Viasat and HughesNet: America’s Top Two Satellite Internet Providers

Yeah, it’s basically just these two for now. If you want satellite internet in the United States, your choice is going to be either Viasat or HughesNet.

Viasat and HughesNet both offer their services to most places in all 50 states, so chances are you’re going to have to make a choice. There is SpaceX’s Starlink to consider, but it’s only in its infancy right now and not easy to get your hands on yet, so we’ll have to wait on comparing that one.

HughesNet and Viasat are very strong competitors in the race to be the best satellite internet provider in the United States. Viasat does boast the highest download speeds and data allowances (as we’ll discuss more in depth later), but these top plans aren’t available everywhere. Where you live, the plans offered by these two companies might be much closer in quality of performance.

Thus more information is needed. Read below to learn what you need to know to choose between America’s top satellite internet providers.

Viasat vs HughesNet: plans

If you want to save money on internet and are looking for a basic plan, at first glance you’ll choose Viasat easily. Viasat’s lowest plan, which gives you 12 Mbps, comes in at $30, which is half the price of HughesNet’s cheapest plan, which gives you 25 Mbps for $60. If your goal is to save money on your monthly internet bill, Viasat seems like the best solution. However, when you realize that $30 is the promotional price that only lasts three months and that the price after that goes up to $50, you might consider paying the extra $10 per month for the higher download speed of the HughesNet plan.

This is normal for all Viasat plans. The price is discounted by $20-$50 per month for the first three months, and then the price goes back up to normal. This is a great deal, but it’s important to be aware of it when comparing prices. After the three months, the price will remain locked for the rest of the 24-month contract. HughesNet prices will remain the same for the entire 24 months.

That comparison is a good place to start, but it’s only looking at the smallest plan of each provider. There are a lot of other factors that need to be considered. Possibly one of the biggest differences between the two is data allowances. Satellite internet is pretty limited by the total amount of data its satellites can transfer at one time, so satellite internet providers usually balance this limitation by giving their customers data allowances, the amount of data you can use each month before experiencing slower speeds. When it comes to data, Viasat is king. You can use more internet for longer without fear of running out before the end of the month. With both providers you can purchase extra data at the end of the month. HughesNet’s extra data packages are cheaper than Viasat’s and HughesNet comes with the benefit of having bonus data that can be used in its Bonus Zone between 2 a.m. and 8 a.m., which is really helpful, but having more base data with Viasat means you can use your data any time you want and for no extra cost.

Depending on where you live, your choice could be even easier. Viasat’s best internet plans aren’t available everywhere, but where they are available, they offer up to 100 Mbps download speeds and many times more data than the best HughesNet plans. If you live in one of these areas, Viasat is the easy choice. If your area only has access to Viasat’s slowest plan, it’s a tougher decision.

Provider Prices Download Speed Phone Number
Viasat $30-$150/mo for first 3 months
$50-$200/mo after first 3 months
12-100 Mbps 866-951-2781
HughesNet $59.99–$149.99/mo 25 Mbps 855-849-8799

Who’s Plans Are Better?

Are you looking for performance? Viasat’s plans are better. Viasat’s fastest plans leave HughesNet in the dust. On top of that, those top plans can come with up to six times the data of HughesNet’s top plans, and for comparable prices. If you live in a location with access to Viasat’s fastest services and you need satellite internet that can keep up with your high-speed online activities, Viasat is the easy choice.

Are you looking for affordable low-performance internet? HughesNet is slightly better. Though Viasat’s cheapest plan is still $10 cheaper per month than HughesNet’s, is that really worth operating at only half the speed? You might think so, but we’re going to choose the extra 13 Mbps for just a few bucks more. If you want the best plan available for $60 or less, HughesNet is the winner.

These choices are based on just a few factors. Let’s take a look at some more information so we can make a more informed decision.

More About Viasat

Where HughesNet offers only a few different plans, all with the same download speed, Viasat offers a variety of plans to meet each customer’s specific needs. Take a look at the Viasat plans in the table below.

