Comparing Satellite Service Providers: Viasat vs HughesNet vs iDirect

The more remote you go, the harder it is going to be to stay connected. Fortunately, this is where Expedition Communications excels. We offer roof-mounted auto-deploy mobile satellite internet antennas for our privately-managed iDirect network, the HughesNet network, and the Viasat network. We offer service plans for each of those networks, too. Let’s take a look at some of the differences between these networks and see what works best for your needs.

Reliability of Satellite Service Speeds by Network

Just because you’re paying for a certain speed doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get that speed. Network contention ratio is the number of users sharing the same bandwidth as you, and the more users vying for the same bandwidth, the slower the speeds. A network with a high contention ratio may be perfectly fine in the middle of the night, but may have significantly slower speeds during much of the day and evening. This contention ratio is usually directly proportional to the amount paid for the service. Higher-cost service plans are lower contention, and lower-cost service plans are higher contention.

Multiple AVL mobile satellite antennas deployed
Networks that are geared towards first response customers maintain a low contention rate, while most consumer-focused networks have a much higher contention rate.

Our privately-managed iDirect network maintains a very low contention rate, a necessity to make sure that our service works when our first response and emergency management customers need it. Though you won’t often have the exact speeds that your plan lists, the speeds will often fluctuate quite close. Our Viasat plans are similar, offering business-class contention rates that are dependable and fast. While our iDirect plans have custom speeds, our Viasat plans all offer the same great speeds of 18Mbps download by 5Mbps upload. The HughesNet network is quite different, offering fast speeds of 25Mbps download by 3Mbps upload on a very highly contented network. Though the service plans are very affordable and offer a large amount of data per month, the speeds will be by far the most variable of the three networks we provide.

Cost of the Antenna Systems

The iDirect network is a Ku-Band network, meaning it operates on a small number of satellites that cover a very large service area. Both HughesNet Gen 5 and ViaSat HTS operate on the Ka-Band network, meaning they operate a large constellation of “spot beam” satellites that cover the USA. These are the two main types of satellite internet service available.

The most affordable entry-level satellite internet system in North America is the DataSat 845, an auto-deploy system for the iDirect network. This 0.84 meter antenna is great for low-speed uses, with the DataSat 1200 being a good affordable option for a satellite antenna capable of more robust throughput. A comparable option for the HughesNet network, the HNS-RV, is slightly more expensive than the DataSat 845. The most affordable Viasat system is the Winegard WV-750A, a fantastic 0.75 meter antenna that comes with a much heftier price tag than any of the previous options.

We just covered the most affordable antenna options for each network, but that is just scratching the surface. The AVL, C-COM iNetVu, DataSat, and Winegard product lines have antennas for practically any need that cover a much wider array of price points.

Best Satellite Network by Application

Depending on what you’re doing, one network will probably work better for you than the others. If none of these fit your situation, give our sales team a call.

First Response and Emergency Services

For any kind of emergency response use, our iDirect network is the best choice. Ka-band networks rely on a much smaller service area per spot beam, potentially leading to very high contention in the event of an emergency. The Ku-band network is broad enough that an emergency in one location will not cause a strain to the network, allowing your team to respond appropriately. We also offer service plans specially designed for first response teams to allow them to get the speeds they need when they need them, without breaking the bank.

Emergency management trailer with satellite dish
An emergency response trailer equipped with a DataSat 1200 on our iDirect service network.

Mobile Businesses

The best best networks for mobile businesses and remote business owners are our iDirect network and the Viasat network. Our network is best for the traveling business that wants to minimize initial equipment expense and won’t need terribly high speeds for their work. Viasat, though more expensive for both equipment and service, will offer very impressive speeds and unmatched reliability on their business HTS network. The most popular service plans for Viasat are pooled data plans, meaning you buy a certain number of gigabytes to use over the course of a year. Our iDirect network also offers pooled plans, though most of our business customers go with an enterprise monthly service plan.

Mobile Employee and Remote Worker

Depending on budget, there are a few options. For the very price-sensitive consumer, a cellular internet system will offer significantly more affordable equipment and service plans compared to any satellite option. Our cellular offering works great for most remote workers, providing high gigabyte data plans and very fast speeds when in-network. Of course, the cellular plans will rely on proximity to a cell tower, limiting how remote mobile workers can travel. Still, it is the very best option for high speed internet in a mobile environment without requiring the investment of satellite.

For mobile employees that need to stay connected, the iDirect network and the HughesNet network will work best. Both networks offer affordable service plans with high data usage. The iDirect network will offer much slower but more constant speed, while the HughesNet network will offer much faster top speeds with very erratic average speeds depending on satellite contention in the then-current spot beam.

Hybrid Satellite and Cellular Solutions

For the best in mobile connectivity, many of our customer across different industries go with a hybrid internet system. Hybrid internet works by relying on cellular data when available, but easily transitioning to satellite once cellular is unreliable. This ensures the absolute best speeds from anywhere in the country. Though a bit more expensive, hybrid systems provide the speed and low latency of cellular networks with the reliability of satellite networks. These systems are chosen by business owners, first response teams, and expedition crews across the country.

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