The best satellite internet providers of 2023 – an honest look based on experience

Stellar connection

Satellite internet gets a bad rap for slower speeds and horrible latency. There is some truth to that, even though for many of us in rural America, satellite is one of the few options available for Internet service. The good news is that breakthroughs in satellite technology are making satellite Internet much more practical than ever. In this guide, we take a look at the best satellite internet providers available in 2023. Truth be told, there are only three options. Let’s dig right away.

Is satellite internet a good option?

Typically, satellite internet is best as a last resort for those who lack cable internet options. If you can get fixed wireless internet based on LTE or 5G, it’s usually a better choice for many users. Even options like slow DSL can often outperform traditional satellite service.

If you are like me and live in the middle of nowhere? A satellite internet provider may be your only option. I live in a heavily wooded area which means fixed wireless providers won’t connect me. There are too many trees blocking the way! I was previously using a combination of Hughesnet and Visible LTE as an unlimited hotspot to service my home. Complete with a signal booster which allowed me to get a stronger LTE signal in my home. Since then, I’ve switched to Starlink. Like other satellites, you will also get access to extremely remote areas. More crucially, you’ll actually get decent speed and latency.

The best satellite internet providers of 2023

Before looking at the three satellite service providers available in the US, let us explain a key difference between Starlink and the other two. While Viasat and Hughesnet use larger satellites that are parked much further away from Earth, Starlink instead deploys a huge network of more than 3,500 smaller satellites that orbit closer to Earth at just 324 miles, versus 22,000 miles for Viasat and Hughesnet. This shorter distance makes Starlink faster, not just in terms of download speed. The closer distance of the satellites improves something called latency.

Latency is basically the time it takes for the satellite to send information to your home connection and vice versa. The lower the latency, the better the performance. Low latency is very important for streaming services, video calling, gaming, and pretty much everything but basic browsing. As you can imagine, this makes Starlink infinitely better than its competitors. Of course, it’s not without its downsides. Let’s take a quick look at how the three compare:

Stellar connection Hughesnet via sat


Stellar connection

$120 for residential
$150 to roam
$250 for Business/Mobility


$65 for 15GB
$74.99 for 30GB
$89.99 for 100GB
$124.99 for 200GB

via sat

$50 for 60GB
$70 for 100GB
$100 for 150GB
$150 for 300GB
$200 for 500GB


Stellar connection

25-220Mbps for residential
5-220Mbps for Starlink Roam
100-220 Mbps for business/mobility


Up to 25Mbps
1-5 Mbps after the limit

via sat

25Mbps for 25GB
30Mbps for 100GB
40Mbps for 150GB
50Mbps for 300/500GB

Data limit

Stellar connection




via sat



Stellar connection




via sat


Stellar connection

starlink dish

Andrew Grush / Android Authority

Starlink is more expensive than the basic plans found with Viasat and Hughesnet, plus you need to spend at least $599 on satellite equipment $2500 for business and mobility plans. However, you are getting so much more for your money.

Starlink is capable of significantly faster speeds than its competitors, up to 220Mbps. That’s just the official number. Sometimes you’ll see speed tests go as high as 300Mbps, but that’s usually during dead hours like 3am. Upload speeds vary but are at least on par with or better than what you’d find even with Hughesnet or Viasat.

Starlink doesn’t quite compete with terrestrial options, especially high-speed fiber or cable. It comes close, though, and has fundamentally changed the way I use the internet. Previously we only had cable TV because streaming with caps wasn’t really feasible. I had to babysit my connection and carefully gauge what data I was going to use when I had Hughesnet. That’s not the case with Starlink, thanks to its unlimited data and fast speeds.

Starlink may be a satellite service, but its performance is more like terrestrial internet options with decent speed and latency.

There are several plans with Starlink, though most consumers will want to get Starlink Residential for $120 a month. If they can. While most of the western United States is now open for business, parts of the Midwest and East Coast have crowded cells and backup waiting lists. The only way to get the service is to use Starlink Roam. While it’s meant to be used for an RV, it works great at home and is actually better service than my previous options (LTE and Hughesnet).

Starlink plans also have the option to purchase priority data for $2 per gig, for times when you have priority activity and need speed to be on your side. Sure, it can also add up pretty fast, so it’s probably something you won’t use often.

