Always choose fiber optic internet over satellite. It’s faster, has much lower latency, and provides more reliability. Only use satellite internet if you need a backup connection and can’t access fixed wireless access.
I want to know the best internet connection type for various use cases. I’ve compiled information about both connection types to help us decide whether fiber and satellite take the cake.
As you read on, I’ll cover the following:
- The best choice
- How fiber & satellite compare in different areas
- Fiber internet explained
- Satellite internet 101
- Internet connection types compared
Read on to learn more.
Should You Get Fiber or Satellite Internet?
Pick fiber internet if it’s available in your area. Here’s why:
- Low latency: ideal for gaming & video conferences
- High speeds: lowest speeds are 300 Mbps (download & upload)
- No soft data caps: no slower internet after using your data
- Cheaper: compare the prices in the below chart
- Lower installation costs: usually $99
I recommend satellite internet if you require a backup connection and don’t have access to fixed wireless access.
Otherwise, fiber slays satellite internet in every category. Except availability.
Fiber vs. Satellite Internet
Here’s how fiber optic internet compares to satellite:
|Fiber Internet||Satellite Internet|
|Best For||8K streaming, competitive online gaming, & file transfers||Internet access in remote areas|
|Max. Speed||10 Gbps||100 Mbps|
|Avg. Latency||8.1 ms||469 ms|
|Avg. Monthly Fee||$64/mo.||$86/mo.|
|Equipment Needed||ONT & router||Flat panel antenna & satellite modem|
|Installation||Requires professional installation||Requires professional installation|
How did I get the average latency?
I found the average ping for fiber and cable providers, then found their median. Your ping will vary.
Fiber vs. Satellite: Latency
Fiber offers more than 400 ms less latency than typical satellite internet connections. Though Starlink has 40 ms ping, fiber provides more reliability for online gaming and video chatting.
Starlink could perform well when using services like Skype. Since they suggest 150 ms or less latency . From the information I found, HughesNet and Viasat cannot meet Skype’s generous suggestion.
I dedicated a separate section to gaming. For now, we’ll talk about speed.
Fiber vs. Satellite: Speed
Fiber offers enough download and upload speed to accommodate all homes’ and businesses’ online needs. That includes frequently downloading and uploading massive files (e.g., 4K UHD video files).
Satellite doesn’t come close to speeds in any category versus fiber. The soft data caps on satellite internet plans make it unviable for online video streaming and file downloads. Otherwise, you’ll burn through your data cap quicker than you can say “I.”
I recommend using satellite internet for checking emails and browsing websites without videos. If you feel like burning money, give it to me. Or watch online videos.
Fiber vs. Satellite: Availability
Let’s compare availability :
- Fiber: 38%
- Satellite internet
- 25 Mbps: 99.96%
- 100–250 Mbps: 29.54%
Fiber offers more availability for high-speed internet (100 Mbps+). Whereas, satellite internet covers more of the country with slower speeds.
Fiber vs. Satellite: Costs
Satellite internet, on average, costs $22 more monthly than fiber optic internet plans. And that doesn’t include equipment rental or installation costs.
Then satellite providers like Viasat and HughesNet will charge to top up data after using all their allotted data. It’s around $3.00 per 1.0 GB.
The most significant expense of fiber internet comes from the installation fees. These range around $100. Otherwise, they won’t charge you to use their equipment.
And they’ll often give you routers for free.
Fiber vs. Satellite: Reliability
Fiber internet tends to have 99.99% uptime. However, conditions like snow, storms, and other lousy weather could interfere with your satellite internet’s connection.
Fiber vs. Satellite: Equipment & Installation
Both connection types require professional installation. With fiber, you’ll need a technician to install an optical network terminal (ONT). It’ll serve as your fiber optic modem.
Satellite internet requires a technician to install your home’s satellite dish.
Fiber vs. Satellite: For Gaming
Never game online with satellite internet. Even with lower-latency options like Starlink. Most satellite internet packages have horrendous ping due to the satellite’s distance from earth.
That means it’ll take longer for your device to receive internet, which leads to higher ping. Higher ping leads to lag. And lag leads to your character dying from a boar in World of Warcraft.
Or from an enemy player.
Also, consider game updates, patch files, and game downloads. Downloading these will use allotted data from satellite providers quickly. And once you use this data, you’ll have much slower internet.
For instance, HughesNet’s throttled download speeds are 1.0–3.0 Mbps. That’s not enough to game online .
