Find Satellite Internet Providers

About satellite internet

Satellite internet connects your home to the internet via an orbiting satellite. This makes satellite connections available nationwide and a good option for rural areas that lack access to DSL, cable, or fiber networks. Instead of using land-based cords and cables to provide your signal, you connect to the internet through a small satellite dish installed on or near your home. The two major satellite internet providers are Viasat and HughesNet, though new providers like Starlink are now entering the satellite internet market.

Internet satellites are typically located in geosynchronous orbit, so the satellite that provides your signal is always in the same spot in the sky. In the US and the rest of the northern hemisphere, satellite internet is available virtually anywhere with a clear view of the southern sky.

Popular satellite internet providers

ProviderSatellite speeds up toIntroductory priceOrder online
12–100 Mbps$30.00–$169.99/mo.*
25 Mbps$64.99–$159.99/mo.
Starlink 50–250 Mbps$110.00/mo.View Plans

Find satellite providers in your area.

Pros and cons of satellite internet

Pros:

  • Wide availability

Cons:

  • Slow speeds
  • Restrictive data caps
  • High latency

Pros

Wide availability—Satellite is the only kind of internet connection that basically covers the entire United States. You don’t need physical infrastructure like buried cables or utility poles to connect to satellite internet—you don’t even need to live within range of a transmission tower. All you need is a clear view of the southern sky and a good spot on your property where you can mount a dish.

Cons

Slow speeds—Satellite is faster than dial-up and can keep up with many DSL plans, but it can’t compete in terms of speed with cable or fiber connections.

Restrictive data caps—Satellite internet plans usually have restrictive data caps compared to other types of internet. If you reach the cap, your speed can be reduced, or you have to pay for extra data if you want to return to your normal plan speeds. Data-intensive activities like watching movies on Netflix are more difficult to do on a satellite connection.

High latency—The extended delay (space is far away) between sending a signal from your computer and getting a response makes it hard to play fast-paced online games like Fortnite and can cause problems in other real-time activities like video chat.

Best satellite internet plans

ProviderDownload speedData thresholdPricesOrder online
Viasat Unlimited Gold 50Up to 50 Mbps200 GB$119.99/mo.
Viasat Unlimited PlatinumUp to 100 Mbps350 GB$169.99/mo.
HughesNet 75 GBUp to 25 Mbps75 GB$159.99/mo.§

Best satellite internet providers

There are two main satellite providers, with several LEO satellite providers entering the market. Viasat gives you multiple options for internet plans with varying download speeds and amounts of data. HughesNet’s options are simple—all plans offer similar download speeds and only differ in the amount of data. Starlink offers lower latency and higher speeds, but it’s still experiencing difficulty in meeting demand.

Viasat

If you need a fast, reliable satellite internet plan regardless of cost, Viasat is your best option. It has the fastest speeds available for traditional satellite internet.

When choosing a Viasat plan, there are two main things to consider: download speed and data. If you are willing to sign up for one of the more expensive plans, you can get the best of both and the most value for your dollar. However, if you don’t use the internet as much, you can get by with a cheaper plan and save some money.

In general, we don’t recommend the Viasat plans with the lowest data allotments. Even background tasks like software updates can eat up your entire month’s quota in one shot. Unless you have a good grasp on exactly how much data you use among all your devices, we suggest erring on the side of a larger data plan so you don’t end up spending even more money adding additional data to your account.

Best Viasat Plans

PackagePromotional price*SpeedData capOrder online
Basic 12$40.00/mo.Up to 12 Mbps15 GB
Unlimited Silver 25$84.99/mo.Up to 25 Mbps120 GB
Unlimited Gold 50$119.99/mo.Up to 50 Mbps200 GB
Unlimited Platinum 100$169.99/mo.Up to 100 Mbps300 GB

HughesNet

HughesNet is notable for its straightforward approach to pricing. The only difference between HughesNet plans is the amount of data you get each month. All plans have download speeds up to 25 Mbps, which is the minimum connection speed that can be considered broadband. That’s enough to stream 4K video, though you’ll probably still want to avoid that to save data.

