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Internet options in rural areas are not as plentiful as those in more urban areas, but there are two options for staying connected via satellite: Viasat and HughesNet. These companies are the two largest satellite internet providers and offer services throughout the U.S. Satellite internet is viable in areas where the infrastructure for cable or DSL doesn't exist. It relies on satellites orbiting the earth instead of underground connections.
Viasat has been a global communications company for over 30 years and provides internet services specializing in rural areas. HughesNet has over 40 years of experience invested in providing services across the country. Both have budget-friendly options and extensive availability.
Viasat vs. HughesNet comparison
|Type of Internet||Price||Data Caps||Downloads Speeds||Extra Fees||Contracts||Availability|
|Satellite||$50/mo.||12 GB to 150 GB or unlimited|
12 to 100 Mbps
|Installation fee: $99.95|
Late or unreturned equipment fee: $300
Early termination fee: $15
|Satellite||$50/mo.||10 GB to 50 GB or unlimited||25 Mbps||Installation/activation fee: $99|
Early termination fee: Up to $400
Viasat vs. HughesNet: internet speed
Viasat offers a wider variety of speed options with plans ranging from 12 to 100 Mbps. HughesNet provides lower-cost options with slower speeds of 25 Mbps for all plans. For those with limited internet usage needs, HughesNet should be sufficient, but for anyone needing a more robust option, Viasat is the best choice.
Internet speed winner
Viasat vs. HughesNet data comparison
Viasat offers plans that include data caps and some with unlimited data (although all still have thresholds where they will slow down your data). Data caps depend on the plan but range from 12 GB to 150 GB per month. If customers exceed specified data caps, they will be able to purchase more data starting at $48 for 5 GB. For those who don’t work remotely, game online or stream HD video, lower data caps from 12 GB to 50 GB would be a great option. Higher-bandwidth users will be a better fit for the higher tier options from 150 GB to unlimited data.
HughesNet plans also include both data caps and unlimited data options. Ranging from 10 to 50 GB, Hughesnet data plans are better suited for users who don’t use many devices with HD streaming or online gaming capabilities. For higher bandwidth users, HughesNet offers unlimited data plans.
Viasat vs. HughesNet: availability
Both Viasat and HughesNet reach most states in the U.S. and are viable options for those who don’t live near the infrastructure required for cable, DSL or fiber-optic internet. If you’re living in a rural area, one of these two (or both) might be your only options. Thankfully, they’re both widely available.
Availability winner: Tie
Viasat vs. HughesNet: customer service
The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) does not rate either company in its Telecommunications Report 2018-2019, but the Better Business Bureau gives each business an A+ rating. Customer reviews for both HughesNet and Viasat show similar numbers of complaints and ratings of an average of one out of five stars. Most of the complaints include comments about latency issues, customer service issues and download speeds that do not match the advertised offerings.
Customer service winner: Tie
Viasat vs. HughesNet: bundled services
Viasat and HughesNet don’t offer many bundles as they mostly focus on internet service. As of April 2020, Viasat has a bundle with DIRECTV and the ability to add home phone services for $10 per month for the first six months. To purchase this bundle, you’ll need to call Viasat directly.
- Internet speeds from 12 to 100Mbps
- Includes over 200 HD channels
- New customers who bundle will save $10 per month for 12 months
Pricing per month plus taxes for length of contract, unless otherwise stated. Additional fees and terms may apply. Pricing may or may not reflect promotional, bundle and/or other offers available. Pricing varies by location and availability. All prices subject to change at any time. May or may not be available based on service address. Speeds may vary.
Bundled services winner:
Viasat vs. HughesNet: affordability
Viasat and HughesNet both offer similar starting prices of $50 per month for their lowest speeds. If you only need limited speeds for casual browsing, you’ll get a better deal from HughesNet’s starting package at 25 Mbps. But if you have internet needs that surpass 25 Mbps, you’re better off going with Viasat for the speed availability.
Viasat vs. HughesNet: which is right for you?
Viasat and HughesNet are often the only options for rural residents needing broadband internet. Both offer satellite connections with speeds to satisfy casual internet users. If you have higher-bandwidth needs such as HD streaming or online gaming, Viasat is the better option since HughesNet plans only offer a maximum of 25 Mbps.
Check availability in your area for both Viasat and HughesNet to determine the one for you.