Plan Price (for first 3 months) Speed Data Allowance
Basic 12 $40/mo. Up to 12 Mbps 15 GB
Liberty 12 $30/mo. Up to 12 Mbps 12 GB
Liberty 25 $50/mo. Up to 12 Mbps 25 GB
Liberty 50 $75/mo. Up to 12 Mbps 50 GB
Unlimited Bronze 12 $50/mo. Up to 12 Mbps up to 80 GB
Unlimited Bronze 25 $70/mo. Up to 25 Mbps 35 GB
Unlimited Silver 25 $70/mo. Up to 25 Mbps up to 120 GB
Unlimited Gold 12 $150/mo. Up to 12 Mbps 65 GB
Unlimited Gold 30 $100/mo. Up to 30 Mbps up to 100 GB
Unlimited Gold 50 $100/mo. Up to 50 Mbps up to 200 GB
Unlimited Platinum 100 $150/mo. Up to 100 Mbps up to 300 GB

Viasat’s wide variety of offerings means there’s something for everyone. Visit the Viasat website to see which plans are available in your area. These prices are the initial price for the first three months of service. After the three-month promotional period, prices will go up by $20 to $50. All plans come with a 24-month contract unless you pay an upfront No Long-Term Contract fee.

The data caps listed are the highest available for those plans. Many of the plans come with a choice of data allowance so you can choose the amount that will make your data last all month long. All Viasat plans come with unlimited data, in a sense, but if you use up your data cap, your data will be deprioritized behind users who are still below their monthly data cap. This will result in slower speeds when network traffic is heavy.

If you run out of data, you can purchase extra to keep your internet running at full speed. Unfortunately, when you end a monthly billing cycle with leftover data, it doesn’t carry over into the next month. We’ll discuss this more in a later section.

Each Unlimited Plan above limits your video streaming quality to help you save your data allowance through the month.

By upgrading to a better package, not only do you get faster speeds and more data, but you unlock the ability to stream at higher qualities. Just be careful not to use your data up too quickly with all your HD streaming!

More About HughesNet

HughesNet’s plans all come with a 25Mbps download speed but with different data allowances.

Plan Price Speed Data Allowance
10 GB Data Plan $59.99/mo. 25 Mbps 10 GB
20 GB Data Plan $69.99/mo. 25 Mbps 20 GB
30 GB Data Plan $99.99/mo. 25 Mbps 30 GB
50 GB Data Plan $149.99/mo. 25 Mbps 50 GB

As you can see, HughesNet doesn’t have as many options as Viasat nor does it offer the same max speeds. HughesNet’s 25 Mbps download speed meets the minimum requirement to classify as broadband internet.

HughesNet’s low data allowances are one of the first things that stand out. These numbers are much lower than Viasat’s. However, this is improved slightly by the fact that every plan comes with 50 GB of bonus data that can only be used during the Bonus Zone, 2 a.m. to 8 a.m. If you’re willing to do some of your downloading and surfing early in the morning, you can help your monthly data allowance last a little bit longer.

Like Viasat, once you pass your monthly data cap, your internet speeds will slow down. HughesNet says post-data-cap speeds are usually around 1 to 3 Mbps, not quite enough for a decent streaming experience but enough to browse the internet and check email. HughesNet also offers additional data for purchase to keep your priority speed going a little longer. This purchased data can carry over into the next month.

HughesNet plans don’t come with a discount the first three months, but their prices are already a bit lower than Viasat’s. You will pay the same price for the entire 24 months of your contract. But the low data allowances still means you're getting less for your money. When considering per GB prices, Viasat comes out to be the better deal.

What about Starlink?

Okay, let’s take a brief moment to talk about SpaceX’s Starlink and other upcoming satellite internet providers. We’re as excited as you are to see what is going to be offered, but because Starlink is so new, it’s hard to say exactly what it will look like in the future. So far, Starlink is providing high speeds and very low latency (for satellite internet), but it’s currently unavailable to the masses. Signing up for Starlink now will put you on a list that could have you waiting months before getting to try out the current beta version.

There are currently about 1,500 Starlink satellites in low earth orbit that make up the Starlink constellation and SpaceX has plans to increase this number up to potentially 42,000. Services are still not widely available but they are expanding. During the beta phase, Starlink costs $99 and provides unlimited data at over 100 Mbps, but this could change as the number of users increases.

Okay, Back to Viasat and HughesNet: Pros and Cons

Viasat HughesNet
  • More data
  • Faster speeds
  • Built-in Wi-Fi
  • Discount for first three month
  • Lower long-term price
  • Purchased data tokens carry into next month
  • Built-in Wi-Fi
  • Bonus Zone
  • No data carryover
  • 2-year contract required
  • Speed limited to 25 Mbps
  • Low data limits
  • 2-year contract required

A Closer Look

Download Speeds
Even though Viasat offers a 100Mbps plan and a few others that surpass HughesNet’s standard 25 Mbps, that doesn’t mean Viasat is necessarily your fastest option. Because different satellite beams service different areas, it’s possible you will only have access to Viasat’s slowest plans, or less likely, no plan at all. Because of this, you will need to check with both Viasat and HughesNet customer service, or check their websites, to see which plans service your location.