As with Viasat, we don’t recommend plans with low data caps. Although HughesNet makes it easy to buy more data, choosing a plan that better meets your household data usage saves you money in the long run.

All HughesNet plans also include 50GB of Bonus Zone data. This data stash is available during low-traffic hours at night—between 2am and 8am. This isn’t just a huge benefit for night owls, it also gives the option to plan out software updates and large downloads so they don’t count against the normal data caps.

Best HughesNet Plans

PackagePrice*SpeedData capOrder online
15 GB Data Plan$64.99/mo.25 Mbps15 GB
30 GB Data Plan$74.99/mo.25 Mbps30 GB
45 GB Data Plan$109.99/mo.25 Mbps45 GB
75 GB Data Plan$159.99/mo.25 Mbps75 GB

Starlink

Starlink is one of the most exciting developments in satellite internet. Developed by SpaceX, Starlink uses thousands of small satellites in low orbit around the Earth, as opposed to a single, large telecommunications satellite, like Viasat and HughesNet.

One of the biggest physical hurdles that satellite internet faces is the immense distance between the earth and satellites in geosynchronous orbit. By bringing its satellites closer to Earth, Starlink shortens the path your data takes, allowing for lower latency and higher speeds. This makes real-time applications such as video chat and online games much more feasible.

Although you can sign up for Starlink anywhere in the US, the company is struggling to scale up to a nationwide operation. Those currently signing up are experiencing months-long waits before their equipment arrives, with no help from customer support.10

PackagePrice*SpeedData capOrder online
Starlink Internet$110.00/mo.§50–250 MbpsNoneMore information

How satellite internet works

Satellite internet works by sending a signal to a satellite in geosynchronous orbit (except for LEO satellites) and then bouncing that signal back to a receiver installed on your home. This means that you can get satellite service just about anywhere without normal infrastructure like buried cables, utility poles, or ground-based antennas.

Disadvantages of satellite internet

While beaming your internet signal in from outer space gives satellite internet a unique advantage over other types of connections, it also comes with a lot of downsides.

Due to strict data caps and high latency, satellite internet isn’t the best option unless it’s the only option. Although satellite internet can deliver broadband speeds up to 100 Mbps in some areas (which match DSL speeds), its restrictive data caps and high price per Mbps make DSL the better choice if it’s available.

Space is very, very far away

Traditional satellite internet providers keep their satellites in geosynchronous orbit so that they are always found in the same spot in the sky. This means that a single satellite can cover an entire continent.

Unfortunately, geosynchronous orbit is very high—22,236 miles above the Earth’s surface. For comparison, the International Space Station is only 254 miles above the Earth. That means your data has to travel almost 90 times farther, plus it has to make a round trip.

Since a satellite signal has to travel all the way into orbit and back to reach the rest of the internet, satellite connections have much higher latency than other types of internet connections.

Latency is the amount of time it takes for a signal to travel from your computer to a server on the internet. High latency causes lag, which can make activities like video chat and online gaming difficult or impossible. Latency is different from bandwidth or download speed, which means that even if you have a fast connection, it still might have high enough latency to interfere with certain activities.

The future of satellite internet

Satellite internet has improved considerably over the years and is an industry where new companies like Starlink are still innovating. Speeds are getting faster, and a new generation of satellites is poised to accelerate the pace of these changes even further. Although it has definite drawbacks, satellite internet can still be a good option for those who want to stay connected even when they’re chilling in their cabin in the woods.

One of the biggest things to look for in the future is increased competition among satellite providers. Lack of competition is a problem across all types of internet technology, but satellite has a particularly high barrier to entry, which has left just two providers for decades. With several companies developing their own LEO satellite technology, we might finally see more options for satellite customers.

The practical reality of connecting via satellite

For now, satellite internet still has enough downsides to make it a less appealing choice than fiber, cable, or DSL. High latency makes it difficult to use video chat or play online games, while low data caps make streaming video impractical.

Because of these factors, we highly suggest going with fiber, cable, or DSL if any of them are available in your area. If not, satellite internet is still a solid alternative to dial-up internet and a good way to stay connected in rural areas.

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What other internet options are available for rural areas?

