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Starlink Vs Viasat: How Do They Compare? Which Is Better?

Communication satellite orbiting space above the Earth.

Starlink Vs Viasat: How Do They Compare? Which Is Better?

Key Points

  • Although Satellite Internet has been existent since the 1990s, it only became mainstream recently.
  • Initially, Satellite connectivity was used by the Governments to maintain data security, then by people who travelled to remote areas, and later by people who lived in areas where regular internet was unavailable.
  • Out of all the providers in the market, HughesNet, Viasat and Starlink has the biggest customer base.
  • Out of all the players currently in the market, Starlink provides the highest speed, lowest latency, ease of installation and the highest number of satellites.

There are currently three major satellite internet providers in the market at today, Starlink, Viasat and HughesNet. Out of the three, Starlink is the last Internet provider to enter the market and started offering its services in 2020. Viasat and HughesNet have been around for a long time.

Satellite internet was used mainly by people who either lived or went to remote locations on a regular basis. They are not as stable and have greater latency compared to fiber, cable, 5G or any other technology. However, for people who live in remote areas, this might be the only way to access the internet.

If you’re looking for internet service, Starlink and Viasat are two options. How do they stack up against each other? Which is the best? Let’s dive deep to find out.

starlink satellite internet dish mounted to a roof
After equipment installation, it may take 12 hours for the Starlink system to attain optimum performance.

©Mike Mareen/Shutterstock.com

StarlinkViasat
FoundedJanuary 2015May 1986
Launch DateLaunched into the satellite internet in late 2018Launched into the satellite internet in 2001
Download Speed50 Mbps to 150 Mbps (Typically more than 100 Mbps)Maximum of 35 Mbps (For business 150Mbps)
InstallationInstallation takes less than 5 minutesThe installation has to be professional, and it takes 2-3 hours for installation.
OperatorSpaceXViasat
Data Limitation (monthly)No limitation40GB – 300GB
Viasat sign logo on the company's headquarters in San Jose, CA.
Viasat provides high-speed home internet services and secure networking solutions.

©Michael Vi /Shutterstock.com

Viasat has been in operation since 1986 and ventured into the satellite internet market in 2001. Starlink came into the picture in 2015 and launched its first two prototype satellites in late February 2018. Despite Starlink’s late entrance into the market, it beats its rival in speed, memory, and other technicalities.

Latency

Due to the vast distance in the positioning of the Viasat satellite, which is about 35,400 kilometers (km) above the surface in a stationary, geosynchronous orbit, it takes a long time for the signal to bounce back to the surface. This often results in high latency, on average, 500–800ms. Starlink, on the other hand, tackles the problem of latency by deploying more satellites in low earth orbit to provide perfect coverage, flying above at a close 550 to 1,200 kilometers (km).

Equipment Ownership

Starlink expresses another level of difference in their equipment ownership. For instance, when a user purchases the Starlink kit, SpaceX transfers the titles of the dish and router to the user in entirety. You can keep the equipment long after you cancel the service. On the contrary, Viasat doesn’t transfer the title of the antenna, modem, and router to a user. After service cancellation, you must return the equipment. Otherwise, they will charge you up to $500.

Contract Agreement

Starlink has no contract. This means you can cancel your service anytime you like without any penalty from SpaceX. The only problem is that you won’t be able to restart the service once you cancel because of the high demand for Starlink internet. On the other hand, Viasat has a 2-year contract. Also, there’s a $400 sanction to prevent early cancellation.

Equipment Installation

Viasat uses two geostationary satellites to provide the internet. Their user antenna must point towards those satellites for optimal internet speed. If you want to install a Viasat dish, you’ll need a professional technician. You also have to pay an installation fee to lease Viasat’s equipment. Depending on your location, installation may take up to 5 business days.

Starlink does not require any professional installation. SpaceX designed its equipment in such a way that anyone can install it. Simply point the Starlink phased array antenna towards an open sky, connect the ethernet cable with the router, and power up the router. You can also put your satellite dish anywhere you like as long as it has a clear sky view. The dish will orient itself for optimum satellite view with built-in motors. Within a few minutes, you will get fast internet access.

Download Speed

Though Viasat advertises 25 Mbps download speed and 3 Mbps upload speed, we hardly see that speed in reality. Users have reported that their internet speed never crosses 3-4 Mbps. This is because Viasat only has two geostationary satellites that provide the internet worldwide. Starkling comes out on top here, with download speeds of 50 Mbps to 150 Mbps. Some users report that Starlink’s internet speed exceeds 100 Mbps consistently.

  • Starlink was founded by Elon Musk, while Viasat was co-founded by Mark Dankberg, Mark Miller, and Steve Hart.
  • Of the two primary satellite internet providers so far, Starlink has proven to be the best yet.
  • In May 2021, Starlink saw 500,000 orders placed and had nearly 100,000 users by June 2021. This takes it to be the most in-demand satellite internet provider.
  • Due to Starlink’s low earth orbit satellites, the internet coverage may not cover a wider range of space like Viasat.
  • On February 24, 2022, Viasat’s KA-SAT network was affected by a cyberattack claimed to be Russian malware designed to wipe vulnerable modems and routers.

Based on the comparison above, it is easy to decide on the debate between Starlink vs Viasat. If you live within Starlink’s coverage zone, it is the best option. Based on the performance, speed, installation, and services rendered, Starlink outshines Viasat. Amongst its many advantageous features, the low earth orbit satellites transcend their offerings beyond what the legacy satellite providers have.

If you are not within the Starlink coverage range and have no access to terrestrial internet services, your options will be limited. Viasat is still a good option, but trails Starlink.

Nothing is stagnant in the world of technology, and there is always room for improvement. Over time, we hope Viasat will address the latency, installation, and other issues, however, as of now, Starlink is the clear winner.

Next Up…

Starlink Vs Viasat: How Do They Compare? Which Is Better? FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Which is better between Starlink and Viasat?

A direct answer to this is that Starlink is better than Viasat. Viasat’s internet service is terribly expensive, another thing is that the distance in the positioning of the Viasat satellite results in high latency. In contrast, Starlink transcends virtually all the flaws in Viasat. Also, it is less costly than Viasat.

Is Starlink better than regular internet?

At the moment, yes, Starlink’s internet is better than the regular internet. Fiber’s latency speed is around 17ms—slightly faster than that of cable internet, which is usually around 20-30ms. The current latency for Starlink compared to fiber is higher, however, Starlink latency is expected to be below 20 milliseconds (ms) in the future, and eventually reach under 10ms.

What is the downside of Starlink?

Users have reported a major disadvantage Starlink has over cable internet. Starlink can provide internet at speeds of 50 to 250 MBs for $99 a month plus $499 for the installation kit, which is a bit slower than typical cable internet, and more so than fiber internet.

Is Viasat part of Starlink?

No, Viasat operates on its own while Starlink is powered by SpaceX. Moreover, Starlink was founded by the famous Elon Musk while Viasat was co-founded by Mark Dankberg, Mark Miller, and Steve Hart. Both internet providers are widely distinct.

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