As a Starlink user, I have to bring out consistency. It is true; Starlink speed tests can be anywhere. In the time I wrote this article, I ran three quick tests over a thirty minute period and came back with 77.1Mbps, 49Mbps and 13Mbps. That’s quite the range. During peaks, my Starlink Roam service can drop to 5-6Mbps, though it typically stays above 12Mbps even during congestion. Off peak, it ranges anywhere from 20 to 60 Mbps.

Those with Residential, Mobility or Business will see even better speeds. For example, my sister’s Starlink Residential service tends to average at least 15-20Mbps even during peak times, though it’s often 100Mbps or higher. Even with its inconsistencies, I’d take Starlink over my Hughesnet experience.


Hughesnet plate

Andrew Grush / Android Authority

I used Hughesnet for a few years before switching to Starlink. It certainly does the job for basic users. Unfortunately, it’s not great for certain tasks. Video calls and games are not really feasible due to delays and delays. I’ve also never had much luck with streaming. Sure, that would have worked, but the buffering was deadly. During that time, I had Dish Network for TV, as streaming wasn’t very viable.

Hughesnet is great for basic low resolution YouTube videos and basic internet browsing. Downloading files and games from Steam wasn’t all bad either. It was also perfectly useful for doing my home work (WordPress, etc.) At those tasks, it’s about as good as anything else. But beyond that, latency would get in the way.

However, if you have basic needs, it’s widely available and can still be a decent option. It’s not quite as fast as the speeds advertised by Viasats or anywhere near what Starlink brings to the table. That said, Hughenet tends to be more consistent than Viasat and is, again, easier to get hold of than Starlink Residential.

Hughesnet is good for the basics, but struggles with streaming and isn’t really suited for online gaming.

You also don’t have to pay a $599 equipment fee for Hughesnet. There’s a monthly fee for renting the satellite, but it’s easier to swallow it because it’s not all at once. You can purchase the equipment to avoid the fee, but it will cost you $499.98. Note that there is also a contract period, and you could be hit with a termination fee of up to $400 if you cancel early.

All plans have a limit ranging from 15 to 200 GB and speeds up to 25 Mbps. All plans will also have a bonus period. This gives you an extra 50GB of data each month that can be used from 2am to 8am. This is typically when my devices are running scheduled system updates or scheduling big game downloads within this window. This is a nice extra that you don’t get with Viasat.

Prices for these plans range from $65 to $125. There is a six-month promotion period where you can cut these plans down by about half, except for the basic plan. Regardless of your plan, if you need more high-speed data, you can also purchase data tokens or enjoy unlimited speeds of 1-3Mbps after the cap.

Prices for tokens will vary depending on your plan. I was often getting around 20-25Mbps, but the latency always ranged in the 650-750ms window. Starlink may get slower speeds, especially with the Roam plan, but in most cases it will still outperform traditional satellite.

via sat

Viasat logo

I have to admit that I have no personal experience here other than a few neighbors who have used Viasat. I’ve heard some good and some bad stuff.

The price is slightly better than Hughesnet and the data caps are more generous. Viasat advertises speeds of up to 50Mbps or up to 25Mbps, depending on your plan. The price of the plan ranges from $50 to $200 with limits of 60-500GB, respectively. There are also promo pricing that gets you about half off most plans for the first six months. Just like Hughesnet, you’ll need to rent your equipment or buy it outright for $300.

On paper, Viasat’s plans might sound a little better than Hughesnet’s. Please note that there is no bonus period with Viasat. Also, after you max out your limit, there’s no way to buy more high-speed data, but you’ll get slower speeds in the 1-5 Mbps range.

Consistency is also a reported problem for Viasat and, indeed, for all satellite service providers. Hughesnet makes the best of it here, though. In talking to neighbors and doing a bit of research online, I’ve found that many Viasat users report that their speeds are more likely to be in the 15-25Mbps range, except for the deadest parts of the day.

Another problem is that prices and limits can vary from region to region. For example, some Viasat regions don’t offer the fastest speeds and slow down to just 12Mbps. This makes Hughesnet plans a little easier to understand, as they are consistent from region to region.

Starlink vs Viasat vs Hughesnet: which one to choose?

Ultimately Viasat and Hughesnet provide similar experiences. It will depend on what you want to speed up, how much limit you need and what plans Viasat has in your area. Starlink offers faster service, but you’ll pay a good deal, especially if you have to use the Starlink Roam plan.

Starlink is also still an emerging technology, while Viasat and Hughesnet are more established. This may make some customers more uncomfortable with Starlink, as it is still changing. There have also been reports of slower and slower traffic as more customers arrive. And this is definitely true. Only in my opinion, it’s still worth it.

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