A shopper’s guide to Viasat home internet

Bill Mount

Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images If you’re checking out Viasat internet, chances are you’re in or moving to a rural area with limited broadband options. The good news is that you can count on Viasat being available — satellite internet reaches nearly every nook and cranny across all 50 states — and you won’t […]


Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images

If you’re checking out Viasat internet, chances are you’re in or moving to a rural area with limited broadband options. The good news is that you can count on Viasat being available — satellite internet reaches nearly every nook and cranny across all 50 states — and you won’t need a phone line, coaxial cable or anything of the sort for service. The bad news is that satellite internet comes with some inherent flaws, like high pricing and low data allowances.

That said, Viasat may be the best rural internet option in your area, especially if DSL service is painfully slow and cable internet isn’t available. In that case, rely on this page for everything you’ll want to know about Viasat home internet before signing up.

Is Viasat internet any good?

Let’s start by setting the stage for everything else: Is Viasat any good? For the most part, yes, but how good can vary widely by location. 

Here’s a look at the pros and cons of signing up with Viasat. Some are specific to Viasat; others apply to satellite internet in general.

Pros

  • Availability: As mentioned above, satellite internet technology enables Viasat to offer internet service virtually anywhere. All you need is a clear view of the southern sky and a place to mount your dish. 
  • Download speeds: Viasat currently offers the fastest residential download speeds via a satellite internet connection, with up to 100 megabits per second available in select areas.
  • Unlimited data: Most Viasat plans come with a monthly data allowance, but there aren’t any extra fees if you go over your limit, just reduced speeds during times of heavy network congestion.

Cons

  • Price (and the increase): While Viasat’s plan pricing is comparable to rival satellite provider HughesNet, $50-$150 a month is still a lot to pay for internet. And those prices are only good for three months — after that, monthly pricing goes up to $70-$200.
  • Speeds: Though speed is listed as a “pro” above, many locations will only have access to download speeds of up to 12Mbps. That said, a fix for faster speeds for more locations is in the works, and could arrive as early as Q1 2022. More on that in just a bit.
  • Latency and service disruptions: Some things just come with the territory when you have satellite internet. High latency (the time it takes data to get to a server and back) makes real-time online gaming impossible. Inclement weather can cause outages, even if it’s not raining or snowing at your residence. Oh, and you have to mount a satellite dish somewhere.

The “cons” can be a little intimidating, especially if cable or fiber internet options are available at your address. But for many rural residents, satellite internet is the quickest, most cost-effective means of getting broadband at home. If that includes you, you’ll find Viasat plan details, service terms and customer satisfaction info below, plus a look at how the service compares to HughesNet and other rural internet options.

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Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

Viasat standard plans and pricing details

Viasat home internet has four plan tiers: Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. Some markets will only have access to the first three plans, and available speeds or data allowances can vary by location with each. As you can probably guess, the more lustrous the plan name, the more speed and data that comes with it. 

Viasat Unlimited plans

Plan Starting price per month Price after 3 months Max download speeds Data allowance
Unlimited Bronze 12 $50 $70 12Mbps 40GB
Unlimited Silver 25 $70 $100 25Mbps 60GB
Unlimited Gold 50 $100 $150 50Mbps 100GB
Unlimited Platinum 100 $150 $200 100Mbps 150GB

I’ve mentioned it a few times already, but it’s worth repeating: Viasat speeds and data allowances will vary by location. Depending on where you live, download speeds of 12, 25, 30, 50 or 100Mbps may be available. The one constant is upload speed, which is up to 3Mbps in all service areas across all plans.

In many areas, Viasat only offers the 12Mbps speed tier. Consequently, the jump from Bronze to Silver or Silver to Gold just means more data. For example, if 12Mbps is the max available speed in your area, the difference between Bronze and Silver will simply be that Silver comes with more data. Or if both Silver and Gold offer 25Mbps, Gold will come with a higher data allowance than Silver, though the two plans have the same speeds. 

