How does Starlink's satellite internet compare with a traditional satellite internet service like Viasat?
Starlink internet is much faster than Viasat internet. Starlink also has a much higher data cap compared to Viasat. Viasat becomes almost unusable after the data cap is reached, unlike Starlink. Viasat is cheaper compared to Starlink. Starlink has an upfront hardware fee while Viasat has none.
Here are the major differences between Starlink and Viasat (as advertised by the services):
|Unlimited internet: 40-300 GB
Metered internet: 1-200 GB
|1 TB data cap
|Soft data caps present
|$90 - $5000
|Unlimited internet: $49.99 - $500
Metered internet: $50 - $400
|Average monthly expenses
|$90 - $5000
|$49.99 - $532
Speeds and Data Caps
Regarding any internet connection, speed, and data caps can be among the most important factors to consider.
Viasat: Speeds and Data caps
Here is a brief rundown on the speeds and latency you can expect from a Viasat satellite internet connection:
|Unlimited Bronze 12
|Unlimited Silver 25
|Unlimited Gold 50
|Unlimited Platinum 100
|Unlimited Platinum 150
All residential plans offered by Viasat are unlimited plans with a soft data cap.
A soft data cap basically means you can still use the internet even after your data gets exhausted, but the speeds will be severely capped.
The Unlimited Bronze and Silver plans are very basic plans and should be considered only if you scarcely intend to use your Satellite internet.
The Gold and Platinum are the plans that offer respectable speeds, with the Gold plan being the best plan to choose if you are a normal user.
The upload speeds across all plans are capped at 4 Mbps, which is pretty decent considering that it is a satellite internet connection.
Do note that these are the plans that Viasat recommended for me based on my address, and your plans may vary depending on your region.
Judging from the data packs, it is evident that Viasat offers something for everyone.
If you want to use your satellite internet connection as a plan B in case your main connection dies on you, you can opt for one of the basic plans.
In case you want higher speeds out of your satellite internet, you can simply choose the higher-tier Viasat plans.
This is much different from how a competing service like HughesNet operates, which offers the same low-speed internet for all their plans.
The Viasat satellite orbits the earth from the Geostationary orbit, which resides over 22,000 miles from the surface of the earth.
This huge distance results in quite a lot of latency, with some reports of latency as high as 800ms!
The average jitter also stands high at 40.22ms according to reports from BroadbandNow, making it not ideal for gaming.
Starlink: Speeds and Data caps
Here is a brief rundown of the speeds and latency you can expect from a Starlink satellite internet connection:
|Peak Download Speeds
|Peak Upload Speeds
The main advantage of Starlink over other internet services is its large 1 TB data cap for residential plans.
Instead of following through with a traditional internet plan based on a data package, Starlink offers its plans based on the usage scenarios.
Starlink Residential is for regular users who plan on accessing satellite internet from their homes.
Starlink Premium is basically a faster version of Starlink Residential which need faster internet than what the Residential plan provides.
Starlink Business is for small companies that plan to utilize satellite internet for their businesses.
Starlink RV is meant to be attached to RVs so as to access satellite internet on the road.
Starlink Maritime is meant for boats and ships who need access to the internet at sea.
Since Starlink satellites are much closer to the Earth compared to the Viasat satellite, the latency is much better for Starlink users.
Starlink averages around 50ms latency, which is excellent for a satellite internet connection, and the jitter I got from my testing was a respectable 4.98ms.
Judging from all this, it is fair to say that Starlink offers much faster speeds compared to Viasat.
In fact, a study by Ookla confirmed that Starlink is the fastest Satellite internet service provider in a lot of regions, often beating its competition by a mile.
Costs and Expenses Comparison
When you take a look at the prices and plans offered by Starlink and Viasat, it can seem so enticing that you often forget about the other costs that come associated with it.
In fact, most people make their decisions solely based on subscription plans alone.
I shall attempt to get rid of such thinking when it comes to selecting what works best for you between Viasat and Starlink.
Viasat offers internet plans that range from $49.99 to upwards of $199.99 per month, depending on your state and region.
It is to be noted that the subscription fees alone are not enough to gauge the value it offers, as there are other expenses that go unnoticed.
Here are some of the hidden charges that you might need to consider before investing in the Viasat Satellite internet connection:
|$14.99 per month if you lease
$299.99 for a one-time purchase
|$99.99 for residential plans
Free for residential users in select regions
$300.00 for business users
Additional costs for mounts
|Usually 20% after 3 months
If the plan specifies a 2-year price lock guarantee, then hike only after 24 months
|Dish relocation (optional) (only once a year)
|$15 for every month remaining out of the 24-month contract
|Non-returned leased equipment charges (after termination)
|$150 for unreturned TRIA
$150 for an unreturned Viasat Modem
|Viasat service calls (if needed)
|$95 for each call
|Viasat EasyCare Subscription (optional)
|$8.99 per month
|Viasat Shield Premium (optional)
|$8.99 per month
The equipment costs include the dish as well as the WiFi modem used to configure the Viasat internet connection.
Since you are bound to a 2-year contract, it is best to buy the equipment for $299.99 instead of paying $14.99 per month, resulting in $359.76 after 24 months.
The initial installation fees do not include any extra peripherals you might need such as mounts, and can further add up the costs depending on your needs.
