price tiers is due to the difference in the amount of data you can use in a month before your connection gets deprioritized and your data speed temporarily reduced.
Data caps go from 15GB to 75GB, and prices range from $64.99 to $159.99. For context, 15GB of data in a month is not a large amount. That limit can be reached quickly with less than a day’s worth of high-definition video streaming (not even considering other internet-related tasks, such as email and general browsing).
In addition to plan costs, HughesNet also charges equipment rental fees. Renting your satellite internet equipment through HughesNet costs $14.99 a month or $450 if you want to purchase it outright.
If you cancel within the first 90 days of service, you must pay a $400 cancellation fee.
Home Voice service
HughesNet offers home phone service for $29.95 a month. You can add 200 minutes of international calls for an additional $9.95 per month or pay $22.95 per month for unlimited international calls.
Boat and RV satellite internet
HughesNet does not offer boat or RV satellite internet options. The company redirects customers looking for more information to Mobilsat, a company specializing in these types of satellite internet services.
HughesNet is currently the most affordable satellite internet company. Although it could offer more varied download speeds and higher monthly data caps, its relatively affordable pricing makes it worthwhile. Service is also available in Alaska, unlike its main nationwide competitor, which is a pleasant bonus.
Why we chose this company: Starlink’s lack of data caps makes it our pick for the best satellite internet provider for heavy internet use.
- Fastest connection speeds currently available
- No data caps
- Service area is consistently expanding
- Upfront costs are considerably higher than competitors
- Long waiting list for equipment delivery
- Customer support can only be contacted through proprietary app
|Speed||Data Cap||Price Range||Equipment Cost||Installation Costs|
|200 Mbps||Unlimited||$110/mo||$549||Included with equipment cost|
|500 Mbps (Premium)||$500/mo||$2,500|
Starlink is a satellite internet service offered by Elon Musk’s space rocket company, SpaceX. Starlink’s main selling point is to provide faster satellite internet with minimal delay (latency).
On paper, Starlink’s product offerings outpaces the competition. Its standard service download speed of 200 Mbps is twice the amount offered by its competitors, and its business plan’s 500 Mbps is practically unheard of in satellite internet services.
In addition to its impressive connection speeds, Starlink advertises no data caps. This means you’re free to stream as much high-definition video as you want or download large files (such as digital copies of video games and their respective update files) without worrying about your connection speed being deprioritized.
Starlink’s internet service comes with some big caveats. For starters, Starlink has limited availability nationwide. Its coverage map shows a significantly expanded service area that includes parts of most of the 48 contiguous states and practically all of Hawaii, but the actual service availability is determined case-by-case.
Starlink’s overall cost is also something to consider.
The standard plan costs $110 per month, and you must put down a $549 deposit to pay for the equipment. This deposit also secures you a spot on the service waiting list — which can take a while according to customer feedback.
The premium service tier — announced in February — drastically increases the cost to $500 per month and a $2,500 equipment fee.
There’s no way to get in touch with Starlink unless you apply for a preorder. There’s no contact information on their website, and the only way to reach out for support seems to be through their smartphone app.
A lack of customer feedback through consumer review websites such as Trustpilot or the Better Business Bureau makes it difficult to gauge customer satisfaction. On online forum sites such as Reddit, customer experiences range from seemingly perfect service to an inability to reach support even through the dedicated phone app.
In places where Starlink has been operating for years, self-reported customer experiences are overall positive. Early adopters note that the service’s initial hurdles have mostly been overcome, and newer customers express overall satisfaction with the service, despite some inconsistencies in connection speeds.
Though its pricing and general availability may not make it the best choice for everyone, Starlink’s satellite internet is not a bad choice for those who can afford the cost and wait times.
Satellite Internet Guide
Satellite internet is a great resource for people living in rural areas without access to ground-based internet connections. While the general concept remains the same as cable internet options like DSL and fiber optic, there are a few key differences in how they operate.
Here are some of the most important things to know about satellite internet, from how it works to the different types of services offered.
What is satellite internet?
As the name implies, satellite internet (or satellite broadband internet) is an internet service that transmits information over a satellite network (in space!) instead of a broadband cable network like DSL or fiber optic.
Much like cable home or business internet, users can connect their devices directly to the router via LAN cable or use Wi-Fi to connect wirelessly.
Because satellites have nationwide coverage, this service is often the only option for rural areas, where grounded networks are often unavailable.
How does satellite internet work?
Satellite internet uses radio waves to communicate. The satellite dish sends information via radio waves to the satellites in space, which is then sent to a network operations center (NOC). The process repeats back and forth for as long as you’re connected to the internet.
It can also be summarized in a five-step process:
- Your internet-ready device (computer, smartphone, gaming console, etc.) connects to your router/modem
- The router/modem sends information to the satellite dish
- The satellite dish beams information via radio waves to the satellites in space
- The satellite beams information down to a NOC
- The NOC beams information up to the satellite to repeat the process in reverse
Types of satellite internet
While the basics of satellite internet service are the same no matter where you’re using it, there are three distinct categories of service available to the general public: residential, RV and boat satellite internet service.
- Residential satellite internet: This type of satellite internet is for residences or businesses. Installation typically involves placing a small or medium-sized satellite dish in a fixed position with a clear view of the southern sky.