On the data side, the Bronze package might have a monthly data allowance of 35, 40 or 80GB while Silver can include 45, 60, 100 or 120GB and Gold may come with 65, 100 or 200GB. Platinum comes with 150 or 300GB. Again, the amount of data you get depends on your location and the specific plan you choose.

viasat-coverage-map

Viasat’s satellite internet plans are available across all lower 48 states as well as Hawaii and parts of Alaska.


FCC/Mapbox

Where are Viasat speeds the fastest?

According to a Viasat spokesperson, Viasat offers speeds up to 100Mbps in 48 ZIP codes across 31 states. Top service areas include suburban and rural areas around Chattanooga, Tennessee; Frankfort, Kentucky; Indianapolis; Milwaukee; Minneapolis; Oklahoma City; and Dallas.

The Viasat spokesperson also told CNET that faster speeds, in more locations, are on the way. Viasat plans to launch its Viasat-3 satellite in the first quarter of 2022, which will “deliver more data with higher data thresholds, faster speeds (100+ Mbps service speeds), higher quality streaming, enhanced service reliability and service anywhere in the US.”

Additional Viasat services

The Viasat-3 satellite launch is the latest example of Viasat’s efforts to improve satellite internet service. Others include Viasat Liberty and Viasat Flex plans, which are already on the market in select locations. 

Viasat Liberty plans all come with up to 12Mbps and 12, 25 or 50GB data blocks. Once you’ve used your data for the month, Viasat will reduce your speeds to 1-5Mbps or lower, depending on network congestion. The main difference between Liberty plans and standard Viasat Unlimited plans is cost (Liberty plans are a bit cheaper but come with less data) and free, unlimited data from the hours of 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. 

viasat-flex

Viasat Flex plans combine satellite internet with a DSL connection in order to improve speeds and reduce latency.


Viasat

Viasat Flex is an add-on service available with standard Viasat Unlimited plans in select areas. The service combines satellite and DSL service to give users a more reliable connection with lower latency. 

Since there are two internet connection types with Viasat Flex, two separate modems and installations are required, Other than initial equipment and installation fees, though, there are currently no added monthly costs for the service. Viasat Flex is still in the testing phase, so it’s unclear if there will be added pricing down the road, and if so, what it may be.

What to expect with Viasat internet plans

Regardless of which Viasat service or plan you choose, expect equipment fees, installation costs and contract requirements to come with it. 

The Viasat Wi-Fi equipment lease fee is $13 per month. You also have the option to buy the equipment outright for a one-time fee of $299. While three hundred bucks can be tough to part with upfront, it may save you money in the long run. By saving $13 a month, purchasing the equipment will essentially pay for itself after 15 months. 

When deciding whether to rent your Viasat Wi-Fi equipment or pay for it upfront, keep in mind that installation can also add to your upfront costs. The Viasat installation fee is $100, but free installation is available in select areas to customers with qualifying credit.

If you want to really pile on the upfront costs, you can opt for no contract. Viasat’s no long-term contract option comes with a $500 upfront, nonrefundable payment. That’s right, half a thousand dollars, nonrefundable. Otherwise, all Viasat plans require a two-year contract.

Other than the staggering fee for opting out of a contract, Viasat’s fees and service terms are on par with most other rural internet providers.

Broadband in the boonies

If your backyard view looks something like this scenic display in rural New Mexico, then there’s a good chance that your broadband options are pretty limited. In a case like that, Viasat might be the right choice to get your home connected.


Eric Mack/CNET

Comparing Viasat to HughesNet and other rural internet options

Let’s start with the other widely available satellite option, HughesNet. Compared to HughesNet, Viasat generally offers faster speeds (unless your address is only available for 12Mbps) and higher data allowances for around the same monthly price.

