The best satellite Internet should provide reliable and affordable service competitive with normal Internet providers.
If you live in a rural area far away from high-speed Internet grid - and cannot make do with dial-up Internet - or are unhappy with your current Internet service provider, it's time to consider satellite broadband Internet.
Your choices may be limited, but the satellite Internet providers I've reviewed are viable options compared to cable Internet.
For those who live in remote and rural areas, satellite Internet - especially with rural high-speed internet connections - can be a lifesaver.
When doing my research, cost and Internet speed were at the top of my list. Satellite broadband Internet operates slightly differently than your cable Internet providers, so you want to make sure you are getting a good value for your dollar.
Because Internet browsing habits are based on personal preference, the decision to get satellite Internet - even high-speed satellite Internet - may vary.
Our review of the top satellite Internet providers should help you find a company that best suits your needs.
Our Top Picks
I've compiled this list of who we believe to be the best satellite Internet providers out there.
- Free Installation
- A long established provider
- Excellent range of customer service options
- Decent speeds with base package
- Excellent speeds with Power MAX plan
- Does not offer any bundled services
- Not suitable for heavy gamers due to latency
- Actual speeds are slower than advertised
A longtime player in the industry of satellite internet, HughesNet satellite Internet has been in existence for over 30 years, and currently has 2.5 million systems in place for customers across the globe. With their innovative and exclusive Gen4 technology, they boast some of the fastest speeds in satellite internet.
For watching videos, downloading files, checking email, and simply just surfing the web, their 15 Mbps speed is an excellent option, though their Gen5 technology has recently launched with 25 Mbps speeds, so if you want high-speed Internet via satellite, then you cannot go wrong with HughesNet. Considering that many of their competitors offer speeds at a significantly lesser rate, if you want exceptionally fast speed in satellite, this may be your best option.
An additional asset HughesNet offers is their Express Repair, which supplies technical support whenever you need it over the phone, 24/7. However, if the problem is not within your abilities of solving with assistance, HughesNet will dispatch a technician. However, one downside is that they do not offer any bundled services, so there is no option to save money on your service that way.
- Well known provider with a solid reputation
- High speeds with all plans
- Little difference in speed between peak and slow times
- Late night free zone for unmetered bandwidth usage
- Competitive pricing
- No standard 30 day return policy/cooling off period
- No live chat facility for customer support
As another high-speed Internet service, Exede has some great internet plans, and they offer a lot of things no one else in the satellite internet game is doing. For example, their Freedom Plan offers the closest thing to an unlimited package around. 12 Mbps is their standard download speed, with 3 Mbps as their upload speed, both being fairly speedy for this type of internet connection.
The Exede Internet service's Freedom Plan is an excellent choice for those in need of unlimited access without a data limit. Unfortunately, though, this high speed Internet plan is only available in select areas. They offer 25GB of data monthly, which is average for the industry, however, they also offer the option of purchasing additional data if need be. Conveniently, and cost-effectively, DIRECTV service can be bundled with Exede satellite Internet for added savings.
Key Considerations When Choosing a Satellite Internet Provider
Satellite Internet Providers
Whether you use it for work, education, entertainment, or shopping, the Internet forms an important part of people's daily lives these days. This is why you need to make sure you choose the right satellite Internet service provider for your needs. Some of the factors to look at when selecting a service provider or satellite Internet package include:
- Choice of packages and plans available, including bundled plans
- The speed and bandwidth available
- Cost of the services
- Features of the individual plans
- Reviews and ratings for the provider
- Reputation for customer service and troubleshooting
Other factors, such as availability, may play into your decision. If you are in an especially remote locale, your options may be further limited. For instance, if you reside in a mobile home or in an RV, you may want to purchase RV satellite Internet, but RV satellite Internet service is far from cheap. If more than one option is available to you, learn about each of them thoroughly. Find out what's available and within your budget, explore what the ideal plans are, and get a feel for what speeds, how much data, and exactly the type of service you're looking for.
Related: Dish is one satellite provider that supports RV usage. You can learn more about its TV packages with our guide, "Dish Network TV Packages."
What is Satellite Internet?
Satellite Internet uses satellites in geostationary orbit (rotating around the earth above the equator) that relays signals between ground stations that are transmitting data by radio waves and a small dish transceiver. In other words, Internet signal is sent from the provider, bounces off the satellite and is received by a dish that is placed outside a home. It takes about a fourth of a second for a signal to reach a satellite in orbit and come back. However, because of its high orbit, the satellite can reach any location, so it is a viable option for those who live in remote areas.
