Viasat Satellite Internet Review
Viasat is one of two major providers offering satellite internet to customers across the US. With its latest satellite launch, Viasat promises speeds of up to 100 Mbps and unlimited data plans in some areas, making it more comparable to DSL and cable providers. It still comes with the drawbacks of satellite internet: It’s more expensive than most terrestrial internet providers, and it’s truly best for those living beyond city limits. But Viasat is a great option if you live in a rural area and want broadband speeds without having to worry about data overage fees.
Viasat claims that it’s the first satellite internet provider to offer speeds of up to 100 Mbps to homes.
Is it true?
Yes. In November 2017, Exede rebranded as Viasat and, in February 2018, its newest satellite launched, bringing speeds of up to 100 Mbps to customers in certain areas (to find out if it’s available in your neck of the woods you’ll need to call Viasat customer serve — there’s no published speed map). While it doesn’t offer 100 Mbps everywhere, this is the first time a satellite internet provider has offered such high speeds. In areas where 100 Mbps isn’t available, customers can still get decent speeds ranging from 12 Mbps to 50 Mbps.
However, as with any satellite provider, you may run into delays if you Skype or play online games. This has to do with latency — the time it takes for data to travel from one point to another — not speed. Since data has to travel between a satellite in space and your home, you may notice a delay.
Viasat also launched unlimited plans in September 2017. These plans don’t have data caps — though the fine print states that Viasat may “prioritize your data behind other customers during network congestion” after you use 100 GB. If you need more data, Viasat also offers its Freedom plan in some areas, which gives customers 150 GB of data per month. Between this unlimited data and faster speeds, Viasat is proving that satellite internet can compete against more traditional internet types like cable and DSL.
✓Great for those who live in rural areas but need fast speeds
✓ Variety of speeds
✓ Good resource when DSL and cable internet providers aren’t available
✓ No overage fees
✓ Features “free zones” without data limits
✗ Not for people who have access to affordable, fast cable
✗ Not ideal if you don’t have a clear view of the southern sky
✗ Minor data throttling
✗ Price increases after three months
No overage fees
With Viasat, you never have to worry about overage charges at the end of your billing cycle. Speeds will slow to between 1 and 5 Mbps if you use all of your priority data on the Liberty and Freedom plans, but you can still use your internet service without having to pay a fee for going over your monthly data limit. Similarly, speeds may slow on Unlimited plans when you hit specific thresholds (40 GB for Bronze, 60 GB for Silver, and 100 GB for Gold Unlimited) but won’t be throttled to 1 to 5 Mbps. Instead, your internet speeds are just deprioritized when the network is busy.
Viasat allows customers on its Classic, Evolution, Essential, and certain Liberty plans to use as much data as they want during a five-hour window (this hour varies for different plans, but falls somewhere in the wee hours between midnight and 8 a.m.) without having to worry about data limits. Customers can take advantage of that time by downloading any big files they need, like high-definition video. These Free Zones appear across other Viasat plans as well, although it’s worth checking the fine print of the plans you’re offered to see if and when you can schedule your heavy downloading.
Thanks to Viasat’s newest satellite, the internet provider is now offering a variety of broadband speeds on par with those provided by DSL and cable companies. Speeds start at 23 Mbps and climb to 100 Mbps in some areas. For reference, 12 Mbps is enough for a one- to two-person household to browse the internet, check email, and even stream Netflix. If you need more speed, check if Viasat offers 25, 30, 50, or 100 Mbps in your area.
Price increase after three months
While Viasat may guarantee that your price is locked in for the first two years of service, your price will increase by $20 to $50 after the first three months. This is due to their promotional pricing structure: once the introductory period ends, you switch to paying the actual locked-in rate. An additional $20 to $50 per month is expensive — especially since satellite internet is already on the pricier side. That said, Viasat explains the price increase upfront on its website, so it doesn’t come as a surprise. If you’re concerned about fitting Viasat into your budget, choose your plan based on its price after three months and not the introductory rate.
Fastest speed not available everywhere
One of Viasat’s major appeals is that it offers 100 Mbps — the fastest satellite internet speed available. However, 100 Mbps isn’t available everywhere. In most regions, Viasat’s speeds don’t surpass 30 to 50 Mbps, and in other areas, only reach 12 Mbps. That said, 12 to 50 Mbps is a decent range and should provide enough speed for small to medium-sized households. But if you have more than three people in your home or plan on using multiple devices simultaneously, 12 to 50 Mbps may hold you back.
$300 lifetime prepaid
$450 to purchase
Freedom Plans: N/A
Liberty Plans: Unmetered
*100 Mbps not available everywhere. Viasat’s speeds vary based on region.
Viasat vs. HughesNet
The choice to compare satellite internet providers usually leads to two providers: Viasat and HughesNet. HughesNet is the only other major satellite internet provider in the US and offers reliable service at cheaper prices than Viasat. According to the 2016 FCC broadband consumer report, HughesNet also wins out over Viasat for consistently delivering on advertised speeds. However, with the launch of Viasat’s latest satellite in 2017, it’s possible that this has changed. Viasat’s new satellite brings faster speeds (up to 100 Mbps), plus it now offers both a 150 GB and an unlimited data plan — major features not offered by HughesNet.
Viasat’s speeds and plans aren’t consistent across all regions, so it’s important to check your ZIP code to see what’s offered at your address. And some of its plans cost more per month than those offered by HughesNet. The choice between Viasat and HughesNet comes down to your needs. If you want consistent speeds at a decent price, HughesNet is great. But if you need unlimited data and live in an area where Viasat offers 50 to 100 Mbps, it’s likely the better choice. To learn more about the competition, check out our full review of HughesNet.
Does Viasat have a two-year price-lock guarantee?
Yes, but Viasat raises prices by up to $50 after the first three months. The company is upfront about this, displaying what your price will be after the introductory period in the plan’s information. Once the promotional pricing is over, your monthly rate is guaranteed for the duration of your two-year contract and won’t increase until your contract is up.
Is Viasat satellite internet fast enough to game?
It depends. Simple online games like those on Facebook are generally playable. However, because of issues with latency, most multiplayer online games suffer from major lag. While it’s not entirely impossible to play your favorite games, experiences will vary based on location.
Is it fast enough to stream?
Yes. Streaming services like Netflix and Hulu don’t require much speed — even Viasat’s lowest-tier plan (12 Mbps) should be able to handle streaming video in standard definition with minimal buffering. The minimum recommended speed to stream Netflix is 1.5 Mbps. Hulu recommends 1.5 Mbps for standard definition and 3 Mbps for high definition.
The Bottom Line
Viasat is a cutting-edge provider redefining the satellite internet industry. With its major rebrand and new satellite offering both 100 Mbps speeds and unlimited data plans, the company is quickly closing the gap between satellite and more traditional broadband providers. Though it’s still more expensive than some cable and DSL internet options, if you live in a rural area and want access to fast speeds and reasonable (or no) data caps, get Viasat.