- Satellite internet for RV: This type of satellite internet is for vans or mobile homes. Installation requires a large satellite dish to be fixed on top of the vehicle. The satellite dish can usually rotate to find the best satellite signal available. Connection speeds can be comparable to residential satellite Internet, but the service is much more expensive.
- Satellite internet for boats: This type of satellite internet for seafaring vessels is much rarer and more expensive than the previous two and also has slower connection speeds and lower, limited data caps.For vessels navigating U.S. waters, the use of mobile internet hotspots — such as from your phone or a standalone device — is recommended. Satellite internet service in international waters is typically reserved for emergency and GPS use, making it highly expensive and impractical for everyday use.
How to choose the best satellite internet providers
Because options for satellite internet providers are so limited in the U.S., it’s important to compare the minor differences such as download/upload speeds and plan prices between companies if you want to find the best service.
Consider the following factors when choosing a satellite internet provider:
Satellite internet service is expensive in terms of plan prices and equipment costs. Equipment protection plans also add to the cost.
Regarding plan pricing, satellite internet plans can range from $50 a month to $200 a month. Business plans start at $50 a month and can go up to $300 per month.
You should also be aware of early cancellation fees, which can be as high as $400 in the case of HughesNet. As a general rule, the longer you wait before canceling your service, the lower your fees will be.
Like other internet service providers, satellite internet companies offer service bundles that can help lower your overall bill by $10 to $30, sometimes more if there are any special promotions ongoing when you sign up. These bundles can be a good idea if you have already planned to subscribe to all of these services (phone, internet, TV).
Part of what makes satellite internet so expensive is the specialized and sensitive nature of the relevant equipment.
For reference, Starlink’s satellite dishes cost around $1,300 to construct but are available to subscribers of their standard plan for $599. Other companies, such as HughesNet and Viasat, offer the option to rent their equipment for $10-$20 per month.
If you’re considering satellite internet service for RVs or boats, the cost of an antenna can be even higher. It’s not uncommon for specialized RV or boat antennas to cost over $3,000, in addition to the price of your service plan.
Even after considering all the costs we’ve discussed, there’s still the matter of installation costs. Because satellite dishes require precise positioning to get the best signal, you’ll usually need the help of an expert to set them up.
Installation costs for all the major satellite internet companies float around the $100 range and, in many cases, cannot be waived unless you outright purchase the equipment.
While some companies allow you to pay for your service monthly, you’ll get the best offer when you sign a fixed-term contract of 12 to 24 months. However, make sure you can afford such a long-term commitment or you risk paying early cancellation fees, which can be as high as $400.
It’s also important to keep in mind that each company reserves the right to increase the monthly cost of your plan after your contract has expired.
It’s important to manage your expectations with satellite internet regarding connection speeds. Except for Starlink, which advertises download speeds of up to 200 Mbps, satellite internet generally offers speeds averaging around 75 Mbps.
For reference, connection speeds of 7-10 Mbps are good enough for streaming high-definition video on a single device. Your connection speed requirements will depend on the size of your household and the number of connected devices (smartphones, smart TVs, tablets)
Connection speeds will also vary depending on the number of people connected to a single network simultaneously (network congestion). This means that download speed will be lower during peak internet usage hours — typically between 7-11 PM on weekdays and most of the day on weekends.
Data caps determine how much data you can use per billing cycle through your internet connection. Think of them as your data allowance or limit for a given billing cycle.
There are two kinds of data caps: “hard” data caps and “soft” data caps.
A hard data cap prevents you from accessing the internet once you use your data allotment for a given billing cycle. Internet plans with hard data caps are suitable for individuals who barely use the internet, such as for basic tasks like checking and sending emails.
Soft data caps are typically, but not always, found in unlimited data plans. With soft data caps, you’ll still have access to the internet after using up your allotted data, but your connection speed will be drastically reduced until the next billing cycle.
Because satellite internet service plans have comparatively low data caps compared to landline services, choosing a plan with a soft data cap is in your best interest.
Satellite Internet FAQ
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Is satellite internet good for gaming?
What is the best satellite internet?
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What is the best satellite internet service for rural areas?
How We Evaluated the Best Satellite Internet Providers
- Availability – Very few satellite internet companies operate nationwide. We chose companies that service most of the country so that you always have options in hand, no matter where you are.
- Connection speeds – Although the selection of nationwide companies is limited, we prioritized those with reasonably fast connection speeds.
- Cost – We picked companies that provide a good value for the cost of their services, so you know your money is being well spent.
Summary of Money’s Best Satellite Internet Providers Reviews
|Price||Speed||Data caps||Equipment cost||Highlight|
|Viasat||$69.99/mo – $299.99/mo||12 – 100 Mbps||25 Mbps||$12.99/mo||Fastest internet speeds with nationwide availability.|
|HughesNet||$64.99/mo – $159.99/mo||40GB – 150GB||15GB – 75GB||$14.99/mo||Equal connection speeds across different plans make fast internet affordable.|
|Starlink||$110/mo – $500/mo||200 – 500 Mbps||None||$599/mo – $2,500/mo||Low earth orbit satellites allow for faster and more stable internet connections.|
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