Viasat Home Internet Review: Availability From Coast to Coast, But It Comes at a Price     – CNET

Viasat Home Internet Review: Availability From Coast to Coast, But It Comes at a Price – CNET

Like

  • Great availability in rural areas
  • Max speeds faster than most rural providers
  • No data overage fees
  • Viasat continues to improve top download speeds in 2022

Don’t Like

  • High prices that increase after just three months
  • Speeds no better than 12Mbps in a lot of areas
  • High latency and service disruptions are common with satellite internet

If you’re checking out Viasat internet, chances are you’re in or are moving to a rural area with limited broadband options. The good news is 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.

Viasat offers decent speeds and higher data allowances for a satellite provider than you’ll find from rival HughesNet. In fact, just this summer, Viasat introduced new, faster speed tiers up to 150Mbps available in specific markets across the country, and intends to roll them out nationwide soon.

The provider is not free of flaws, however. First and foremost are the nosebleed-worthy monthly rates, which are higher than what you’ll get from most other providers and increase after just three months of service. Then there are the speeds. Admittedly, Viasat speeds are faster than HughesNet and DSL service in many areas, but plenty of locations will see max speeds of only 12Mbps. Even if the fastest Viasat speeds are available, 150Mbps is still well short of what you’ll get with cable or fiber.

That said, Viasat still may be one of your best rural internet options, especially if DSL service is painfully slow and cable internet isn’t available.

Satellite dish with the Viasat logo on it

Viasat

Viasat plans and pricing 

Viasat home internet has five plan tiers: Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum and Diamond. Some markets can only access the first three plans, and available speeds or data allowances can vary by location. As you can probably guess, the more lustrous the plan name, the more speed and data.

Other markets across the country will have access to Viasat’s New Choice plans, which the provider hopes to make available nationwide by the end of the year. We’ll detail those below as well.

Viasat’s current internet plans

Plan Max speeds Starting price per month Price after 3 months Contract terms Equipment costs Data allowance
Unlimited Bronze 12 12Mbps download, 3Mbps upload $70  $100 Two years $13 a month or $299 one-time purchase 40GB
Unlimited Silver 25 25Mbps download, 3Mbps upload $100  $150 Two years $13 a month or $299 one-time purchase 60GB
Unlimited Gold 50 50Mbps download, 3Mbps upload $150  $200 Two years $13 a month or $299 one-time purchase 100GB
Unlimited Platinum 100 100Mbps download, 3Mbps upload $200 $300 Two years $13 a month or $299 one-time purchase 150GB
Unlimited Diamond 100 100Mbps download, 3Mbps upload $300 $400 Two years $13 a month or $299 one-time purchase 300GB

Viasat’s New Choice internet plans

Plan Max speeds Starting price per month Price after 3 months Contract terms Equipment costs Data allowance
Choice 25 25Mbps download, 3Mbps upload $65 $85 Two years $13 a month or $299 one-time purchase 40GB
Choice 50 50Mbps download, 3Mbps upload $85 $120 Two years $13 a month or $299 one-time purchase 60GB
Choice 75 75Mbps download, 3Mbps upload $120 $170 Two years $13 a month or $299 one-time purchase 100GB
Choice 100 100Mbps download, 3Mbps upload $170 $250 Two years $13 a month or $299 one-time purchase 150GB
Choice 125 125Mbps download, 3Mbps upload $250 $350 Two years $13 a month or $299 one-time purchase 300GB
Choice 150 150Mbps download, 3Mbps upload $250 $350 Two years $13 a month or $299 one-time purchase 300GB

With introductory pricing starting at $65 to $300 per month, Viasat is easily one of the most expensive providers — and again, that’s before the price increase. After three months, the monthly price jumps from $30 to $100. Pricing does stay fairly stable after that, thanks to a two-year price guarantee, but three months is still the quickest price increase of any provider, most of which will at least give you a year’s worth of promo prices.

And don’t be fooled by the “unlimited” part of each plan name. All Viasat plans come with a data boundary, if you will, and if you exceed it in a given month, you can expect Viasat to throttle your speeds. More on that in just a bit.

What you get depends on where you live

I’ve mentioned it a few times, but it’s worth repeating: Viasat speeds and data allowances vary by location. Depending on where you live, download speeds of 12, 25, 30, 50 or up to 150Mbps may be available. The one constant is upload speed, which is up to 3Mbps in all service areas across all plans.

In some areas, Viasat only offers the 12Mbps speed tier. In that case, the jump from Bronze to Silver or Silver to Gold means more data. For example, if 12Mbps is your area’s maximum available speed, the difference between Bronze and Silver will 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, which sounds like a lot, but even the highest Viasat data allowance falls short of what the average US household uses in a month. 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 the fastest Viasat speeds available?

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, Indiana; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; and Dallas, Texas.

The Viasat spokesperson also told CNET that faster speeds, in more locations, are on the way. To that end, Viasat plans to launch its Viasat-3 satellite in 2022, which will “deliver more data with higher data thresholds, faster 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. Another is Viasat Liberty, which is already on the market in select locations. 

Viasat Liberty

Viasat Liberty plans 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). Liberty plans also have free, unlimited data from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. 

The free zone could be a big bonus if you know how to schedule your downloads, or if you’re just a night owl. But keep in mind, with max speeds of only 12Mbps, you may not be able to download a whole lot during a single three-hour window. Standard definition movies, which typically have a file size of 1GB to 3GB, could take less than 30 minutes to download, but you might struggle to finish downloading larger files, such as video games and HD movies.

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, which is average compared to other providers. You can’t get rid of that fee by using your own equipment, but you do get the option of buying Viasat’s equipment outright for a one-time fee of $299. While three hundred bucks can be tough to part with upfront, purchasing the equipment will pay for itself after 15 months. 

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

You can opt for a no-contract plan if you want to pile on the upfront costs. 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.

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 $65 to $160 a month, and all plans come with download speeds up to 25Mbps and upload speeds up to 3Mbps. You’ll also get less data with HughesNet, as plans only come with 15-100GB per month. However, HughesNet customers have the option to buy additional data throughout the month, while Viasat customers don’t. Equipment fees and installation costs are roughly the same between the providers, and both come with a two-year contract.

Viasat vs. everything else

Viasat and HughesNet will rarely be your only internet options unless you’re in a remote, rural location. However, they could be your only choice 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, which has max download speeds of 10 to 12Mbps. Other fixed wireless providers, such as Rise Broadband, can offer faster speeds of up to 50Mbps at a lower price than comparable Viasat speed tiers. Fixed wireless has lower latency than satellite, but both service types are susceptible to 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 50Mbps and unlimited data starting at $50 monthly. On the other hand, T-Mobile Home Internet offers speeds of up to 182Mbps and unlimited data for $50 a month. 

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 to 10Mbps. DSL could offer speeds up to 100Mbps or higher in other locations for lower prices 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 it’s possible that providers of other internet types could net you lower costs, faster speeds and more data. It all depends on what’s available at your address, so 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 what customers think of their service. 

As of this writing, Viasat has approximately 2,000 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 to further explain the situation or offer a resolution. Of the complaints, over 800 were closed in the last 12 months. Viasat’s timely responses have helped it earn an A+ rating from the BBB.

Let’s recap

With speeds up to 150Mbps 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 unavailable. 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 stingy price increase after your first three months of service.

Viasat FAQs

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 play games online with Viasat?

Standard Viasat service will not support real-time online gaming due to the high latency. 

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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David Anders

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