The Best Satellite Internet Providers of 2019

Packages and Pricing | Features and Benefits | Modem and Routers | Customer Service | Our Recommendation

Living rural has its perks; less stress, fresh air, and open roads just to name a few, but across the US, there has always been constant pain – internet service.

We crawled our way through the dial-up days (if you’re reading this and are still on dial-up its time to switch), put up with the headaches from the initial days of satellite Internet, and until recently, your service offerings remained steadily frustrating.

But, in late 2017, HughesNet shook up the industry with the launch of its Echostar 19 satellite. Promising to deliver 25 Mbps download speeds (previously the max in the industry was 15 Mbps) and more data on every one of its plans, HughesNet reached all rural homes and made satellite Internet relevant again.

Fast forward to today, a few companies have fizzled out. WildBlue was purchased by Exede, DishNet was discontinued, and Exede recently changed its name to Viasat, leaving only 2 options for satellite Internet – HughesNet and ViaSat (Exede). But most importantly, Viasat introduced “unlimited satellite Internet” plans allowing you to do so more more online, and this has since been adopted by HughesNet.

Below we’ll dive into both providers, what unlimited satellite Internet really means, and help you determine which plan and provider will be best for you!


HughesNet – #1 Rated Satellite Internet Provider

HughesNet is our top pick for best satellite internet provider. This is largely due to their value, consistent speeds, widespread availability, and extensive extra features. HughesNet offers four tiered plans providing data from 10 GB to 50 GB with no hard data caps. Plus, the HughesNet Bonus Zone allows you to extend your monthly data even more. All HughesNet plans include a modem with built-in Wi-Fi, so customers can get their wireless devices connected without having to purchase a separate router. HughesNet’s new Gen5 plans launched with their most recent satellite, boosting speeds and improving their service reach. As a result, all HughesNet Gen5 plans offer speeds of up to 25 Mbps, nation-wide. Our runner-up, Viasat, also has great potential but falls behind due to inconsistent speeds and low availability of their new premium plans.

Viasat – Runner-Up

Like HughesNet, Viasat has a lot of great features to be enjoyed. They offer a money-saving Hibernation Plan, an unlimited data Free Zone, and no data caps. Currently, Viasat’s most widely available packages offer speeds of up to 12 Mbps in most areas and 25 Mbps in others. Viasat is actively working to improve their service speeds and availability after the recent launch of their ViaSat-2 satellite. With this launch, they promised to roll out new unlimited data plans and offer speeds up to 100 Mbps. So far, these plans have failed to reach most areas of the country and are only available to a few lucky customers. But if you live in the right place, you may be able to get your hands on some of the fastest satellite internet speeds available today!


Packages and Pricing

Satellite Internet Packages and Pricing ReviewSatellite Internet Packages and Pricing Review

HughesNet 4.0/5.0 | Viasat 3.0/5.0

Satellite internet providers often make their plans available on a regional basis, so the exact packages listed below may not be available to you.

HughesNet Gen5 Package & Pricing

HughesNet offers four, straightforward packages that are available from coast to coast. The plans shown below are for HughesNet’s base pricing, and this is the highest rate you will pay depending on your location. After entering your address for lookup, it’s possible you will have a $10/month or $20/month discount across the board (ex. 30 GB plan is $20 off/month, making it $79.99).

If available to you, the monthly discount is for 12 months and then the standard price would become your everyday price. This model makes it easy to estimate your monthly bill and will leave you without any huge price jumps you see with most of the Viasat plans.

Every HughesNet plan has a different amount of anytime data (10 GB – 50 GB), offers 50 GB on bonus zone data (free data you can use between 2am and 8am), and deliverers 25 Mbps download speeds.

Most importantly, every plan also has unlimited data with no hard data limits. If you use more data than you paid for, your service gets slowed down to around 3 Mbps until it resets, but you will still be able to do most of the things you do online.

PackagesPromo PricingDownload SpeedUpload SpeedDetails
10 GB$49.99/mo.25 Mbps3 MbpsVIEW PLAN
20 GB$59.99/mo.25 Mbps3 MbpsVIEW PLAN
30 GB$79.99/mo.25 Mbps3 MbpsVIEW PLAN
50 GB$99.99/mo.25 Mbps3 MbpsVIEW PLAN

*Prices vary based on location. The majority will have the above plans available to them.


Viasat Plans and Pricing

Viasat’s plans are not as straight forward as HughesNets. Where HughesNet has 4 options available nationwide, based on your address, Viasat will return you 3 plans out of a possibility of 13.

