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Find Satellite Internet for Your Home

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If you’re relocating to a remote area of the United States, you might be moving outside of your previous internet provider’s reach. Looking for a new internet service provider (ISP) might have just moved to the top of your moving checklist. But moving to a rural area might mean that you’re beyond the reach of a wired internet connection, eliminating most cable and fiber providers, and making satellite internet your top choice.

What is satellite internet?

As the name suggests, satellite internet providers connect you to the internet through dedicated satellites that transmit and receive data while orbiting in space.

Internet satellites are geostationary, which means that they maintain their location relative to Earth by orbiting the planet exactly once every 24 hours. ISPs using these geostationary satellites are able to provide coverage almost everywhere in the country, offering service to rural areas that might have previously been limited to dial-up internet.

Despite the signals beaming into and back from space, the experience of using satellite internet is the same as using any other type of connection. However, you will need different hardware to connect to service.

How does satellite internet work?

In addition to your modem and router (or combination device that does both), you’ll also need a satellite dish. Internet satellites use spot beams to transmit signals to specific parts of the country, and your satellite dish must be carefully positioned to bring in the proper signal. In most cases, satellite internet providers will send a technician to position your dish for you.

When you connect to the internet, data is transmitted back and forth between your dish, the satellite orbiting the Earth, and your provider’s network operations center (NOC). The NOC uses a much larger dish to support its customers, and it also connects to the backbone of the internet to send and receive the data you request.

Note that satellite internet speeds are not high when compared to options such as fiber-optic or cable. High-speed satellite internet, offered through Viasat, is 30 Mbps. By comparison, HughesNet offers 25 Mbps service. Satellite speeds tend to be faster than those of traditional DSL, which hover around 15 Mbps. But some wired connections can reach internet speeds of 500 Mbps (cable) and 1 Gbps (fiber).

Satellite internet near me

There are only two satellite internet providers in the United States: HughesNet and Viasat. Both are widely available throughout the country, even if you live in a rural region with few other internet options.

Provider Price*  Internet Speeds Data Caps Contract Availability 
HughesNet Starting at $59.99/mo. for 6 months. Up to 25 Mbps There are no hard data caps. Yes 50 states
Viasat Starting at $50/mo. for 3 months Up to 50 Mbps None Yes, but you  can pay $300 upfront for a no-contract option 50 states

*Quotes above are for internet services in Charlotte, North Carolina. Prices as of 2/4/20

A deeper look at HughesNet satellite internet

HughesNet may be the best satellite internet for you if your top priority is consistency. Plans, pricing, and speeds remain the same no matter where you are in the country.

HughesNet lets you choose the amount of data you need, with plans varying by data allowance. The basic plan starts at $49.99mo. for 10 GB of data and the plan with the largest amount of data (50 GB) goes for $139.99/mo. If you do exceed your data limit, you have the option to buy more or continue using the internet at reduced speeds. HughesNet plans include a “bonus zone” — an extra 50 GB/mo. to use between 2 a.m. and 8 a.m. local time at no additional cost.

A drawback to HughesNet is its cost. If you only need a small amount of data each month, the 10 GB base plan is a great deal. But for those who need more data, the 50 GB plan costs well over $100/mo. Another potential problem for those who like flexibility is the 24-month contract requirement.

A deeper look at Viasat satellite internet

Viasat offers unlimited satellite internet, which can be a huge benefit for power users. However, the company does reserve the right to drop your data to lower priority during times of network congestion once you reach 40 to 100 GB in a month, depending on your plan. Plans vary by internet speed, with offerings ranging from 12 Mbps to 50 Mbps.

Those who prioritize flexibility will love the no-contract option, which costs $300 upfront and lets you cancel anytime. But if you don’t choose the no-contract option, there is a 24-month contract requirement.

Prices, plans, and even speeds may vary by geographic region, which may be an issue if you want to take service with you when you move. In addition, the advertised starter prices are valid for just three months, after which time your bill will go up. But once your promotional price ends, you’ll receive a two-year price lock guarantee.

Pros and cons of satellite internet

Pros of satellite internet

Availability

All you need is a clear view of the southern sky and a roof to place your dish on. Even if you live somewhere that running lines would be difficult, such as a valley surrounded by mountains, satellite internet can reach you.

Nationwide coverage

Other forms of internet service are based on your location, as you can only connect to a service provider that has lines in your neighborhood. Satellite internet is available nationwide. If you plan to move, this can be a huge benefit, since you won’t need to change service providers.

Cons of satellite internet

Cost

Satellites cost money, and satellite internet is among the most expensive options. If you’re only a light user, you can find a plan that is comparably priced to other service types. However, those who need a lot of data can quickly see costs skyrocket.

Speed and latency

Though it’s faster than dial-up and comparable to higher-end DSL, satellite internet is significantly slower than cable and fiber-optic. In addition, because your signals have to bounce off a satellite more than 22,000 miles above the Earth, there’s some latency — or lag time. You may not notice it in casual use, but gamers might get frustrated with a bit of delay between actions.

Dish issues

Conditions on the ground can affect your internet connection. Severe weather or a mispositioned dish can cause your satellite internet to slow down or disconnect.

Ways to save on satellite internet after you move

Moving isn’t cheap, so it’s important to save money when possible. Here are a few ways to cut costs on your satellite internet:

  • Consider bundling your satellite internet and TV services for additional monthly savings
  • Look for new-customer discounts and promotions
  • Take advantage of off-peak hours for large downloads

Frequently Asked Questions

How fast is satellite internet?

HughesNet offers speeds of 25 Mbps, while Viasat speeds range from 12 Mbps and 50 Mbps and vary by location.

Can I stream video with satellite internet?

You can. Just keep an eye on your data usage, as exceeding your limit may lead to a slowdown of service speed. Also, consider downloading video overnight during off-peak hours, to watch the next day.

Can I take my satellite internet service when I move?

A huge advantage of satellite internet service is that it’s available nationwide. If you’re happy with your provider, there’s no need to change just because you move, even if you’re relocating across the country.

I’m a gamer. Will satellite internet work for me?

It depends. Connection speeds are generally fast enough for most games. However, you will need to keep a close watch on your data usage to avoid exceeding your limit. You may also experience latency (or lag time) that could cause frustrating delays.


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