But the download speed isn’t the only stat that will affect your internet’s performance. If your data allowance is too low, you will pass it early in your billing cycle, leaving you with a measly few Mbps. Having a plan with a higher download speed won’t help you in that situation. Therefore it’s important to choose a plan with enough data to last you all month long.

Latency is the time it takes for a signal to arrive at its destination and then receive a response. Satellite internet is known for having high latency. With the signal traveling all the way up into space and back, and then taking the same route again on the way back, it’s no surprise that HughesNet and Viasat both have latency around 600 milliseconds. With their satellites 22,000 miles above the earth, it’s impressive that the message is getting to its destination and back in less than a second, but it’s still much higher than other internet types. When it comes to latency, HughesNet and Viasat are pretty equal.

If you are looking for low-latency satellite internet, keep your eyes out for Starlink. As it develops, it will become more and more available.

Satellite internet isn’t limited by the need to build infrastructure wherever you want to provide service. Land-based internet services require network stations and wires reaching all their customers. With satellite internet, the infrastructure is already installed, 22,000 miles in space. This means it can reach pretty much any location under its vast reach. Both HughesNet and Viasat offer this vast reach that provides internet service to most places in all 50 states. However, different locations will have access to different satellite beams and thus have access to different service plans.

As it stands, Viasat is considered the more technologically advanced between the two satellite internet providers. HughesNet’s latest addition to its team of satellites was EchoStar XIX, launched in 2016. But it is surpassed by the state-of-the-art Viasat-2 launched by Viasat in 2017. But this balance could easily be shifting as both companies are investing in great technological advances in the coming years.

HughesNet is now in partnership with OneWeb, a company aiming at providing broadband satellite internet to every corner of the globe. Together they hope to use low-Earth orbit satellites to bring higher speeds and lower latencies to rural internet users. Satellite internet usually has latencies around 600 milliseconds. This is much higher than the latencies of land-based internets, which are often under 30 milliseconds, but low-Earth orbit satellites will be able to significantly improve satellite internet latency, potentially bringing it as low as many cable or fiber services.

Additionally, HughesNet hopes to launch a new satellite, Jupiter-3, in 2022. With this new technology HughesNet will be able to provide more coverage and faster speeds.

But Viasat is also growing. Viasat has plans to launch their newest satellite constellation, Viasat-3, in 2022. This trio of satellites will improve performance and increase reach, providing satellite internet coverage to all 7 continents and even the oceans!

With both companies making such large investments in improving their technology, it’s hard to say who will be on top in the future. We’ll have to keep watching and see how they grow in the coming years.

Most internet services have no data caps. Use as much data as you want with no extra charges and no throttling. But satellite internet is unique in that data allowances are the norm. Both Viasat and HughesNet come with unlimited data, but your speeds will suffer if you surpass your plans data cap.

Both Viasat and HughesNet offer the chance to purchase extra data on top of your plan’s base monthly data. Though HughesNet typically comes with less data than Viasat, it’s easier to purchase and use the extra data that HughesNet offers. HughesNet’s Data Tokens are cheaper than the bonus data offered by Viasat. Additionally, extra purchased data from HughesNet will rollover into the next month. Not so with extra data purchased from Viasat.

Viasat Data Allowances
Viasat comes with internet plans that offer very large amounts of data. It should be enough for all your internet needs in the month. But if you do go over your limit, your internet speeds will be prioritized behind customers who haven’t used their monthly data allowance yet. This will result in slower speeds during heavy internet congestion.

Some Viasat plans offer the ability to purchase extra data (unfortunately not the Unlimited Plans). If you need more data before your next billing cycle begins, just visit the Viasat website or use the Viasat app. Here you can buy more data that will give you back the speeds you originally signed up for. But be careful not to buy too much. This data won’t carry over into the next month, so make sure to only buy what you need. Below are Viasat’s extra data prices:

HughesNet Data Allowances
Data allowance is the only difference between the HughesNet plans. They vary from 10 GB per month up to 50 GB per month. Once you pass this data allowance, you’re going to be dealing with speeds between 1 and 3 Mbps until the next month.

