DISH Network Review
- April 17, 2018 - While DISH Network's satellite internet service is still provided by HughesNet and Viasat, we've added more information to this review to explain the features and plan options of those two companies in order to paint a better picture of what to expect when you sign up.
- January 15, 2018 - DISH Network no longer offers satellite internet as a standalone service. We updated this review to reflect and explain those changes. If you purchase internet through DISH as part of a bundle, your service provider will be a third-party company.
Our DISH Network Satellite Internet Review
At its core, DISH is in the business of satellite television packages. Though it used to provide satellite internet directly to customers, in 2017 it began partnering with HughesNet and Viasat — the two major nationwide satellite Internet providers — to bundle satellite internet services with its TV packages.
Satellite internet, with its low speeds cellphone-like data limits, is often a last resort for people living in rural areas without access to broadband. And since you can’t get DISH’s satellite internet on its own, we’d only recommend it for those in rural areas who are also looking for a TV provider. That said, low speeds may not be a hindrance if you only use the internet for basic web browsing, and DISH’s TV service does offer some standout perks: the best DVR system on the market, an excellent channel selection, and a full year of free HBO when you sign up.
DISH Network's Claim
DISH promises the best satellite TV and internet package in the industry, saying, “Not only do we have great internet available where you live, we have the best TV in the industry — all at a price the competition can't touch.” On its satellite internet performance specifically, DISH claims, “Connections are reliable, installation is professional, and customer support is available 24/7.”
Is it true?
DISH’s satellite internet performance is tough to gauge, because your location will determine whether you’re connected with HughesNet or Viasat. In our review of the Best Satellite Internet, we found that HughesNet is the best provider for speed and reliability, consistently meeting or exceeding its promise of 25 Mbps speeds. Viasat does have the edge in data limits, beating out HughesNet’s 50 GB limit with a cap of 150 GB — necessary if you spend a lot of time streaming video.
DISH also has some of the best installation services on the market. It provides a 75-minute window for when your technician will arrive, and you can track the exact time on DISH’s website. DISH’s closest satellite competitor, DIRECTV, doesn’t offer the same specificity, advising you only to “set aside several hours” for installation.
It’s true that DISH’s customer support is some of the best in the business, as well: Support is available 24/7, and DISH was the only internet provider to receive a five-star rating from J.D. Power in customer service.
Whether you get service from HughesNet or Viasat ultimately depends on where you live, and going through DISH means you’ll have to bundle with a TV package. If you’re only looking for internet service and broadband options aren’t available, you’re better off looking at HughesNet and Viasat independently. And if you are intrigued by DISH’s TV service, it’s worth noting that there are better options here, too. In our review of the Best TV Providers, we found DIRECTV — the other major satellite TV company — to have better packages and channel offerings. Where DISH does stand out is with its DVR system: The Hopper 3 DVR can record up to 16 shows at once and store 2,000 hours of content, and it has useful built-in app features.
You’ll also have to sign a two-year contract when you sign up for DISH. While this ensures that you’re locked into the cheaper promotional price for the duration, you can expect your price to go up significantly once your contract ends. And if you do want to cancel before two years, DISH charges $20/month for the remainder of your contract. While not ideal, this is on par with other satellite internet providers: Both Viasat and HughesNet require two-year minimum contracts. This makes sense — you’ll be going through these companies for internet service when you bundle with DISH.
It’s worth noting that even the fastest satellite internet maxes out at speeds that’ll keep just four to six devices browsing smoothly. HughesNet has the edge in this critical area, earning an average download speed of 14.19 Mbps compared to Viasat’s 5.03 Mbps. Netflix recommends at least 5 Mbps for HD streaming, so if you’re in a household filled with lots of devices or Netflix bingers, Viasat’s speed may be insufficient. Check out our review of the Best Internet Service Providers and learn more about what you can expect on your hunt for a speedier connection.
A Closer Look at DISH Network's Features
Our Deep Dive
DISH Network Data Allowances and Fees
- Overage Charges: Unlike many internet providers, DISH doesn’t charge prohibitive fees if you go over your data monthly data allowance. However, once you hit that limit, your speed will drop to a piddling 128 Kbps for the remainder of your billing cycle, enough for only very basic (and very slow) web browsing. If you find yourself in this position, DISH offers a couple workarounds: additional data purchases or its off-peak bonus data allowance.
- Additional Data: Any time you run out of data, DISH lets you purchase additional data in 1 GB increments for $10 each. That’s quite a bit more than you’d pay for your base package, but it’s intended to be used only as a last resort. If you find yourself regularly purchasing additional data, you’re probably better off upgrading your plan. It’s also important to keep in mind that this data expires at the end of your billing cycle, so you won’t be able to roll any remainder over to the next month.
