Determine how much speed you need
At 100 Mbps for its highest plan, Viasat currently offers the fastest satellite internet on the market. But do you really need that much speed? On the one hand, 100 Mbps for $200 per month is cheaper per Mbps than 25 Mbps at $49.99 from HughesNet. However, you can accomplish most streaming and browsing with slower speeds. Plus, maximum speeds of 100 Mbps may not be available everywhere.
One of the biggest misconceptions in buying satellite internet is that having more Mbps leads to more usability. If you're only using it for online shopping and social media browsing, you don't need a lot of Mbps, no matter what the sales agent tells you. To help you gauge what you can do with different speed thresholds, check our table of estimated usage.
|12 Mbps||25 Mbps||100 Mbps|
|Web activity*||Emailing, web browsing, light SD streaming||Emailing, web browsing, SD and some HD streaming, music downloading||Multiple devices streaming HD or 4K video simultaneously, large file downloading, real-time gaming, video conferencing.|
*Activity estimates assume 4-8 connected devices
Figure out how much data you use
Data is measured in gigabytes (GB) and is used whenever you send something, receive something, download from, or upload to the internet. Satellite internet plans work similarly to your phone plan: Your data is your allotted internet usage. If you go over your data limit, you won't be totally cut off from the internet, you'll just be restricted to slower speeds (typically 1–3 Mbps) until the start of your next billing cycle. This will allow some web browsing, but no video streaming or file downloading — and that web browsing will be slow enough you may resort to the local paper for news and sudoku.
To give you some perspective, here is what HughesNet says you can do with 1 GB of data:
- 2 hours of video streaming
- Upload 300
- Stream 200 songs
- Load 1,024 web pages
- Send or receive 2000 emails
If you stream video at all, you're more likely to struggle with these data caps. Streaming uses up a huge chunk of data. In fact, Netflix estimates you'll need 1GB of data per hour to stream SD video. That's 66 GB to binge all five seasons of Orange is the New Black — more than the top HughesNet plan of 50 GB/month
We suggest being mindful of your internet habits and see what activities you lean more toward – if you're a heavy video streamer, you might want to invest in a heavier data allowance per month. HughesNet and Viasat provide you with ways to check how you're doing on data within a given month.