Satellite internet is the only type of internet connection that is available throughout the entire US. However, many rural areas have other options like DSL, hotspots, and 4G LTE internet that might be a better choice for your needs.

4G LTE home internet

4G LTE home internet uses the same cellular networks that your mobile devices use, but with a more traditional router that connects to cellular networks rather than a phone or a mobile hotspot.

Because these plans are designed for home Wi-Fi networks, 4G LTE home internet plans are usually better suited for families with higher internet usage. Many plans come with unlimited data, which can make them a good alternative to satellite internet in areas where you have good cell reception.

Verizon is also building out its 5G Home Internet service, which uses 5G cellular technology. This service has the potential to offer much higher speeds than 4G cellular connections and will provide internet to customers in areas with limited internet choices.3

Mobile wireless hotspots

Mobile wireless internet uses cell towers to connect to your phone or other devices. Although phone networks don’t cover the whole United States, 4G cellular networks cover most populated areas. If you get good phone reception in your house, you might be able to use your phone in lieu of a separate internet plan.

Most smartphones can be used as a mobile hotspot, which broadcasts a Wi-Fi signal that you can use to connect your other devices like laptops and smart TVs. You can also buy a dedicated mobile hotspot in addition to your phone plan. This will keep your phone from running down its battery and ensure that the other people in your house don’t lose their internet connection every time you go out.

Like satellite connections, many phone plans have data caps or other restrictions that make them difficult to use as your primary internet service. If, however, you have good reception and don’t use a lot of data in a month, you can get decent internet service through a service you’re already paying for.

Satellite internet FAQ

Which provider offers the best satellite internet?

Viasat offers the best satellite internet if you want faster download speeds and more data, while HughesNet offers more affordable plans.

There are currently two providers that offer traditional residential satellite internet in the United States: Viasat and HughesNet. Both are available nationwide. Viasat provides a lot of different plans, from slower budget options to expensive plans that can reach speeds up to 100 Mbps.

Although it has more options, Viasat plans often have price hikes that can catch you unaware if you don’t read the fine print. Another issue is that although Viasat is technically available anywhere in the US, increased internet demand in rural areas means that Viasat doesn’t have the bandwidth to add new customers in certain areas.

HughesNet is the provider to turn to for simple, no-fuss satellite internet. HughesNet has more consistent pricing without hidden price hikes. But its download speeds top out at 25 Mbps.

There are also several providers building low-earth orbit satellite constellations, the first of which is Starlink. Starlink offers faster speeds and lower latency than Viasat or HughesNet, though the company is currently struggling to fulfill orders for equipment, so it could be a few months until your service is up and running.

What’s the deal with SpaceX’s Starlink?

Using SpaceX’s reusable rockets, Starlink has been launching hundreds of satellites into low-Earth orbit at a fraction of the normal cost associated with launching satellites. The ultimate goal is to offer faster, more affordable satellite internet service.

LEO satellite constellations like Starlink have the potential to drastically improve internet connections for rural Americans, both through better speeds and more competition between providers.

How fast will Starlink internet be?

Starlink currently advertises download speeds between 50 and 250 Mbps, which is faster than any plans currently available through residential satellite internet providers. As new satellites are launched and old ones deorbit, the actual speed users experience will vary.

Starlink speeds are also impacted by the number of customers using its network, so estimated speeds have fluctuated considerably since the service’s public launch. SpaceX’s long-term plans include the goal of reaching 10 Gbps download speeds, which is faster than most residential internet plans.7

Also, because these satellites are in low-Earth orbit (just dipping into the Earth’s atmosphere), they can deliver these speeds with much lower latency than geostationary satellites, which are thousands of miles higher into space. Starlink customers can expect 20–40 ms of latency, compared to latency around 600 ms for traditional satellite internet.4

How much does Starlink internet cost?

Starlink has a monthly fee of $110. The equipment to set up Starlink, including the satellite dish, currently costs $599—the most expensive upfront costs of any satellite provider; however, it’s also the only satellite provider that doesn’t have data caps.