What a satellite subscriber needs beyond an orbit satellite is a satellite dish that is fixed facing south towards the equator. It is best to set one up high on a rooftop, balcony or pole with a clear view of the sky without obstructing trees, buildings, or telephones in the way. Inside, you will need a satellite modem that connects your network to the transceiver outside.
The satellite modem and the dish can be connected by a coaxial cable that carries electromagnetic signals and is limited to 150 feet or less in length. An Ethernet cable connects the modem and the computer. Depending on whether you use more than one device, you will probably want a wireless router as well. However, you may be at risk with your company for unauthorized use of allotted bandwidth if you use a wireless router.
If you're in a rural area, it is important to understand that, on average, high-speed Internet via satellite is about 178 times faster compared to dial-up Internet.
Satellite Internet Service: The Basics
With a number of different satellite Internet providers now offering services, it is important for anyone considering satellite Internet service to do their research. All the best satellite Internet providers, however, offer their customers these basic services:
- A high-speed Internet connection that can offer a reliable fast connection for downloads, uploads, browsing, and email.
- The Internet no longer goes through your telephone line, particularly convenient for those who are still on dial-up connections.
- The ability to play games, download movies, watch videos, and check email quickly and conveniently without annoying interruptions.
- Unlimited usage during overnight and off-peak hours.
- Great customer support that handles customer requests, concerns, questions, troubleshooting, and problems quickly, efficiently, and in a timely manner.
1. Mobile / RV Satellite Internet
Although wireless broadband coverage is always improving and many consumers are happy with traditional Internet access, good coverage still isn't available in places like far west Texas, deep in the Rocky Mountains, or in the woods of northern Maine. If you live life on the go and typically travel beyond any cellular coverage map, then satellite Internet access is an incredible option to consider.
The initial investment can be quite substantial, however. Some satellite dishes for RVs can be up to $1,000--and that doesn't include any installation fees. You'll find, though, that your investment is continually justified when your mobile satellite dish streams your favorite channels while on the road or at the campsite.
Like normal satellite Internet service, your speeds may be affected by the weather. This is certainly true for RVs, and you should be on the lookout for other obstructions like tree branches when bringing your dish off the road.
2. Unlimited Satellite Internet
If you happen to be a night owl, you're in luck since most companies offer unlimited Internet usage during late night hours. If you opt for a lower data plan and go over the limit, you will get charged some hefty amounts, so that's something you need to keep in mind. If you aren't going to be partaking in a lot of activity that requires substantial data, and you plan on checking email and doing simple browsing, a lesser data plan may be convenient for you.
Related: If you're looking for unlimited data caps throughout all time, you may want to refer to our guide, "How to Get Unlimited Internet."
3. Rural Internet
Living in the country can be blissful - except when it comes to rural Internet options. For more information, tips, and advice on how to get the best Internet deals far from urban areas, check out our handy guide on the subject.
Satellite Internet Providers by ZIP Code
If you live in a rural area, you may be one of the 76% of Americans who live in remote areas without high-speed Internet. Because of our increased reliance on the Internet, making sure you have a fast, reliable connection is important. For those who live in rural areas, satellite Internet is the proven way to offer high-speed Internet access.
Though some people who are not in remote locations opt for this method, as it often comes at a great price when bundled with other services, it is not the top choice of those who have other options.
To check if satellite Internet is offered near you, check out our handy ZIP code checker tool.
The Pros & Cons of Satellite Internet
You Get What You Pay For
While satellite Internet isn't one of the "cheapest" technologies to get Internet access, you do get what you pay for. In 2013, the FCC reported that during peak usage periods, 90% of satellite Internet users received 140% or more of the advertised speeds they were paying for.
The best satellite Internet should provide reliable and affordable service competitive with normal Internet providers
Satellite Internet service is exceptionally convenient because you are always connected to the Internet with it, unlike dial-up services. You are continuously online, and phone lines and/ or cable lines will not interfere or affect your satellite connection.
For those who live in remote and rural areas, satellite Internet can be a lifesaver, and a legitimate option for a decent, high-speed Internet option. It can be installed practically anywhere and operates without a cable or DSL connection.
The most crucial disadvantage with even with the fastest satellite Internet provider is that you are entirely at the mercy of the weather. Powerful winds, rain, moisture, and other factors based on the meteorological environment can factor into your service and the quality of the reception. In fact, according to a HughesNet satellite Internet FAQ, HughesNet Gen5 - or its high-speed internet service, requires a clear view of the southern sky.