But HughesNet also offers the ability to purchase extra data for all of its accounts. This extra data is purchased in the form of Data Tokens. The prices are reasonable, and definitely better than Viasat. 10 GB of HughesNet data is going to cost you $30, where as with Viasat you’ll be dropping $95 for the same amount. That’s over triple the price! And as a bonus, the extra data you purchase will rollover into the next month!

Let’s take a look at HugheNet’s data tokens:

How Do HughesNet and Viasat Help Us Make the Most of Our Data?

Both companies know that staying under the data cap is really important to their customers. This is why they both provide tools to help your internet keep going strong all month long.

HughesNet’s Bonus Zone
Every HughesNet plan comes with 50 GB of bonus data that can only be used during the Bonus zone, 2 a.m. and 8 a.m. Any data you use during this time (up to 50 GB) will not be added to your monthly data usage.

If you have large downloads or other data-heavy activities, doing them during the Bonus Zone is a great way to save your data. A great tip is to download shows during this time to watch offline later.

Viasat’s free zone
The newest Viasat plans come with larger amounts of data, and therefore don’t offer a free zone anymore. When Viasat was under the name Exede, plans included a free zone early in the morning where customers could use as much data as they wanted without adding to their monthly data total.

HughesNet’s Video Data Saver
Because video streaming is one of the easiest ways to use up all your monthly data, HughesNet provides a builtin Video Data Saver. The Video Data Saver automatically adjusts the quality of incoming video streams down to 480p, which is DVD quality. This will save loads of GBs to make sure your internet lasts all month long.

If you do want to occasionally stream in HD, you can always disable the Video Data Saver in your account settings.

Viasat’s Video Data Extender
The Video Data Extender was a tool for limiting the amount of data used for streaming. Like the Free Zone, new plans don’t offer this anymore. However, Viasat has taken a different approach with newer plans. Depending on the level of plan you choose, video quality will automatically be limited in order to save data. You can always further limit video quality manually by changing the settings in whatever streaming tool you use.

HughesNet vs. Viasat: Equipment

Both HughesNet and Viasat will send a professional technician to install all the necessary equipment for your satellite internet service. Each comes with a few options for how to pay for the equipment.

Viasat equipment fees
You will have to use the equipment Viasat provides in order to use its service. That’s not a problem, though, as they will provide everything you need. Viasat’s equipment is optimized to work with its satellites to give you the best satellite internet possible.

Viasat does not offer an option for buying their equipment, but gives you two leasing options. The first option is to pay $12.99 per month. The second option is to pay a lifetime leasing fee of $299.99. This option allows you to use the equipment for no extra fee as long as you need it, but you will still need to return it when you cancel your account.

The total cost of leasing by the month for an entire 24-month contract is $239.76. This is cheaper than the lifetime lease fee. But if you plan on using the Viasat service for at least six months longer than the original contract, you’ll save money in the long run by choosing the upfront lifetime leasing fee.

As long as you have approved credit, all installation is free with Viasat.

HughesNet equipment fees
HughesNet offers you the option of purchasing the equipment. This is an option worth considering, but it does carry a large upfront cost.

If you want to lease the equipment, you will pay a one time lease activation fee of $99.99. You will then pay $14.99 per month for as long as you use HughesNet internet. Installation is free with this option. If you choose to purchase your equipment, the price of equipment plus the cost of installation will set you back $449.99. That sounds like a ton! But with the leasing option, you’ll be paying a total of $459.75. Not only does the buying option save you money in your two years of use, you also get to keep the equipment afterward. If you have the money handy, we recommend the buying option.

The Comparison
Leasing Viasat equipment is $12.99 per month. Leasing HughesNet equipment is an upfront $99.99 plus $14.99 per month.

Lifetime use of Viasat equipment costs $299.99. Purchasing HughesNet equipment costs $449.99.

This difference is enough to tip the scales on the lower-end plans. If you lease your equipment, your 2-year total price (equipment plus service) with Viasat will be $1,379.76. With HughesNet, you’ll be dropping $1,899.51. That’s more than a $500 difference.

HughesNet vs. Viasat: Business Internet

Businesses have different internet needs than homes. If you have a business in a rural area, you’re probably looking for fast, reliable satellite internet solutions that provide extra layers of security beyond what home internet can offer.