For comparison, both HughesNet and Viasat have plans around this price range, but Starlink’s plan aims to be four to eight times faster. In contrast, Viasat’s comparable 100 Mbps plan has a $169.99 per month promotional price that later increases to $249.99 per month. While purchasing equipment for either Viasat or HughesNet costs several hundred dollars, both have options to rent equipment, which vastly reduces upfront costs. Starlink does not currently have an option to rent its equipment.

Will there be just three satellite providers?

Although Starlink is set to become the first competitor to HughesNet and Viasat in almost twenty years, there are several other companies currently developing low-Earth orbit satellite constellations to provide home internet access.

Amazon’s Project Kuiper is partnering with Verizon to collaborate on bringing faster, more reliable internet to underserved rural areas in the United States. Amazon hopes that this might provide a solution for the remote work issues that people in these areas face.8

Meanwhile, OneWeb is partnering with the Saudi tech firm NEOM to bring fast satellite internet to the Middle East. OneWeb currently has over half of its proposed satellite network in orbit.9 Its launch schedule has been impacted by international sanctions following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, though the company still plans on launching the second half of its satellite constellation this year using Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos.11 OneWeb is currently planning to merge with Eutelsat in 2023, making it a force to be reckoned with in satellite internet.12

How do I install satellite internet?

You need a professional installation to hook up your satellite internet service. Neither Viasat nor HughesNet offer self-installation as an option. Both require a technician to come to your home to install and calibrate your dish.

Starlink does not currently offer installation, so beta testers only have the option to buy a $599 setup kit and self-install.

How fast is satellite internet?

Current satellite internet speeds range from 12 Mbps to 100 Mbps. It’s important to remember that even at higher speeds, satellite connections still suffer from extremely high latency, which can make your connection feel much slower than it is while doing certain activities like streaming or online gaming.

Is satellite internet better than DSL?

DSL is a better choice than satellite internet if it’s available. DSL offers similar download speeds to satellite internet, but it has much lower latency and higher data caps. DSL plans are also often cheaper than satellite plans, making it a fairly clear choice.

Sources

  1. Karl Bode, Techdirt, “Verizon Says Claims It’s Abandoning Its DSL Customers ‘Pure Nonsense,’ as Company Clearly Busy Abandoning DSL Customers,” June 16, 2015. Accessed October 15, 2020.
  2. Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica, “AT&T Kills DSL, Leaves Tens of Millions of Homes without Fiber Internet,” October 5, 2020. Accessed October 15, 2020.
  3. Chaim Gartenberg, The Verge, “Verizon Announces Its Nationwide 5G Network,” Oct 13, 2020. Accessed October 15, 2020.
  4. Joey Roulette, Reuters, “Musk’s SpaceX Pegs Initial Starlink Internet Price at $99 per Month – Email,” October 27, 2020. Accessed October 29, 2020.
  5. Jackie Wattles, CNN Business, “Here’s What You Need to Know About SpaceX’s Starlink Internet Service,” October 26, 2019. Accessed October 15, 2020.
  6. Mike Brown, Inverse, “SpaceX Starlink: When Will It Be Available in My Area?,” February 4, 2020. Accessed October 15, 2020.
  7. Michael Kan, PC Mag, “SpaceX’s Starlink Raises Download Speed Goal From 1Gbps to 10Gbps,” January 26, 2021. Accessed January 28, 2021.
  8. Anuradha Garg, Market Realist, “Project Kuiper, Starlink, and OneWeb Duel in Satellite Internet Race,” October 26 2021, Accessed October 27, 2021.
  9. Jason Rainbow, SpaceNews, “OneWeb and Saudi Arabia create $200 million connectivity joint venture,” October 27, 2021. Accessed October 28, 2021.
  10. Kate Duffy, Business Insider. “SpaceX Starlink Customers Who Paid a $100 Deposit 7 Months Ago Are Frustrated at Being Unable To Contact Customer Service To See When Their Kits Will Arrive.” Sep 5, 2021, Accessed March 9, 2022.
  11. Jason Rainbow, Space News, “Russia-Ukraine War Raises Questions for Upcoming Oneweb Launches,” February 28, 2022. Accessed March 17, 2022.
  12. Kris Holt, Engaget, “Two of Europe’s Biggest Internet Satellite Companies are Merging to Take on Starlink” July 26, 2022. Accessed July 28, 2022.