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Streaming on Satellite Internet

How to watch cat videos without breaking the bank

More people watch video over the internet than over broadcast television.1 Good quality streaming is a basic expectation most people have for their internet service, but it’s one that remains elusive to satellite internet customers.

If you’ve dealt with slow, grainy video or massive data overage charges in the past, you might have given up on trying to watch online video at all. Fortunately, there are several ways for satellite customers to access high-quality video without incurring outrageous data rates. Read on to see if any of these tips and tricks work for you.

Best satellite internet for streaming: Starlink

Best Satellite Internet for Streaming

Price: $120.00/mo.*

Speed: 20–100 Mbps

View Plan

If you want to stream video over satellite, Starlink is the best way to do it. Until recently, even the lowest speeds are plenty for viewing 4K video content. Starlink has since dropped the low end of their estimated speeds below the suggested minimum for 4K, though your streaming app might be able to buffer through those unexpected drops as long as speeds don’t loiter around the 20s.

The biggest advantage that Starlink has over the competition is unlimited data. Streaming video is one of the most data-intensive activities people engage in, so even plans with high data caps can run through your monthly allowance with just a single streaming device. Starlink’s unlimited data gives you the peace of mind to watch as much as you want without worrying about your data running out.

For more information, check out our in-depth Starlink review.

Pros:

  • Fastest satellite download speeds
  • No data caps

Cons:

  • High upfront cost
  • Long waits for equipment

Popular satellite providers

ProviderSatellite speeds up toIntroductory priceOrder online
Starlink 20–100 Mbps$120.00/mo.*
25–150 Mbps$59.99–$299.99/mo.
50-100 Mbps$49.99–$79.99/mo.

Viasat offers plans with higher speeds, which is good for those who want to stream higher quality video or have multiple devices streaming at once. The tradeoff is that higher quality burns through data even faster, so unless ultra-high definition movie night is only a monthly indulgence, you’ll have to invest in a lot of extra data.

Hughesnet offers only one speed for all its plans, but it’s enough to stream movies and TV—at least in theory. When we tested Hughesnet plans first-hand, we found that it couldn’t maintain enough speed to stream most content. The most we could manage were YouTube videos at 480p resolution, which is less than most people expect from their phones.

If the amount of data you use varies considerably from month to month, Hughesnet’s simple, flexible pricing model could save you some money.

How much speed do I need to stream video?

Streaming video can use a lot of bandwidth, but it depends heavily on the quality of the picture and the number of devices that are streaming at the same time. Different video services also have different bandwidth recommendations, though they’re usually pretty similar. Watching high definition 4K video on a single device, for example, usually requires about 25 Mbps of download speed, which is technically doable over satellite.

For a more detailed breakdown of speed requirements for different platforms, check out our guide to How Much Speed Do I Need to Stream Video.

One nice thing about video streaming services like Netflix and Hulu is that the software itself is really good at buffering your signal. When you’re watching a movie, your device downloads the data a few seconds ahead of what’s actually playing on the screen. That means if the speed of your connection fluctuates or there’s a brief disruption, your movie keeps playing smoothly off that pre-downloaded data without any pauses.

Naturally, live content can’t do this as well without putting a huge delay between the live content and when it appears on your screen, so you’re more likely to encounter buffering issues watching a Twitch stream or a live newscast than with pre-recorded content.

Streaming and data caps

Streaming video over satellite isn’t an ideal situation. While most satellite plans meet the speed requirements for streaming video, data caps usually pose the bigger problem. Satellite data caps are incredibly low compared to other types of internet. Although a plan with 50 GB of data might seem like a lot, you could easily run through four or five GB of data for one movie night.

If watching a show in the evening is part of your daily routine, a 50 GB data plan might only get you halfway through the month. Throw in a couple of kids that want to watch Bluey on their iPads every day after school and you could find yourself running out of data in a matter of days, which isn’t very practical.

Choose unlimited data

The best choice for anyone who watches a lot of online video is to choose an internet plan that offers unlimited data. Right now, the only satellite service that does this is Starlink , making it the clear choice for rural Netflix fans. Starlink speeds are also high enough that you shouldn’t have any bandwidth problems, even if streaming on multiple devices simultaneously.

Lower your picture quality

Although it’s not the most visually appealing option, lowering your video resolution drastically reduces the amount of data it uses. Even just dropping the quality from 4K UHD to HD can make your data last around five times longer.

If you watch everything in standard definition, you could probably watch video every day and still make it through the whole month on an average data plan. You can change the resolution of videos on a service like Nefflix through its settings menu.

This is also the same principle behind how things like  Video Data Saver work. By automatically throttling your speed when you watch a video, it forces lower resolution playback that uses less data.

Get satellite TV

Getting a satellite TV plan like DirecTV in addition to your satellite internet may sound like an expensive solution, but in some situations, it could actually save you money. Unlike satellite internet, satellite TV prices depend primarily on the number of channels you get, not how much data you use or how much time you spend using it. For those who watch video all day, every day, paying for a second satellite service could be cheaper than buying all the extra data  needed every month to support your TV habit.

Of course, satellite TV works a lot differently from a streaming service, and if the channels you want only come in the most expensive packages, it may not be worth it. For some people, however, satellite TV can be a way to watch as much video as you want without worrying about how much data you’re using.

The bottom line: Streaming on satellite is tricky but doable

Traditional satellite internet services are not well designed for streaming video, but with a few data-saving tricks, you can make it work. Starlink presents an even better solution to the streaming problem by offering unlimited data in areas with access to only satellite service.

Want to know what other internet options are available in your area? Enter your zip code below.

Streaming on satellite FAQ

Can you stream video with satellite internet?

Yes, though streaming video over satellite internet can use up your monthly data allowance very quickly. Keep an eye on your data use and watch in lower resolutions to keep below your data cap.

Is satellite internet good for Netflix?

You can watch Netflix over satellite internet, but it uses a lot of data. Most satellite plans have low data caps, so if you are a heavy Netflix user, it’s best to look for a plan that offers unlimited data.

Sources

  1. Brad Adgate, Forbes, “Nielsen: Streaming Video Audience Share Is Higher Than Broadcast TV,” June 17, 2021. Accessed August 14, 2022.

Author -

Peter Christiansen writes about satellite internet, rural connectivity, livestreaming, and parental controls for HighSpeedInternet.com. Peter holds a PhD in communication from the University of Utah and has been working in tech for over 15 years as a computer programmer, game developer, filmmaker, and writer. His writing has been praised by outlets like Wired, Digital Humanities Now, and the New Statesman.

Editor - Rebecca Lee Armstrong

Rebecca Lee Armstrong has more than six years of experience writing about tech and the internet, with a specialty in hands-on testing. She started writing tech product and service reviews while finishing her BFA in creative writing at the University of Evansville and has found her niche writing about home networking, routers, and internet access at HighSpeedInternet.com. Her work has also been featured on Top Ten Reviews, MacSources, Windows Central, Android Central, Best Company, TechnoFAQ, and iMore.

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