Viasat has business internet plans that range from 12 to 100 Mbps and $50 to $500 per month. HughesNet’s business internet services offer the standard 25 Mbps at prices of $49.99 to $149.99 per month for the first six months and then $69.99 to $199.99 thereafter.

Do HughesNet or Viasat Offer Satellite TV?

Viasat and HughesNet both focus the entirety of their bandwidth on providing quality internet to their customers. This means their satellite dishes won’t be able to get you satellite TV. But we still encourage it. Installing satellite TV through a satellite TV provider is a great way to reduce the data used from streaming on your Viasat or HughesNet internet.

HughesNet doesn’t offer any internet/TV bundling deals at the moment, but if you bundle Viasat with DIRECTV, you can pay for them in one easy bill each month and get a $10 monthly discount on the total.

Let’s compare the two biggest satellite TV providers, DISH and DIRECTV.

Price: $42.99 - $99.99
Channels: 190-290, with options to add additional channels
DVR Storage: 125-500 HD hours (500 with the Hopper 3 DVR)

DISH comes in with less channels than DIRECTV, but at a lower price. It’s channels may be fewer but many consider DISH to be the better provider of children’s programming. If you have little ones, that’s an important consideration.

DISH also provides the Hopper 3 DVR, which boasts 2TB of storage space and 4K HD video quality. This is better than DIRECTV’s DVR offering, but will set you back an extra $15 per month.

Price: $64.99 - $134.99
Channels: 160-330, with options to add additional channels
DVR Storage: 200 HD hours

If you want more channels, then DIRECTV is the option for you, especially if what you’re looking for is sports. But extra channels come at a price. DIRECTV comes in at a higher price than DISH and increases after just one year of use (DISH prices are subject to change after 2 years).

DIRECTV’s DVR game is decent, but can’t compare with the one offered by DISH. DIRECTV comes with a Genie DVR that holds 200 hours of HD content. The plus side to Genie is that it’s free.

HughesNet vs. Viasat: the Verdict

As we’ve seen today, both have some great things going for them. They’re bringing tough competition, which doesn’t make our decision easy, but if we had to choose, we’re going with Viasat.

Though HughesNet might be close when considering the smaller plans, Viasat offers greater overall performance for comparable prices. Their download speeds and large data allowances make Viasat services a solution more suitable for the modern internet user.

What Are the Benefits of Viasat Internet vs HughesNet Satellite Internet?

Call:  1-855-690-9884

Satellite internet makes the impossible, possible. Satellite internet brings high speed internet to those living in even the most remote areas. New technology and more sophisticated satellites have recently made satellite internet competitive to DSL and cable internet in both speed and price. HughesNet and Exede (recently rebranded as Viasat) are currently the two biggest satellite internet providers. By comparing HughesNet internet packages with Exede internet packages, we will help you decide which provider fits your needs best. HughesNet satellite internet customer service was rated equal to Exede's-some customers were dissatisfied with each. Let's compare HughesNet and Exede satellite internet service on speed, data and price.

Call and Get $250 Off  Satellite Internet! 1-855-690-9884

One of the biggest differences between HughesNet satellite internet plans and Exede internet plans is speed vs. data. All eligible new HughesNet plans come with up to 25 Mbps download speeds. Recently HughesNet upgraded its satellite, now the Gen5 instead of the Gen4. HughesNet plans are priced based on data usage per month. Exede's newest internet packages offer the opposite deal, unlimited data for all customers. Viasat internet plan prices are based on internet speeds.

How does HughesNet satellite internet work?

HughesNet Gen4 satellite internet service works the same as the Gen5 and Exede. It uses a small satellite that is installed outside of the home. This small satellite sends signals to one of the satellites orbiting in space. The signal is sent from the orbiting satellite to the satellite hub located at the HughesNet provider, where the connection is made, and then sent back the same way that it came.

How fast is HughesNet satellite internet?

HughesNet speeds increased dramatically with the launch of the Gen5 satellite, which gives 25 Mbps internet to all new customers, and those who upgraded. HughfaesNet Gen4 satellite internet offered speeds from 5 to 15 Mbps. HughesNet Gen4 satellite internet plans were less desirable than the Gen5. Customers complained about slow speeds. The launch of the Gen5 gave customers the speeds they desired at reasonable prices that are competitive with Exede's latest plans.

How much is HughesNet satellite internet?

