Is Satellite Internet Good? Pros & Cons

If you live in rural locations, great internet service is hard to come by. Thankfully, satellite internet providers fill the gap by providing services for underserved communities. But is satellite internet good in general?

The short answer; satellite internet is good at providing service for unique situations. To get the long answer, you’ll want to read more to find the best internet service for your needs. 

What is satellite internet?

Satellite internet is a type of internet connection provided by - you guessed it - satellites. By installing a satellite dish on your home, you can access a satellite internet network. This happens when you send a signal from your computer. It bounces off an orbiting satellite and connects to other satellites.

This works similarly to how your regular ethernet cable works. In this way, your cable and radio waves serve the same purpose. But because satellites are 13 thousand miles (on average) away from the earth, you won’t see physical cables (even if it would look neat). 

Meanwhile, standard internet service providers provide access to networks via cables. So whether you use DSL internet, cable internet, or fiber optic internet, your connection is through a wire. Of course, satellite internet can and likely will include some amount of wires to install, but it requires the satellite to actually access the internet. 

So answering the question “is satellite internet good” requires an understanding of the stability of connections in your area and your unique needs. It’s also important to know the unique advantages and disadvantages that this type of internet connection offers.

Pros of satellite internet

Many people prefer satellite internet - and for good reason. If you want an optimistic answer to the “is satellite internet good” question, here are some answers that highlight the advantages.

It has good internet coverage 

Satellite providers brag about covering 99% of the United States because they can. If you want your internet to move with you (regardless of where you go), satellite can do that. With no need for cables running out of your home, satellite connections take a 100% wireless approach. That means you can get it almost anywhere with clear skies - even in rural areas. 

It is relatively cheap (despite there being fewer internet providers)

There are only two significant providers with widespread availability if you need a satellite. But despite the limited competition, rates are relatively low, even compared to other providers. Still, satellite internet connections rely on some more advanced technology. So while they won’t be the cheapest internet provider near you, it won’t be as high as it could be.

It saves customers time and money

Those who live on farms or in low-population areas might need to commute to a library or coffee shop to find a good connection. With satellite internet, there is no need to save your online activities for a planned “drive into town” day. No cables mean that you don’t need an existing network infrastructure to be eligible for internet service.

No expensive installation fees

Satellite internet installation isn’t an overly technical process. At best, a satellite technician comes out to do a one-time free installation. Worst case scenario, you have to find a clear space for your satellite and make a call. While you might have to feed your wires from the satellite through the walls, this isn’t always the case.

Generally good customer service

Satellite providers are used to working with people who aren’t internet savvy, gladly spending extra time on the phone to provide training, troubleshooting, and general support. As a result, you’ll notice that both HughesNet and ViaSat have above-average customer service ratings.

When you have a large number of internet service providers to wade through, it can be more challenging to find good customer support. Fortunately, you are left with two great options here.

Cons of satellite internet

For those asking, “is satellite internet good?” it’s also important to understand some of the drawbacks and issues with satellite internet: 

It isn’t very fast

If you are looking for internet with lightning-fast speeds, the satellite isn’t where you will find it. The slower speeds are a pain point for some, while some don’t require much bandwidth for their needs. For others in rural or underserviced areas a slow internet connection is better than no connection at all.

That being said, ViaSat manages to overcome some of these limitations. You’ll have to pay extra for their faster download speeds, but you’ll get a noticeable speed boost.

It is not ideal for gaming or high-definition streaming

You need a strong internet connection for streaming or gaming - and for that you need fast upload speeds. Because of the numerous stages of satellite internet connections, satellite isn’t good for gaming. 

When it comes to streaming, you might be able to get away with using one TV. However, you’ll have to be willing to deal with lower-quality television streams.

It has strict data caps 

Satellite internet has to put more effort into its connections, so most plans come with strict data caps. Starting limitations can be about 20 Gigs. Knowing that an hour of streaming is about one gig, you’ll be running out quickly. You can pay for extra data, but your monthly costs will increase. 

It’s important to know exactly what speed internet you need before committing to a satellite internet plan.

It has limited internet provider options

There are only two major providers in the satellite internet service market: HughesNet and ViaSat. While this certainly simplifies the selection, it is non-competitive. The two companies have different specialties (HughesNet focuses on exceptional customer service, and ViaSat focuses on the best possible speed). 

The wide gap in the middle has yet to be addressed by other companies. 

How do I find the best satellite internet providers? 

If you’re searching “best internet providers near me,” you’ll almost always find a list of satellite companies, but that doesn’t mean they are available in your particular zip code. To find internet providers that you’re sure offer services in your area, you’ll want to use InternetAdvisor’s free internet search tools

Here is how you get started:

  1. Type your zip code in the search bar found in the upper-right corner
  2. Click the big red search button 
  3. Scroll down to see the list of providers in your area 

If you find providers that offer cable services in your area, it’s worth including them in your consideration. Cable internet providers have connections that are faster and more reliable (in general). 

Finally, don’t assume that living in a small town or on a rural road means you can’t have access to good satellite internet service. A quick search and comparison of available plans might just surprise you.