Viasat is also notorious for introducing price hikes in subscription fees after 3 months into the service, with hikes usually in the range of 20%.
But if your plan specifically states that it has a 2-year price lock guarantee, then that hike will pop up only after 2 years.
The termination fee is applicable if you wish to terminate your contract, with appropriate fees added if you don't return your leased equipment or if you damage it.
Then there are a few optional services available for Viasat users to further enhance its capabilities:
- Dish relocation
You can avail yourself of a dish relocation if you find the initial point of installation to be not adequate.
Do note that this can be availed only once a year and it does not let you change your service address or region and is applicable for just changing the location of the dish.
Viasat service calls
If you are facing issues with your Viasat connection, you can call in a Viasat-certified technician to check your problem.
Viasat Shield Premium
Viasat Shield is an internet security application that protects your Viasat connection from internet attacks by continuously monitoring and protecting your devices.
The premium service further enhances the feature set by adding an Antivirus protection program and firewall capabilities.
Viasat EasyCare is a premium priority service subscription that aids you in getting the best customer service.
EasyCare makes the $95 service calls free of charge and cuts the dish relocation charges to just $95.
You also gain priority with their customer support.
Judging from all this, it is fair to say that Viasat is not at all a cheap option.
In fact, your monthly expenditure, excluding initial charges, can easily touch an absurd $532 per month for the best experience, with all bells and whistles.
Here is the basic outline of what costs and expenses you can expect out of a Starlink satellite internet connection:
|Initial Cost For Equipment
|Monthly Subscription Fee
|$90 or $120 (low-traffic regions)
Since Starlink categorizes its plans based on tiers, the choices come down significantly making Starlink look quite expensive at first glance.
But upon further inspection, you would realize that Starlink's costs are very comparable to the best value-for-money package that their competitors offer.
But first, it is to be noted that Starlink operates on a first come first serve basis, so you will need to book the service with a refundable deposit of $99.
This deposit can be redeemed by subtracting the fee from the initial equipment costs, which is a one-time buy and cannot be leased officially.
A benefit of using Starlink is that there is no installation fee, and you can easily set up your Starlink dish and modem on your own without professional help.
Although the basic Starlink kit does come with a tripod mount, you can opt for additional mounts from the Starlink store which can cost extra.
There is also an optional portability fee if you want to temporarily mount your Starlink dish elsewhere, as long as you stay within the state or country of your service address.
Other than that, there are no hidden charges prevalent across the plans. The shipping charges and taxes depend on the laws of your region.
Judging from all this, your Starlink setup can cost you about the same as the subscription plan mentions, and other expenses are either initial costs or optional.
Installation and Availability Comparison
Installation of a satellite internet connection can be a tricky business, especially considering the fact that different services use different technology for their implementation.
Viasat: Installation and Availability
Viasat's satellite orbits the earth via the geostationary orbit and it moves with the rotation of the earth, it covers a wide area of the earth with just a single satellite.
Currently, Viasat incorporates 2 satellites in the geostationary orbit and also has plans to launch a satellite constellation similar to Starlink for faster speeds.
This massively increases the range of the Viasat. In fact, Viasat covers nearly 100% of the US with extended support in other countries too.
But as of writing this article, you would be connecting with the satellites in the geostationary orbit, which will provide a fixed line of the path for your signal.
This essentially means that you will need to set up your Viasat satellite dish using a professional installation team to get the best signal in your home.
The installation can take a few hours, but once done you should not move the dish from that installed position, or you might lose the signal.
You can avail of the dish relocation service provided by Viasat if you want to place the dish somewhere else, but it should be at your service address.
This means that the portability of the dish is out of the question, and you might need to take a new connection if you plan on using a Viasat connection in a different region.
Speaking of new connections, Viasat connections have no waiting period and the installation can begin as soon as you sign their contract.
Starlink: Installation and Availability
Starlink relies on its constellation of small satellites that operate much closer to the surface of the earth.
This lets them introduce higher bandwidth for their subscribers, but at the cost of coverage.
This essentially means that Starlink does not cover the whole country just yet, and would have to rely on launching more satellites to space to increase coverage.
Starlink also operates on a first come first serve basis, so you might have to put your name in and join the long Starlink waitlist.
This severely hinders the availability of the service, and you would need to first check if your area is serviced by Starlink.
There are a few ways to skip the Starlink waitlist, however, it's not always an option.
But if you are amongst the lucky ones, it is smooth sailing from here!
The Starlink Kit that you get is designed to be used out of the box by anyone, so you do not need an installation team to set it up.
Since the Starlink Dish connects to multiple Starlink satellites depending on which unit is above you, you can move around with the dish if you turn on the portability feature or have the Starlink RV.
You can also mount your Starlink using the plethora of mounting options available from the Starlink Shop or even with aftermarket accessories.
Though you need to pay up a portability fee to take the Starlink dishy with you on a road trip, the fact that it is possible makes up for the extra fee.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What parent company owns Viasat?
Viasat is not owned by any parent company, but its service is co-owned in select regions by Nordic Entertainment Group (NENT) in the Nordic regions and Sony Pictures Television in Hungary.
This co-owning agreement is strictly for distributive purposes, and the Viasat company has the authority to make its own decisions for the company.
Are Viasat and Exede the same?
Viasat was initially named Exede internet, back when it launched in 2012. They later changed to Viasat in late 2017.