HughesNet plans start at $49.99/month for 10 GB of data. All new plans are for a 24-month contract, and include up to 25 Mbps download speeds, around 3 Mbps upload speeds. If data limits are exceeded during the month, speeds are reduced (typically to around 1-3 Mbps) until the next billing period. Customers are given an extra 50 GB/month of data to use during "off peak" hours from 2 a.m.- 8 a.m.


10 GB data for $49.99/month
20 GB data for $69.99/month (current offer reduces price to $59.99 for 24 months)
30 GB data for $99.99/month (current offer reduces price to $79.99 for 24 months)
50 GB data for $129.99/month (current offer reduces price to $99.99 for 24 months)

How does Exede compare?

Exede satellite internet packages appeal to those who use large amounts of data. All Exede internet data plans are unlimited for new customers, which is very appealing for customers who plan to use more than 30 GB of data per month during peak hours. HughesNet does not offer an unlimited plan. If you go over data, your speed will be reduced.

Exede internet plans and pricing:

12 Mbps Download speeds for $70/month (50$/month for the first three months)
25 Mbps Download speeds for $100/month (70$/month for the first three months)
35 Mbps Download speeds for $150/month (100$/month for the first three months)

Exede internet and bundle packages make the plans even more attractive for customers who also want TV. Customers save $10/month when building with Direct TV, which is $29.99/month for 12 months or $39.99 for the Sunday ticket.

Exede is being rebranded as Viasat, the parent company. It will not change customer's service. In early 2018, Viasat will be launching a new satellite which will increase speeds and coverage. Viasat Exede internet reviews were positive, but the FCC found speeds to be on average lower than advertised, while HughesNet was found to be faster than advertised.

Viasat internet reviews were positive about the data plans. The unlimited data is ideal for heavy internet users, especially those streaming. The 12 Mbps plan is slower than the starting plan for HughesNet, and only supports streaming for small screens, like smartphones. Viasat satellite internet reviews were positive for the larger data plans and their speeds for unlimited internet. Customers can use large amounts of data without worrying about speed throttling.

Viasat internet service reviews can vary based on location, as with HughesNet. Viasat satellite internet reviews should be more positive once the new satellite is launched. This will give higher speeds to more customers, and increase reliability. New unlimited data plans are not available to all customers. Where the unlimited plans aren't offered, customers can choose the Liberty. Viasat Liberty internet reviews are positive for customers who use the data during the day, not during peak hours from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Customers are given set amounts of "priority data" to use, and then once the data limit is reached, speeds are reduced. It is very similar to HughesNet plans, but the speeds vary from 12 Mbps to 25 Mbps.

HughesNet Vs. Exede

HughesNet is the best provider for those eligible for the Gen5 plan who do not use large amounts of data. Exede is the best provider for customers who use large amounts of data (more than 30 GB of data per month), if they can choose the faster download plans.

Comparing HughesNet and Viasat

For a long time these two have been at the top of the satellite internet competition in rural America. Which one is the better choice?

Land-based internet services have all but forgotten internet users living in remote areas, leaving many of these people with satellite internet as their only option. Satellite internet has long been viewed as a slower, less reliable, more expensive option when compared to fiber and cable. Even modern DSL providers can sometimes top satellite internet’s performance.

However, satellite internet has come a long way in the past two decades. It may not have caught up with cable or fiber internet, but its improved performance, along with its unparalleled ability to reach customers pretty much anywhere, make satellite internet a decent choice. If you are looking at satellite internet, your options are basically Viasat or HughesNet. (SpaceX’s Starlink is up-and-coming, but it’s only in its beta phase and not fully available to the public.) Choosing between Viasat and HughesNet is more than just a preference. There are key differences between the two that are worth looking at in detail. With a little more information, the decision could be much easier than before.

HughesNet vs. Viasat: Availability

Both of these providers are available basically everywhere in the United States. These are the only two internet service providers who can make this claim. Wire-based internet service providers rely on miles of connected infrastructure to connect to all of their customers. Satellite internet on the other hand already has all the necessary infrastructure installed... 22,000 miles above the earth. The only thing needed to receive the signals from the satellites is a dish installed at your home or office. As long as your dish can find a clear view of the southern sky, you won’t have a problem getting satellite internet basically anywhere in the 50 states.

HughesNet vs. Viasat: Plans and Pricing

With both providers you can customize your service by selecting the plan that fits your internet needs. Let’s take a look at what’s available and how much it’s going to cost.