We’ve already addressed that the list of best satellite providers is quite short, so we’ll give you a quick overview of your two contenders.

The best overall: HughesNet

HughesNet is available in 98% of the United States. It has everything you expect from a good satellite internet provider - great customer service, wide availability, reasonable prices, and fair speeds. Limited options aside, HughesNet services offer a solid “yes” to the question “is satellite internet good?” 

You can expect your speeds to be limited to 25 Mbps, which means it is not the fastest type of internet. The only slower option is DSL internet.

Rather than categorizing connections by speeds, HughesNet internet packages vary by data caps:

  • 10 GB
  • 20 GB
  • 30 GB
  • 50 GB
  • 100 GB

You can pay for extra data packs on a per-month basis. Just don’t expect your data to roll over from the next month.

Completing their great customer service experience, HughesNet offers free standard installation with all purchases and all internet plans. This covers most needs, but if you live in a particularly remote location with no access to a public road, you’ll have to pick a DIY route. 

HughesNet satellite internet plans

The fastest satellite provider: ViaSat

ViaSat breaks the mold of satellite service because it offers high speed internet speeds up to 100 Mbps. This is four times the amount of the alternative provider.  

The data caps are also a bit more generous on paper. Here’s a list of internet caps on ViaSat’s plans:

  • 40 GB (12 Mbps)
  • 60 GB ( 25 Mbps)
  • 100 GB (50 Mbps)
  • 150 GB (100 Mbps)

This differs from HughesNet in that they offer different speeds. Just keep in mind that paying for their higher plans will result in you going through data faster. 

ViaSat struggles a bit with their customer service ratings, as many customers found their support to be unhelpful or otherwise lacking. If you aren’t tech-savvy enough to do basic internet troubleshooting on your own go with HughesNet, despite the faster speeds. 

What makes ViaSat forgivable is its lack of overage fees. So even if you go over the cap, you don’t pay extra. The service just stops. They also have the same free standard installation policy as HughesNet. So if you prioritize speed and don’t need extra support, ViaSat is likely your best satellite internet provider.

ViaSat satellite internet plans

Is Starlink satellite internet available for me? 

SpaceX Starlink is seen as the “next generation” of satellite internet. Given that Elon Musk (the CEO of SpaceX) is behind it, it’s got some significant clout. While Starlink might be available in some locations, it has significant issues - namely, the existence of a waitlist for you and other customers. 

As of now, it barely covers 50% of the US, making it less ideal for rural internet options. However, it does brag about having internet speeds up to 250 Mbps. 

Since it isn’t available in most areas, most customers have to pass on it for now, but we’ll keep our eyes on the news.

How to set up satellite internet 

Connecting to a satellite in space in order to get internet, sounds complicated, but it’s not. Satellite internet works similarly to other types of internet service. 

You will need these things:

  • Router
  • Computer (or any internet-ready device)
  • Cable (or your device needs to be wireless)
  • Satellite dish (given by the satellite provider) 

Here are the usual satellite internet installation steps:

  • You check out options via the InternetAdvisor system
  • You make a call and pay for your first month of service
  • A satellite technician comes out (or you get a self-installation kit and instructions) 
  • You call back to customer service or wait for the technician to finish
  • You run an ethernet cable from the satellite to your router 
  • You plug the router into your wall 
  • Wait for the green internet light to start blinking
  • You set a wireless password (optional) 

The only difference between “regular” internet providers and satellite providers is the need to connect your satellite to the router. Typically, pre-installed lines exist in other locations.

When is satellite internet a good choice for you? 

In order to answer the question, “is satellite internet good?” we must complete our review by mentioning fixed-wireless internet, another high-speed, reliable internet service for rural and underserved areas. Instead of using overhead satellites, fixed-wireless service relies on nearby radio towers. That means that coverage can be spotty, but if you have at least one reliable radio station, you’ll likely be able to connect to the internet.

The list of the best fixed-wireless internet providers near you is likely more extensive than satellite providers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be the best option. They have many of the same setbacks as satellite internet, and some have even slower service.

Fixed-wireless providers like Rise Broadband typically offer more stability than traditional satellite internet. And there are some big-name providers, like AT&T Preferred Dealers, which offer bundling with phone services.

If you’re doing a search of internet providers by zip code and see both satellite internet and fixed-wireless providers in your area, it’s worth exploring both options. Use our search tool to compare internet speeds, plans, and pricing. 

So, is satellite internet good? The answer: situationally. 

It offers high-speed internet service to rural areas at reasonable prices. But it’s fairly slow compared to fiber-optic internet and cable internet - with strict data caps. Like with any service, it’s not perfect, but the two best satellite internet providers in the United States make installing and using your new internet service a great experience. 

InternetAdvisor Team

We are passionate about aggregating large, accurate data sets and providing it all to our users in an easy-to-use format. Simply put, shopping is easier for the consumer when he/she knows all available options. We are not beholden to any single provider and therefore are dedicated to transparency and giving you unbiased information on all providers.

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