Best Satellite Internet Providers of 2021

The best satellite internet providers

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When shopping for satellite internet, you’ll likely find two available options: HughesNet and Viasat, and coming soon, Starlink. Which provider is best for your home may come down to your location as HughesNet is the faster, more affordable option in select areas while Viasat may be the better option in others. Starlink offers the fastest speeds regardless of where you live but its starting price is steep at $99/mo.

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Our take on satellite internet

If you’re looking for reliable satellite internet in a rural area, Viasat or HughesNet (and in some areas, Starlink) are your best options. Choose HughesNet if you want a simple, less-expensive plan, with options for extra “Bonus Data.” Go with Viasat if speed and larger data amounts are among your internet priorities. If your address is eligible for Starlink’s beta service, we’d recommend trying it out to experience the faster speeds and lower latency, but beware that starting pricing is higher than HughesNet or Viasat.

HughesNet satellite internet plans

HughesNet service highlights

Compared to Viasat, HughesNet has more consistent pricing and speed tiers, plus more “free” data available and lower equipment costs each month. According to the 2018 FCC broadband report, HughesNet is also more likely to reach advertised speeds than Viasat. 

  • Plan price and speed consistency – HughesNet speeds (up to 25 Mbps) are standard, as is plan pricing, whereas Viasat speeds and pricing may vary by location.
  • “Bonus Zone” data – HughesNet customers can enjoy an extra 50GB of data/mo. available from the hours of 2 a.m. to 8 a.m. – a feature that Viasat doesn’t have.
  • Low equipment fees – HughesNet equipment lease starts around $10/mo., a few bucks cheaper than the Viasat rental fee.
  • Actual vs. advertised speeds – HughesNet is one of the few ISPs that actually provides faster speeds than what is advertised. The FCC reported that HughesNet’s median download speed is 31.27 Mbps for its advertised 25 Mbps plan.

Viasat satellite internet plans

Viasat service highlights

Viasat offers faster speeds than HughesNet, but only in select areas. Regardless of available speeds, customers will appreciate higher data allowances than what’s available with most HughesNet plans, plus a two-year price guarantee.

  • Speeds up to 100 Mbps – Viasat offers four times the speed of HughesNet, but only in select areas. In some locations, available speeds may top out at 50, 30 or 12 Mbps.
  • Higher data allowances – With data plans ranging from 40-150GB, Viasat plans give you more data for the price compared to HughesNet.
  • Two-year contract – Viasat plans require a two-year contract lock, but your price will be guaranteed for the length of it once the three-month introductory pricing ends. HughesNet customers may see a price increase after six months of service.
  • Actual vs. advertised speeds – Expect Viasat’s service to be slightly slower than what is advertised. The FCC reported that the median download speed for Viasat’s advertised 12 Mbps plan is 10.75 Mbps (89.6% of the advertised speed). 

Starlink service highlights

Starlink internet is potentially a game-changer for satellite internet. With faster speeds, lower latency and unlimited data, Starlink will allow residents of rural households who currently are unable to work and learn remotely, to finally be able to do so. Starlink’s only downside is that it is quite expensive, with prices starting at $99/mo. 

Starlink is currently only in a beta phase, which means Starlink is only available to a limited number of users right now, and pricing and data caps could be subject to change. Starlink is offering its services on a first-come, first-served basis and is currently only available in the Northwest region of the U.S. Sign-ups require a $99 deposit.  

  • Speeds up to 150 Mbps – Starlink speeds currently range between 50 and 150 Mbps. However, as more satellites enter the network, Starlink’s speeds will likely increase up to 300 Mbps. Starlink only offers one plan, so the speed range refers to what any customer can expect to experience. 
  • Low latency– The greatest difference between Starlink and other satellite companies has to do with latency. Starlink’s latency is significantly lower than HughesNet or Viasat, which means it will be easier for users to work or learn from home using Starlink. 
  • Unlimited data – Although Starlink is currently not imposing data caps, it is unclear whether this will remain true after its beta phase. Starlink has only stated that there are no data caps “at this time.”

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