HughesNet Plans

Plan Max speeds Starting price Price after 6 months Data allowance
Gen5 25Mbps download, 3Mbps upload $40/mo. $60/mo. 10GB
Gen5 25Mbps download, 3Mbps upload $50/mo. $70/mo. 20GB
Gen5 25Mbps download, 3Mbps upload $80/mo. $100/mo. 30GB
Gen5 25Mbps download, 3Mbps upload $130/mo. $150/mo. 50GB

Viasat Plans

Plan Max speeds Starting price Price after 3 months Data allowance
Unlimited Bronze 12 12Mbps download, 3Mbps upload $50/mo. $70/mo. 15-80GB
Unlimited Bronze 25 25Mbps download, 3Mbps upload $70/mo. $100/mo. 35GB
Unlimited Silver 25 25Mbps download, 3Mbps upload $70/mo. $100/mo. 60-120 GB
Unlimited Gold 30 30Mbps download, 3Mbps upload $100/mo. $150/mo. 100-200 GB
Unlimited Gold 50 50Mbps download, 3Mbps upload $100/mo. $150/mo. 100-200 GB
Unlimited Platinum 100 100Mbps download, 3Mbps upload $150/mo. $200/mo. 150-300GB

As you’ll notice, promotional pricing doesn’t last long for either provider. HughesNet’s discount only lasts 6 months, and Viasat’s is even worse at only 3 months. You’ll also notice that Viasat offers a wider variety of plans. There are even plans not listed here that could be available depending on your location. HughesNet has 4 plans, all with the same speeds, just different amounts of data. All plans above require a 2-year contract.

Comparing prices also requires us to look at additional fees, though we’ll take a closer look later. HughesNet starts with a $99.99 lease activation fee, plus $14.99 per month for equipment. Viasat on the other hand is just $9.99 per month to rent the equipment. With HughesNet you can also opt to purchase the equipment, which will cost $449.99 including installation. With Viasat, you can’t purchase the equipment but you can lease it for life for $299.99.

Viasat Offers Speed

If speed is what you’re looking for, Viasat is the best option. HughesNet doesn’t have any plans that pass 25Mbps. Even its most expensive plan has the same speed cap, just with a few extra GBs of data allowance. Viasat has several plans over 25 Mbps, including its Unlimited Gold 50, which offers 50Mbps download speeds, and its Unlimited Platinum 100, which at 100 Mbps is the fastest satellite internet plan widely available today.

But not all Viasat plans will be available in your area. Depending on your location, you may not have access to the Unlimited Platinum 100 plan or the Unlimited Gold 50 plan. It’s possible the 25 Mbps offered by HughesNet is the best option for you in your location. You can input your address into the Viasat website to see what plans are available to you.

The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) defines broadband as at least 25 Mbps download speeds and 3 Mbps upload speeds. This was a decent internet speed several years ago when the definition was created, but it is no longer that impressive. HughesNet plans technically are classified as broadband, but modern internet speeds typically surpass that benchmark.

HughesNet vs. Viasat: Unlimited Data

While both internet providers boast of giving their customers unlimited data, you may have noticed that all the plans listed above have a “data allowance”. So what’s up with that?

The truth is that both providers do indeed provide unlimited data, but it’s not the kind you want most. You can’t just stream 4K movies all day every day with no consequences. What both companies mean by unlimited data is two things. First, your internet will never stop. When you reach your monthly data allowance, your connection to the internet will not suddenly be broken. Second, you won’t be surprised by any overage fees. If you go over your data allowance, whatever you use after that will still be included in your plan and you won’t receive any extra charges.

But the downside of HughesNet’s and Viasat’s versions of unlimited data is that your speeds will be slowed after you pass your plan's data allowance. For HughesNet, that means 1 to 3 Mbps until the beginning of your next billing cycle, when it will go back up to 25 Mbps. For Viasat, that means internet speeds will be prioritized for those who haven’t passed their data allowance, meaning slower speeds for those who have, especially during heavier network traffic.

Looking at the chart, Viasat has the clear advantage when it comes to data allowance. HughesNet’s most expensive plan maxes out at only 50 GB. That’s measly compared to modern internet demand. Viasat offers up to 300 GB, which is much more respectable. These top Viasat plans may not be available where you live, but even the lower level plans have data options that are higher than HughesNet’s best option.

