Best Satellite Internet Providers for 2023

Best Satellite Internet Providers for 2023

Starlink – Best potential among satellite internet providers

  • Prices: $90 – $120 per month
  • Speeds: 20 – 250Mbps
  • Key Info: 1TB data limit, no term contract, low latency

Or call to learn more: (855) 874-8909

HughesNet – Best satellite internet provider for reliable speeds

  • Prices: $50 – $150 per month
  • Speeds: 15 – 50Mbps
  • Key Info: No hard data cap, nationwide availability

Or call to learn more: (877) 707-2043

Viasat – Best satellite internet provider for versatility of plans

  • Prices: $70 – $300 per month
  • Speeds: 12 – 150Mbps
  • Key Info: No hard data cap, nationwide availability

Or call to learn more: (833) 312-9572

Satellite internet is the one broadband connection type currently available to people in the rural areas of all 50 states. Serving as a solid alternative for those without access to DSL, cable or fiber internet, satellite internet involves linking a home internet modem to a satellite in space.

No, it doesn’t match the internet speed capabilities of fiber or cable connections. Still, satellite broadband can play a key role when internet access is vital (and the pandemic shed light on just how critical it is). But which of the satellite internet providers is best?

What is the best satellite internet overall?

Frankly, there aren’t a lot of choices out there for satellite internet. However, based on our analysis, we’ve deemed that Starlink boasts the greatest potential, HughesNet features the most reliable speeds and Viasat has the most versatile plans.

We know that many people in rural America lack adequate internet access. To ensure you’re getting the best broadband experience possible, we’ve carefully examined the available options, considering speeds, pricing, customer service and overall value to put together your top internet options. Here’s a quick look at how the best satellite internet providers compare.

Read more: Could 5G Home Internet Be the Answer to Your Broadband Needs?

Satellite internet providers comparison

Provider Speed range Starting monthly cost Regular monthly cost Contract Monthly equipment costs Data cap CNET review score
HughesNet 15-50Mbps download, 3Mbps upload $50-$150 $50-$175 2 years $15-$20 or $450-$550 one-time purchase 15-200GB 5.7
Starlink 25-220Mbps download, 5-25Mbps upload $90-$120; $250-$1,500 (Priority) $90-$120; $250-$1,500 (Priority) None $599 one-time purchase (or $2,500 for Priority) Unlimited; 40GB-6TB (Priority) 6.1
Viasat 12-150Mbps download, 3Mbps upload $50-$200 $70-$300 2 years $15 or $300 one-time purchase 60-500GB N/A

Source: CNET analysis of provider data.

Best satellite internet service providers

Speed range

20 – 250 Mbps

Price range

$90 – $120 per month

Our take – When eccentric billionaire Elon Musk isn’t garnering headlines for his tumultuous X antics, he’s making noteworthy progress with his company SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet project. Granted, this satellite provider is still in its early stages, but the early results shared by CNET’s own John Kim are promising.

Or call to learn more: (855) 874-8909

Check with Starlink

Speed range

20 – 250 Mbps

Price range

$90 – $120 per month

Speed range

20 – 250 Mbps

Price range

$90 – $120 per month

Starlink internet plans and prices

Provider Max download speeds Starting monthly cost Regular monthly cost Contract Data cap
Starlink Standard 100Mbps $90-$120 $90-$120 None Unlimited standard data
Starlink Priority 220Mbps $140-$1500 $140-$1500 None 40GB-6TB

Source: CNET analysis of provider data.

Price range

$50 – $150 per month

Our take – HughesNet scores strong points for its download speed consistency. Whereas other satellite internet providers’ speeds might vary from location to location, HughesNet’s max download speed — though not as fast on the top end as others — is available to all customers in all remote areas. Moreover, a Federal Communications Commission report on broadband (the last time HughesNet participated in the FCC study) noted that HughesNet fared best among all participating providers for delivering actual median download speed at 150% or higher of the advertised speed.

Or call to learn more: (877) 707-2043

Check with HughesNet

Price range

$50 – $150 per month

Price range

$50 – $150 per month

HughesNet internet plans and prices

Show more (1 item)

Source: CNET analysis of provider data.

Speed range

12 – 150 Mbps

Price range

$70 – $300 per month

Our take – Viasat satellite internet lets you choose an internet plan that best fits your needs. Those internet service plans include some slower than you’ll find with HughesNet and several faster. Packages also come with more data — up to 500GB — though, similar to HughesNet, you may find your data “deprioritized” if you exceed your monthly data allowance.