HughesNet pricing ranges from $60-$150 a month and all plans come with download speeds up to 25Mbps and upload speeds up to 3Mbps. You’ll get less data with HughesNet, however, as plans only come with 10-50GB. HughesNet customers do have the option to buy more data throughout the month — an option that is not available with Viasat. Equipment fees and installation costs are roughly the same between the two providers, and both come with a two-year contract.

Viasat vs. everything else

Unless you’re in a truly remote rural location, it’s rare that Viasat and HughesNet will be your only internet options, though they could be your only option for broadband speeds (at least 25Mbps download and 3Mbps upload). Fixed wireless, cellular and DSL internet are also popular choices for internet in rural areas. 

Viasat is faster than many fixed wireless providers, including AT&T and Verizon, which have max download speeds of 10-12Mbps. Other fixed wireless providers, such as Rise Broadband, can offer faster speeds, up to 50Mbps, at a lower price than comparable Viasat speed tiers. Fixed wireless also has lower latency than satellite, but both service types are susceptible to service disruptions during inclement weather.

Cellular internet, including 5G service, from providers such as Verizon and T-Mobile could offer faster speeds, more data and lower latency than Viasat internet service. Verizon LTE offers speeds up to 25Mbps and unlimited data starting at $40 a month for qualifying Verizon mobile customers or $60 a month for customers who do not have Verizon mobile service. T-Mobile Home Internet, on the other hand, offers faster speeds of up to at least 50Mbps and unlimited data for around that same $60 a month price. 

DSL internet is cheaper than Viasat, but available speeds are a mixed bag. In some locations, DSL providers like CenturyLink, Frontier and Windstream can only deliver speeds ranging from 1-10Mbps. In other locations, however, DSL could offer speeds up to 100Mbps or higher, for prices much lower than Viasat’s 100Mbps plan. Many DSL providers also include truly unlimited data, or at the very least higher data allowances than you’ll get with Viasat plans.

In short, Viasat offers faster speeds and more data than HughesNet in many areas, but providers of other internet types could come with lower costs, faster speeds and more data. It’s important to explore all your internet options before committing to a particular provider or plan.

Viasat customer satisfaction is hard to gauge

The American Customer Satisfaction Index and J.D. Power do not include Viasat in their yearly customer satisfaction reports, so it’s difficult to tell exactly what customers think of their service. 

As of this writing, Viasat has 1,511 complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau in the last three years, most of which are what you’d expect to see for any internet service provider: service issues and unexpected fees. 

To Viasat’s credit, it does appear the company makes an effort to respond to every complaint in order to further explain the situation or offer a resolution. Of the 1,511 complaints, 720 were closed in the last 12 months. Viasat’s timely and helpful responses have helped earn it an A+ rating from the BBB.

Let’s recap

With speeds up to 100Mbps and more monthly data than you’re likely to get from rival satellite provider, HughesNet, Viasat is a decent broadband option in areas where cable or fiber service is not available. Other internet types may offer faster speeds or more data for a lower cost in some locations, but in many areas, Viasat will be the better value — just be prepared for relatively high upfront costs and a price increase after your first three months of service.

If Viasat data is ‘unlimited,’ why pay for a plan with more data?

While there are no fees for going over your data limit, Viasat will prioritize the speeds of users who have not reached their limit over those who have. So, going over your limit could (and likely will) result in drastically reduced speeds for the remainder of your billing cycle. If you foresee using data for streaming or heavy internet usage and don’t want to deal with throttled speeds, consider Viasat plans with higher data allowances.

Can you game online with Viasat?

Standard Viasat service will not support real-time online gaming due to the high latency. However, Viasat’s new service, Viasat Flex, features a satellite and DSL hybrid connection that could lower your latency enough to allow for online gaming.

Are Exede and Viasat the same thing?

Yes. Exede was the original name of Viasat’s internet service from 2012 to 2017. Viasat has since discontinued the Exede brand and operates all satellite internet services under the Viasat name.

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