However, there are a couple things that help HughesNet out a little here. First, HughesNet plans come with Bonus Data that can be used during the Bonus Zone. Every HughesNet plan comes with an additional 50 GB of data that can only be used in the morning between 2 a.m. and 8 a.m. If you’re an early riser or are able to schedule large downloads for morning hours, that 50 GB could be really helpful at keeping you below your monthly limit. In addition, you can also purchase bonus data with HughesNet. If you are approaching your monthly limit and don’t want the throttled speeds, you can purchase extra GBs to maintain your plan’s performance. Doing this every month can get expensive, but it’s nice to have the option. These features give HughesNet a small boost, but we’d still rather just have a plan with more data to begin with.

A Closer Look at Additional Fees

Satellite internet pretty much always comes with higher equipment and installation fees. This is unavoidable, as satellite equipment is very expensive and must be fine-tuned to most efficiently communicate with the satellites. You also don’t have the option to use your own equipment with Viasat or HughesNet as you might have with other internet providers.

Installation Fees

Signing up for satellite internet is going to be much more expensive the first month. That’s because there are some additional fees that come with setting up your equipment. With Viasat, installation will cost $99.99. In some locations, it is possible to apply for free installation with an accompanying credit check, but this option isn’t available to everyone.

With HughesNet, installation fees depend on whether you buy or lease the equipment. If you lease, installation is free, but you will have to pay a $99.99 lease activation fee. If you buy, installation will cost $199.99.

Monthly Equipment Fees

You will have to use the modem, router, and satellite dish provided by Viasat or HughesNet. This is going to add to your cost. With Viasat, you can pay $12.99 per month to lease the equipment on a monthly basis, or you can pay $299.99 up front to lease the equipment for life, but you will still have to return it whenever you cancel your service. Every plan requires a 2-year contract, so as long as you plan on using your equipment for at least 6 months past the contract time, you’ll save money by choosing the lifetime leasing option.

With HughesNet, you can choose to lease the equipment for $14.99 per month (plus the $99.99 lease activation fee), or you can purchase the equipment for $249.99 (plus the $199.99 installation fee). Though purchasing the equipment costs a lot of money, it will actually be cheaper than leasing, even if you only use HughesNet for the 24 months that are required.

Early Termination Fees

As we’ve discussed, both Viasat and HughesNet plans require you to sign up for 2 years. You may terminate the contract early, but it could be costly. With Viasat, this will cost you $15 for every month remaining in your contract. If you have the full 24 months left, that’s $360. If you have 12 months left, that’s $180.

With HughesNet, your early termination fee will be $400 if you cancel within the first 90 days and $15 less for every month after that. If you cancel with 12 months left, that will cost you $265.

Viasat offers the option of a no-contract service, but this will cost you $300 up front. This will save you $60 if you cancel your service immediately after starting, but most likely it will end up costing you extra.

HughesNet vs. Viasat: Customer Satisfaction

The American Customer Satisfaction Index helps rank the ways customers feel about different businesses and industries. Unfortunately, while Viasat and HughesNet were both included in the data, the 2021 rankings do not show separate information for the two ISPs. However, numbers for the satellite internet industry were pretty low.

This performance holds consistent with previous years. In 2020, the J.D. Power US Residential Internet Service Provider Satisfaction Study did include HughesNet in its comparison of ISPs in the south. Unfortunately, it only came out with a score of 620 on a scale that goes up to 1,000, which put it in last place.

But all of this needs to be taken with a grain of salt. A lot of customer dissatisfaction comes from unrealistic expectations toward the satellite internet industry. Satellite internet has the plus side of being able to reach pretty much any individual, but shooting internet signals into and out of space affects the speeds, data limits, and latency of the services. Many are unhappy that the performance doesn’t match their experience with cable or fiber internet, which isn’t a realistic expectation.

Aware of these shortcomings, innovative tech giants like Elon Musk’s SpaceX are looking to low-earth orbit satellites. These satellites stay much closer to earth with an altitude of around 340 miles instead of 22,000 miles. This will significantly increase speed and decrease latency. While SpaceX’s Starlink is partially functional already, it has limited availability for now.

The Verdict

While both have their pluses and their minuses, we lean a little toward Viasat here. With its higher speeds and much higher data allowances, we are going to be more satisfied using a Viasat internet service. Not all Viasat plans are going to be available in your location, though, so it’s possible HughesNet could be your best option, and that option isn’t going to be that bad. The best way to decide is to visit their websites, put in your address, and see what plans each has to offer in your location.

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