Or call to learn more: (833) 312-9572

Check with Viasat

Speed range

12 – 150 Mbps

Price range

$70 – $300 per month

Speed range

12 – 150 Mbps

Price range

$70 – $300 per month

Viasat internet plans and prices

Provider Max download speeds Starting monthly cost Regular monthly cost Contract Data cap
Choice 25 25Mbps download, 3Mbps upload $50 $70 2 years 60GB
Choice 50 50Mbps download, 3Mbps upload $70 $100 2 years 100GB
Choice 75 75Mbps download, 3Mbps upload $100 $150 2 years 150GB
Choice 100 100Mbps download, 3Mbps upload $150 $200 2 years 300GB
Choice 150 150Mbps download, 3Mbps upload $200 $300 2 years 500GB

Source: CNET analysis of provider data.

How we test satellite internet providers

Internet service providers are numerous and regional. Unlike the latest smartphone, laptop, router or kitchen tool, it’s impractical to personally test every ISP in a given city. So what’s our approach? We start by researching the pricing, availability and speed information, drawing on our own historical ISP data, the provider sites and mapping information from the Federal Communications Commission at FCC.gov.

But it doesn’t end there. We go to the FCC’s website to check our data and ensure we consider every ISP that provides service in an area. We also input local addresses on provider websites to find specific options for residents. We look at sources, including the American Customer Satisfaction Index and J.D. Power, to evaluate how happy customers are with an ISP’s service. ISP plans and prices are subject to frequent changes; all information provided is accurate as of publication.

Once we have this localized information, we ask three main questions:

  • Does the provider offer access to reasonably fast internet speeds?
  • Do customers get decent value for what they’re paying?
  • Are customers happy with their service?

While the answer to those questions is often layered and complex, the providers who come closest to “yes” on all three are the ones we recommend.

To explore our process in more depth, visit our how we test ISPs page.

How to choose a satellite internet provider

Finding the right ISP for your household is not easy. This is especially true if you live in a rural or underserved portion of the US. We recommend carefully considering your household’s activities so you can better determine the download and upload speeds necessary to meet your needs. With that knowledge, you can better tackle plan pricing that will fit your budget and broadband demands. 

For more thorough tips on finding the top internet plan for your household, check out CNET’s 10 tips to help you get the most out of your internet service.

What’s next for satellite internet providers?

Stay tuned to CNET for the latest developments with Starlink as it presses further into its plans and aims to expand its coverage

According to Ookla speed test data from Q1 of 2023, the latest available, Starlink’s median download speed in the US was 65.29Mbps, which was a 13Mbps increase from Q4 2022 to Q1 2023. Viasat was a distant second place with 36.47Mbps download speeds and HughesNet brought up the rear at 16.32Mbps. Ookla’s report mentions that Starlink users highly recommend the service and are happy with its internet connectivity — it’s safe to say that it’s beginning to change expectations of how satellite internet can perform.

It should also be mentioned that further disruption may come from another multibillionaire, Jeff Bezos, as Amazon’s Project Kuiper also aims to enter the field. While nowhere near the stage that Starlink has achieved thus far, Project Kuiper did turn some heads when its prototype delivered speeds up to 400Mbps in some iterations.

Innovations from low Earth orbit satellites will be just one piece of the puzzle of better delivering the internet to the millions of households still unable to find a reliable broadband source. We’ll keep this post updated as your options (hopefully) improve.

Are there any alternative connection types besides satellite internet?

Yes! There are many broadband connection options that may offer faster (and possibly cheaper) service than satellite internet.

Cable

Cable internet provides connection through the same cables (often a hybrid fiber and copper line) that providers use to provide TV services. It’s more reliable than satellite internet and offers faster download speeds, too. Most of the time, cable internet is bundled with TV to lure consumers into buying higher-priced packages. Companies like Cox, Spectrum and Xfinity offer cable internet.

DSL

DSL, or digital subscriber line, uses telephone lines to provide connectivity to users. Companies like AT&T, CenturyLink and Frontier offer DSL Internet. The good news is those copper lines are prevalent across the country. The not-so-good news is that download speeds typically fall short of what cable internet offers. In some cases, your speeds might even be slower than satellite internet.

Fixed wireless/5G home internet

5G home internet and fixed wireless go hand-in-hand: 5G home internet services are fixed wireless internet services. But not all fixed wireless services are 5G home internet offerings. Are you confused yet? Fixed wireless service means the connection between your provider and home is not wired. However, that fixed wireless connection can come via cellular networks (including 3G, 4G, 4G LTE and 5G) as well as by satellite. Fixed wireless networks tend to be slower and more laggy than wired connections. But the promise of 5G home internet — from companies like Starry, T-Mobile and Verizon — is speeds that compare favorably to cable connections.

Fiber

Fiber internet is the gold standard of the broadband world. Often referred to as “future proof,” fiber internet offers some of the fastest plans available and features symmetrical download and upload speeds. It’s more reliable than cable and is less prone to being affected by peak usage times or congestion. Companies like AT&T, Google and Verizon offer fiber-optic internet.