All plans are advertised as being “unlimited”, but just like HughesNet, Viasat customers that surpass the cycles data limit will experience a slow down in service.

Viasat promises a two-year price-lock guarantee on service, but it does dramatically raise prices after the first 3 months. With that being such a small portion of your overall contract, we recommend you ignore the misleading introductory pricing and just look at the everyday price when comparing packages to HughesNets.

Packages3 Month PriceEveryday PriceDownload SpeedData Limit
Liberty 12$50/mo.$50/mo.12 Mbps12 GB
Liberty 25$75/mo.$75/mo.12 Mbps25 GB
Liberty 50$100/mo.$100/mo.12 Mbps50 GB
Unlimited Bronze 12$70/mo.$100/mo.12 Mbps35 GB
Unlimited Silver 12$100/mo.$150/mo.12 Mbps45 GB
Unlimited Gold 12$150/mo.$200/mo.12 Mbps65 GB
Unlimited Bronze 12$50/mo.$70/mo.12 Mbps40 GB
Unlimited Silver 25$70/mo.$100/mo.25 Mbps60 GB
Unlimited Gold 30$100/mo.$150/mo.30 Mbps100 GB

Viasat leads it advertising with the following 4 plans. They are expensive but have a good amount of data and speeds. We separated these from the 9 packages above because after conducting research and taking a sample size of 500 rural zip codes (1000 or less population), we found that these plans are available in less than 5% of markets. With them not being widely available, and unlikely their available to you, we felt they deserved their own category.

If they are available, and the price point is in range for you, these packages will be a good choice compared to HughesNet.

Packages3 Month PriceEveryday PriceDownload SpeedData Limit
Unlimited Bronze 25$50/mo.$70/mo.25 Mbps35 GB
Unlimited Silver 25$70/mo.$100/mo.25 Mbps60 GB
Unlimited Gold 50$100/mo.$150/mo.50 Mbps100 GB
Unlimited Platinum 100$150/mo.$200/mo.100 Mbps150 GB

Features and Benefits

Viasat vs HughesNet Features ReviewViasat vs HughesNet Features Review

HughesNet 4.0/5.0 | Viasat 3.0/5.0

No Hard Data Caps

Both HughesNet and Viasat won’t restrict your internet usage with hard data limits. Once you use up Viasat’s Priority Data from your Liberty Plan, you can tap into free data at throttled speeds (1-3 Mbps) with their Liberty Pass. If you reach your monthly data limit with HughesNet, your internet will similarly be slowed for the rest of the month instead of being cut off completely. This means you’ll be able to keep using the internet for light browsing and e-mail. Both companies also offer data top-offs which will immediately return your service to regular speeds. The difference is that HughesNet’s Data Tokens cost $3 per GB while Viasat’s extra data costs $10 per GB.

Extra Data

HughesNet and Viasat both offer bonus data during the night, incentivizing customers to make heavy downloads at less congested times. When you use the internet during HughesNet’s Bonus Zone (between 2 am and 8 am daily), you will chip into 50 GB of extra data instead of using your plan data. Viasat’s Free Zone is half as long (3 am to 6 am) but provides unlimited extra data during this time.

Free Installation

Both companies will send a qualified technician to your house to install your satellite dish and modem. Free installation may be available from Viasat depending on your service area. The Viasat technician will conduct signal tests, set up equipment, and show you how to access your Viasat account online. HughesNet customers may be eligible for a free installation as well, however, this is typically a limited-time promotional offer. The HughesNet technician will set up all equipment for you, including your Wi-Fi modem. They’ll even connect up to two wireless devices to your new Wi-Fi network to get you started.

E-mail Accounts

Every HughesNet customer can create up to 10 email accounts, each with 10 GB of storage space. Viasat stopped offering email accounts in 2017, but previous customers will still be able to access their WildBlue or Exede email.

Data Saving Features

HughesNet’s Video Data Saver is a handy way to save your monthly data, so you can avoid reaching your limit and getting hit with throttled speeds. The Video Data Saver can easily be switched on and off from your account and will automatically adjust the quality of videos you’re watching to DVD quality (480p). Viasat has the same feature, called the Video Data Extender which is available to all customers on their Liberty Plans. Viasat also offers the Viasat Browser, driven by artificial intelligence to load pages more efficiently and cut down on data use.