- Off-Peak Bonus Data Allowance: If you want to avoid purchasing additional data or upgrading your plan, one nice alternative that DISH offers is its off-peak hours data allowance. Every day from 2 a.m. to 8 a.m., DISH provides additional data that won’t count against your Anytime allowance. Unfortunately, your off-peak data can also be used up, though DISH doesn’t disclose how much you get. HughesNet provides 50 GB of off-peak data, so it’s safe to assume this is what you’ll get if it’s your provider. Viasat offers unlimited off-peak data, but the hours are shortened to 3 a.m. to 6 a.m.
DISH Network Service and Support
- Free Installation: Unlike most internet providers, DISH does require professional installation to attach the satellite antenna to your roof. Once you settle on a package and installation time, DISH then provides a 75-minute window in which a technician will arrive at your home. You can also track your estimated arrival time on DISH’s website, so you can plan your day knowing exactly what to expect. There’s nothing more frustrating than waiting around all day at home for a technician, but DISH mitigates some of those pains with these thoughtful features.
- Customer Service: Internet service providers are some of the least-liked companies in the world, and their customer satisfaction is notoriously low. Surprisingly, DISH bucks this trend. For 2017, J.D. Power awarded DISH Network the highest in overall customer satisfaction for the North Central and South regions (including both satellite TV and internet service). It received perfect five star scores in performance and reliability, customer service, and billing, meaning you’re less likely to have to worry about endless phone trees, pushy reps, and other hassles that plague the ISP industry.
- Slowing Satellite Speeds: In general, satellite speeds are slowing down significantly. In a 2016 study (the most recent available), the FCC collected nationwide information on internet service provider speeds. It found that over the past year, satellite speeds took a huge hit, while almost everyone else remained flat. The report states, “Hughes’ actual vs. advertised speeds ratio went down from 203% to 152% while Viasat’s went down from 107% to 71%.” The FCC concluded that this was the result of more homes using satellite internet, thus slowing down speeds nationwide.
DISH Network vs. The Competition
DISH Network vs. Verizon 4G LTE
With its coverage in rural areas, a cell carrier is an unlikely challenger to satellite internet. Verizon leads the pack of 4G LTE providers, and, like satellite internet, its coverage can reach almost every corner of the country. Verizon offers two ways use its 4G LTE service on non-mobile devices: You can designate your cell phone as a hotspot and tether your other devices to it (like gaming systems, tablets, and laptops), or you can buy a mobile hotspot from Verizon, which costs anywhere between $20 and $100. The benefit to going this route as opposed to DISH is that you won’t have to pay for the additional TV service.
Unfortunately, speeds and data limits for 4G Mobile Broadband providers are generally on the lower end. Verizon offers anywhere between 5 and 12 Mbps on its 4G LTE plan, slower than HughesNet and roughly on par with Viasat. And while Verizon advertises Unlimited data with its $75 Mobile Hotspot plan, it’s unlimited in the same way that DISH’s service is: Once you surpass 15 GB in your billing cycle, it slows your speeds down to around 600 Kbps — a far cry from the 50 GB and 150 GB limits of HughesNet and Viasat.
DISH Network vs. Fixed Wireless
Another popular option for homes in rural areas, fixed wireless beams data from an access point like a mounted tower to a reception device in your home. These are usually small dishes or antennas installed on the outside of your home. The primary benefit to fixed wireless internet is that data caps tend to be much higher than with satellite internet, with many plans offering truly unlimited service. Activities like streaming HD video or online gaming tend to eat up the most data, so if these are some of your primary activities, fixed wireless may be the best option for you.
Speeds tend to be on par with satellite internet, although some areas can get up to 50 Mbps. Rise Broadband, the biggest provider of fixed wireless in the country, charges $19.95 a month for up to 5 Mbps during the first year ($29.95 a month for the second year), or $29.95 a month for between 10 Mbps and 25 Mbps during the first year ($39.95 for the second year).
What Others Are Saying
Yahoo Finance found that HughesNet tops Viasat in value.
In an article comparing the two satellite internet heavyweights — HughesNet and Viasat — Yahoo Finance determined that HughesNet offered a better deal: “Some of the positive selling points in favor of HughesNet include lower cost, more diverse plans to choose from, 24/7 customer support, and a greater coverage area.” Of course, which provider DISH partners with depends on your location, so you won’t have a choice which provider you get if you opt to bundle with DISH’s satellite TV. But if you’re only after internet service and HughesNet is sold independently in your area, it’s worth checking out.
The Bottom Line - DISH Network Satellite Internet Review
With its slower speeds and data limits, satellite internet should only be considered if you live in a rural area without access to broadband. And since you can only access DISH’s satellite internet by bundling it with a TV package, DISH is best for customers looking for the complete package. That said, if you're only after for basic web browsing and occasional video streaming, you’re unlikely to be disappointed with DISH's top-notch customer service ratings, fairly reliable speeds, and unique TV bundling options.