Mobile hotspots

While mobile hotspots also use cellular networks, similar to fixed wireless internet, they are not “fixed.” You can use a hotspot at multiple locations and they aren’t dependent on your home address.

Despite the wide range of options available, each connection type varies in terms of availability, pricing and speeds. Make sure to research and compare the different options to ensure you choose the one that best meets your needs and budget.

Satellite internet FAQs

Is satellite internet reliable?

In general, satellite internet is a fairly reliable internet connection option for those in rural or less urbanized areas. While it may come with slower speeds than cable and fiber internet providers, it doesn’t rely on underground wiring like other connection types, which makes it accessible to more locations. On the flip side, bad weather can cause outages or spotty connections to a greater degree than other modes of broadband.

Who is satellite internet best for?

If you live in a remote or rural location, satellite internet may be your best (and possibly only) option for connection. It is the one type of broadband available to people in the rural areas of all 50 states, making it a solid option when other types of connectivity are simply unavailable.

How much does satellite internet cost?

The price of satellite internet can fluctuate based on where you’re located. If you’re in an area where providers are still developing, the price might be higher for connectivity. For HughesNet, Viasat and Starlink, prices range from $50-$300. In some cases, like Starlink, the monthly price can vary based on whether you’re in a high-demand or low-demand area. We recommend inputting your address on various providers’ websites to determine which will offer you the best value at your specific location.

Is Starlink better than Viasat?

Potentially, yes. If you’re a current user of Starlink internet service, you’re experiencing a broadband connection with higher maximum download and upload speeds than Viasat (220Mbps/25Mbps compared to 150Mbps/3Mbps). Starlink also has lower latency than Viasat (25-50ms vs. 450-700ms), making gaming and other online activities that require fast response times much more feasible on Starlink than Viasat.

That said, many potential customers are still waiting to try Starlink. If you hop on the site now and try to get in line, you’ll be told that “some orders may take 6 months or more to fulfill,” and some parts of the country will not be serviceable until 2024. That’s remarkably unhelpful for the 14 million Americans without broadband service, per the FCC’s most recent reports.

So, where Viasat wins is its availability to over 120 million households in the US right now. Suppose you’re in a rural or underserved area with few options for internet connectivity. In that case, Viasat can get you connected, whereas Starlink may be an option down the road, but it’s not an immediate solution.

Do all satellite internet providers have data caps?

Technically, HughesNet and Viasat do not. Each claims to offer “unlimited data” because neither charges overage fees, but each has a set data limit for its plans. If you hit that data limit before your monthly billing cycle ends, there won’t be monetary penalties, but you will experience much slower, throttled speeds for the remainder of that month. So, your data may not be capped, but I would call that practice limiting. 

Starlink offers truly unlimited data to its standard users. However, that significant advantage over its competitors changed for some customers in April 2023 when Starlink introduced its own data cap for priority users. The limit is a sizable 1 terabyte of data per month (well above the data limits of HughesNet and Viasat), but it’s still a significant change from unlimited data.

Will Starlink be faster than HughesNet?

Yes. Starlink claims that customers can expect download speeds from 25 to 220Mbps. CNET’s John Kim tested the service and experienced average download speeds of around 78Mbps; Ookla clocked its median download speed in early 2023 at 65Mbps.

HughesNet, which relies on satellites in a much higher orbit than Starlink uses — which means data takes a little longer to travel back and forth — offers plans with maximum download speeds of 50Mbps. That’s faster than some of the plans available with Viasat, but no match for Starlink.

Are Telesat or OneWeb worth considering?

Although both are satellite internet service providers, Telesat is a Canadian-owned company, and OneWeb is made for those in the UK. Telesat and OneWeb are not options for US residents.

What is the best satellite internet for streaming?

Since streaming videos requires more bandwidth, the best satellite internet for streaming must have a high enough download speed to support the action. We recommend Starlink for streaming, since the max download speeds are higher than HughesNet and Viasat’s.

What is the best satellite internet for gaming?

With gaming, you’ll want a provider with lower latency. That means a shorter delay in your data getting to the game’s server and back — less lag. HughesNet and Viasat admit their services are not great for gaming, but Starlink boasts of lower lag (due to the lower orbit of its satellites) and claims that gamers can successfully use its service. CNET’s own John Kim tried gaming using Starlink’s service and was pleasantly surprised.

Is satellite internet affected by weather?

Regular weather, like sunny, cloudy or rainy skies, shouldn’t impact your internet. However, heavy thunderstorms or snow may cause interference with your signal and cause slower speeds or a temporary loss of connection. Even if the weather is fine at your location, it might not be where the satellite is located. But your internet service should return to normal as soon as the weather passes.