Viasat and Starlink are two major players in the residential satellite internet market. If you are shopping for service, fairly comparing the different options is critical.
Viasat is an established satellite communications company, while Starlink is newer to the market.
The top questions for potential customers are typically speed, reliability, and costs. In this article, we’ll compare Starlink vs Viasat in all the objective categories.
What is Viasat?
Viasat started offering satellite internet to residential customers in 2005. The Viasat network uses satellites in geosynchronous orbit to connect customers to ground stations. The service is widely available, even in remote areas.
The current generation of satellites on the Viasat network are the ViaSat-3. They are scheduled to enter service in 2022 with enhanced network performance.
What is Starlink?
Starlink is a satellite internet service operated by SpaceX. The service has been in development for years. They recently started offering service to the public in late 2020. Starlink is rapidly expanding as their network capacity increases with each new satellite launch.
Starlink uses advanced satellites in low earth orbit to connect customers to ground stations. The satellite position is much closer to the earth, resulting in high performance specifications. Starlink is available in remote locations, but capacity is currently limited as the satellite network expands.
When comparing Starlink vs Viasat, speed is going to be the most important factor for many people. Speed determines how long it takes to download a video, or upload a picture to social media. The higher the speed, the better. Let’s take a look at the real world download and upload speeds of each service.
Viasat Median Speeds
According to the latest Ookla.com Quarterly Performance Report, the median download speed for Viasat is 23.68 Mbps.
The median upload speed for Viasat is 2.78 Mbps.
Viasat has a tiered pricing structure with advertised maximum download speeds ranging from 12 Mbps to 100 Mbps. We believe the real world data presented above is more useful for comparing speeds to Starlink, because the advertised speeds from Viasat are not guaranteed.
Starlink Median Speeds
If we look at the same Ookla report referenced above, the median download speed for Starlink is 62.53 Mbps.
The median upload speed for Starlink is 7.24 Mbps. Starlink says that customers should expect between 50-200 Mbps, which is also close to the real world data.
Check out our article on Starlink Internet Speeds for more details.
Winner: Starlink Starlink is 3 times as fast as Viasat for downloading and uploading
Latency is the time it takes, in milliseconds, for data to travel from one computer to another. It is important for tasks like online gaming and video calls. Ping and lag are sometimes used to describe latency. The lower the number, the better.
Starlink and Viasat use different satellite deployment strategies. Viasat satellites orbit at a much higher altitude than Starlink satellites. As a result, Viasat is at a major disadvantage when it comes to latency.
Viasat Median Latency: 631ms
Starlink Median Latency: 48ms
Viasat latency is much higher than Starlink. Viasat even acknowledges on their website that their internet service is not compatible with online gaming or video conferencing.
Starlink can be used for online gaming and video conferencing. Starlink speeds and latency are much closer to traditional broadband internet.
Winner: Starlink Starlink latency is much lower, allowing for online gaming or video calls
For reliability, both services share the same disadvantage of using satellites to connect to the internet. Heavy rain, snow, and ice can cause service interruptions on both services.
Trees, buildings, and other obstructions can lead to reliability problems with either service.
Winner: Tie Both Starlink and Viasat are going to be less reliable than fixed broadband because of the limitations of satellite internet
A data cap or data limit is a limit to the amount of data a customer can download or upload in a given month.
Viasat does not have a hard data cap. Viasat does slow speeds after the data cap has been reached.
Starlink does not have any data caps and does not slow down speeds for customers that use large amounts of data.
Winner: Starlink Neither service will cut off your internet because of a data cap, but Viasat does slow down speeds after a certain amount of data
For satellite internet, there are two main costs to consider, equipment and service.
Viasat only allows customers to lease their equipment. You will pay $12.99/month or $299.99 for a lifetime lease for the equipment.
Starlink customers need to purchase the hardware kit for $599. This includes the satellite dish and wireless router.
Monthly Service Cost
Viasat offers residential customers different tiers of service offering different data caps and speeds. The prices range from $69.99-$199.99 per month.
Viasat customers are required to sign up for a 2 year contract with penalties/fees for early termination. Alternatively, customers can pay a $500 up front fee to avoid the contract.
Starlink charges residential customers $110/month for service. There are no contracts required and users can cancel service at any time without fees.
Winner: Viasat The up-front equipment and monthly service costs for Viasat are cheaper than Starlink
Viasat must be installed by a professional because of the need to properly align the dish to the satellites. Installation prices vary, but are typically free when leasing the equipment.
Starlink can be DIY installed or professionally installed, which will cost extra. The dish has motors that automatically align to the satellites. Mounts and accessories are available from Starlink and aftermarket.
See also: Starlink Mounting Options
Winner: Tie Although the Viasat installation is typically free, professional installation is required. Starlink can be installed DIY, but professional installation and mounting accessories will cost extra
Starlink Vs Viasat Summary
If Starlink and Viasat are both available in your area, Starlink is the clear winner in this battle. The speeds and latency are unmatched from any other satellite internet provider currently on the market.
Overall Winner: Starlink
Here is a quick summary of the comparison we did in this article:
|Download Speed||23.68 Mbps||62.53 Mbps|
|Upload Speed||2.78 Mbps||7.24 Mbps|
|Latency||631 ms||48 ms|
|Reliability||Weather affected||Weather affected|
|Data Caps||Yes, throttling||No|
|Costs||$69.99-$199.99/month + equipment||$110/month + equipment|
|Installation||Professional only||DIY or professional, accessories extra|
Thanks for reading. Do you have Viasat or Starlink? Let us know about your experience with either service in the comments below!