Why a southern sky? Basically, you can tell if you can receive satellite signals via orbit satellite if you look south from your home and find nothing majorly obstructive in your view, such as a massive building or wall of trees. If there are obstructions, then you won't receive HughesNet satellite high-speed internet access.
Since satellites are more directly overhead for the southern states, northern states ones are apt to see a few more problems when bad weather occurs. Generally, there are not a lot of problems caused by weather, except in a few very heavy rainfalls. If there are a lot of problems with fading signals, it could be because the dish has not been aligned correctly, or because snow, water, or ice has built up on it. In northern states, a dish that comes with a built-in heater is needed.
If you live in a particularly prone location to weather that can be volatile and/or unpredictable, you may want to reconsider this method of Internet service.
However, it must be known that, in 2016, satellite technology is continuously being advanced and many companies have developed technologies to counter negative effects that come as a result of the weather. Be aware that cable can also go out as a result of the weather.
Latency Can Slow Down Even the Fastest Satellite Internet Provider
An additional factor to keep in mind is latency, which is a delay in transmission, also known as "ping time," as a result of using satellite technology. Simply put, latency is the time it takes for a command to produce a result. Latency also affects traditional Internet service providers but in smaller measurements. According to the FCC, satellite Internet has the highest latency across all technology types coming at an average of 628ms across all providers.
Your ability to connect relies on these signals. For satellites, latency is an even bigger issue than it is for terrestrial Internet providers because the signal has to travel much farther. For most intended purposes, satellite latency is not a deal breaker. Today, technology has gotten to a point that limits latency and allows for satellite users to experience the Internet in relatively the same way that everyone else does.
Any activity that requires low-latency will be negatively affected by satellite Internet use, however. This includes:
- Regular Web Browsing - High-speed satellite Internet is an acceptable option for web browsing, and you shouldn't notice any significant delays.
- Downloads - Download speeds are much higher than dial-up but aren't as fast as fiber optics.
- Streaming - This is something that used to be difficult with satellite but is now possible. You can stream video without many noticeable interruptions
- Gaming - Slower paced puzzle and RPG (role-playing games) can be played via satellite connections without much issue. However, competitive shooters and fighters that require quick reactions may be frustrating to play, especially if your opponent has a faster connection.
However, rural high-speed internet providers such as Exede satellite Internet offer speeds of up to 25Mbps, which is suitable for gamers, but there is one other factor to take into consideration: latency. Unfortunately, the Exede Internet service, as well as the Internet packages of all satellite providers, is known for high latency.
If you are going online to predominantly play games, download large videos, and use voice over Internet protocol (VOIP), you may find satellite Internet incapable of meeting your demand.
Read More: You may want to also look into our internet gaming guide if you're a more "hardcore" gamer.
Satellite Internet Advice
Before you make your decision, here are some final tips and words of advice to help you:
Customer service is so important! The last thing you want or need is to be left hanging when you need support, help with a problem, or have an issue that requires immediate attention. Ensure to do your research regarding this step, see how other customers rate their ability to handle customers' needs because that will give a clear indication as to whether or not you will be treated similarly.
Take Advantage of Discount Bundles
Many companies are great about offering service bundles when you add additional services onto your current tab. When it comes to satellite Internet, the most common services to be bundled with it are satellite television and voice phone services. These discounts that come as a result of bundling can save you a lot of money, both monthly and over the long term expense of maintaining separate services. We have guides further explaining the bundling of internet and TV as well as the bundling of internet and phone.
Find a Service that Works for Your Budget
It's never a good idea to just run with the first quote you're given. Shop around and get quotes from other companies offering similar services to ensure you get the optimum price for the services you need.
Satellite Internet plans vary from inexpensive to high-priced, so it is essential that you do your homework to know exactly the service you need, and at what price. It is also common for some brands to waive activation and sign-up fees when you bundle services. Affordable options are very much available in the market of satellite Internet, however, for those who are willing and able to pay more, the quality of service and availability of higher speeds is also a possibility depending on the plan chosen.
With the range of satellite Internet services on the increase this year, there is now more choice than ever for those who struggle to get standard wired Internet services. By doing your research and making the right choice, you can benefit from a solid, affordable, and reliable alternative to traditional Internet services even if you live in a hard to reach rural areas. Again, it's best that you view our side-by-side comparison tool of satellite internet access providers.
If you live closer to an urban area, satellite Internet might not be your only option. You can compare different packages in our Internet providers buyer's guide.
If you want to bundle together satellite Internet and satellite TV, check out our satellite TV buyer's guide.