Extra Care and Repairs

Viasat offers customers an extra level of support with EasyCare. EasyCare costs $5.99 per month and gives customers access to free service calls, shorter phone wait times, and a free annual dish relocation at the same address. Similarly, HughesNet offers Express Repair which ensures your internet service is restored as quickly as possible if there is a problem. It costs $7.95/month for Basic Service (a technician will help you out within 2 business days) and $11.95/month for Premium Service (a technician will arrive the next business day). Unlike Viasat’s EasyCare support, you will still have to pay $99 for onsite visits during your first month of HughesNet’s Express Repair and $29.95 for visits after that.

Service Suspensions

Viasat’s Hibernation Plan allows customers to save money by suspending their service for up to 6 months of the year. This is useful if you want to travel or if you’re using satellite internet in your vacation home. On the Hibernation Plan, customers are charged $9.99 per month and any lease fees. HughesNet customers may have a similar option, but they will have to speak with a customer service agent to come to a suspension agreement.


Modem and Routers

Viasat vs HughesNet Modem and Router ReviewViasat vs HughesNet Modem and Router Review

HughesNet 4.0/5.0 | Viasat 4.0/5.0

Both Viasat and HughesNet plans include a satellite dish and modem for a $9.99/month lease fee. HughesNet’s lease fee will increase to $14.99/month after two years, so customers may want to purchase their HughesNet equipment for an upfront cost of $349.98 instead. You will be able to keep the purchased equipment when you cancel your service. Viasat’s equipment can be purchased for just $299.99 but will have to be returned upon cancellation.

HughesNet’s two-in-one HT2000W Wi-Fi Modem and router is available to all customers in all regions. Viasat also offers a Wi-Fi modem in some locations, but there is no guarantee that the Viasat modem you receive will include a router. You may have to purchase an additional router elsewhere or lease the Viasat Wi-Fi Modem for an additional $5 per month.

Both HughesNet’s Wi-Fi Modem and Viasat’s Wi-Fi Modem provide advanced dual-band frequencies of 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, so you can connect your devices to the strongest Wi-Fi signal. The Wi-Fi modems also support WPS, WEP, and WPA security standards and allow you to create a separate guest network.


Customer Service

HughesNet vs Viasat Customer Service ReviewHughesNet vs Viasat Customer Service Review

HughesNet 3.0/5.0 | Viasat 3.5/5.0

Both HughesNet and Viasat customer support can be reached by phone, instant chat, and email. The two companies claim to reply to emails within 24 hours and quickly respond to chat requests. The HughesNet knowledgebase is designed to provide support articles. However, this knowledgebase lacks any kind of organization and is awkward to search through. If you like DIY support, you may enjoy Viasat’s help pages more. These contain many helpful articles as well as a community forum. Neither HughesNet nor Viasat is known for their customer service. Often, HughesNet customers report friendly interactions with service agents and quick installations by technicians. Other times, customers have felt ignored and misled. Similar reports have been given by Viasat customers who claim that service agents are constantly pushing upgrades on them or making false promises.


What About Other Satellite Internet Providers?

You may be surprised that there are only two satellite internet providers to choose from. This wasn’t always the case. Many smaller satellite internet providers have been bought up by either Viasat or HughesNet while other providers simply resell their packages. A few small companies can be found servicing small areas and niche markets in the United States.

DISH Network

DISH’s main services are satellite television, but the company also offers high-speed internet through a partnership with HughesNet.

Exede Internet

Viasat has been a parent company of Exede, owning and operating the company under “Exede” until early 2018 when it dropped the name for “Viasat Internet”. Little has changed since the company changed names except for the launch of Viasat’s unlimited plans.

WildBlue

WildBlue was a much earlier generation satellite internet provider. Viasat acquired WildBlue Communications back in 2009 and most WildBlue customers have upgraded to Exede or Viasat internet services.

EarthLink

Earthlink used to offer its own satellite internet services. Now, the company has been acquired by Windstream Holdings, Inc., and provides high-speed broadband internet. They still offer DSL internet to people in remote areas and are an authorized retailer of HughesNet Satellite Internet.


Our Recommendation

Satellite internet may not be your first choice if you have high-speed cable internet available to you. But for many people, satellite internet is the best and only way to get high-speed internet in a rural location. Viasat is a great option, with loads of useful features and speedy unlimited data plans on the horizon. However, the sparse availability of their new services still puts Viasat in a close second. HughesNet’s Gen5 plans offer consistently high speeds to all customers, stable pricing, and wide plan availability across the country. That being said, both HughesNet and Viasat are solid satellite internet providers.