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 we've reviewed are viable options compared to cable Internet.
When doing our research, cost and Internet speed was at the top of our list. Satellite broadband Internet operates slightly differently than your cable Internet providers, so you want to make sure you are getting 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.
In This Guide
Key Considerations When Choosing a Satellite Internet Provider
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 orbiting 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.
A Breakdown of Satellite Internet
There are pros and cons to each type of Internet. Satellite Internet though is pretty straightforward when brokendown:
- You 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
- Convenience - 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 Weather - 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.
- Latency Can Slow Down Even the Fastest Satellite Internet Provider - 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.
- Know Your Usage - 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 - 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 - Check out our guides that 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.
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 close 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.