Fiber vs. Satellite: For Video Streaming
Satellite internet is horrendous for online video streaming. You’ll quickly burn through the soft data caps, even when streaming 720p video.
Let’s use HughesNet as an example. They have a 15 GB soft data cap on their lowest plan. Upon burning through this data, you’ll have up to 3.0 Mbps download speeds.
First off, those speeds are good for one device streaming 720p video.
Here are speeds you’d need to stream on different video platforms:
|Netflix||3.0 Mbps: 720p|
5.0 Mbps: 1080p
25 Mbps: 4K
|Disney+||5.0 Mbps: 1080p|
25 Mbps: 4K
|Hulu||3.0 Mbps: Hulu’s Streaming Library|
8.0 Mbps: livestreaming television
16 Mbps: 4K
|Peacock TV||3.0 Mbps: 1080p|
|YouTube||2.5 Mbps: 720p|
5.0 Mbps: 1080p
20 Mbps: 4K
Second, it would take 21 hours of watching 480p SD videos for your home to burn through the 15 GB bandwidth cap.
Third, you’d need to pay for more data to increase your internet speeds when using all your data.
I shouldn’t have to illustrate my point further. Fiber doesn’t have data caps. And even the lowest-tier fiber optic plans could support at least 12 devices simultaneously watching 4K UHD video.
What Is Fiber Internet?
Fiber optic internet relies on ISPs sending internet to customers at light speeds through fiber optic cables. Maximum speeds for this connection type reach up to 10 Gbps.
Fiber cables won’t suffer from electromagnetic interference or radio frequency interference because of the glass fibers.
Fiber internet providers don’t use modems. They use what is called optical network terminals (ONT). They translate the fiber optic signals to digital ones your devices can understand.
Technicians will install this outside where utilities enter your home, in utility closets, or apartment utility areas.
Pros & Cons of Fiber Internet
Areas where fiber internet wins include:
- Low latency
- High speeds
- More reliable
Fiber didn’t do the best in these areas, though:
- Requires adding infrastructure
Satellite internet only makes up for fiber’s cons with more availability. While you won’t need to lay fiber cables or install ONTs, satellite internet requires home satellite dishes.
Depending on the satellite provider, costs to install this equipment go up to $500. Or the cost for the equipment itself. Whereas, fiber installations usually cost $100.
Most Popular Fiber Internet Providers
Here are all the popular fiber providers you could choose:
|Provider||* Starting Price||Max. Speed||# of States Serviced||Best For|
|Verizon Fios||$49.99–$89.99/mo.||300–940 Mbps||9 (Availability map)||Remote work & discounts|
|AT&T Fiber||$55–$180/mo.||300–5,000 Mbps||21 (Availability map)||Home server management, cloud gaming, & video streaming|
|Frontier Fiber||$39.99–$149.99/mo.||500–2,000 Mbps||25 (Availability map)||Online gaming & home server management|
|Ziply Fiber||$20–$300/mo.||50–5,000 Mbps||4||Home server management, cloud gaming, & video streaming|
|Optimum Fiber||$40–$180/mo.||300–5,000 Mbps||17||Home server management, cloud gaming, & video streaming|
|CenturyLink||$30–$70/mo.||200–940 Mbps||16 (Availability map)||Remote work|
|Xfinity Gigabit Pro||$300/mo.||6.0 Gbps||40 (Availability map)||Managing Home servers|
|Google Fiber||$70–$100/mo.||1.0–2.0 Gbps||9||Livestreaming|
|Windstream||$39.99–$69.99/mo.||500–1,000 Mbps||18||Home server management, cloud gaming, & video streaming|
* Does not include taxes and other fees. These will vary by region. Actual internet speed will vary by connectivity method (e.g., Wi-Fi vs. Ethernet) among other factors.
Verizon and AT&T have many perks. But the former offers a 10-year price lock. Meaning, you won’t have to worry about price hikes for a while.
And all plans have fewer than 10 milliseconds of latency. Perfect for online gaming and video conferences. Bundling it with Verizon mobile plans will further lower your bill’s price.
But it’s not available in many areas. That’s where AT&T, Frontier, Ziply, Windstream, Optimum, and Centurylink take the torch. All these providers are nice, but don’t offer as many perks.
Xfinity, Ziply, Optimum, and AT&T offer 5.0 Gbps or higher plans. These plans are stellar for households that manage home servers.
And Google Fiber’s great for livestreamers or remote workers who want access to 1.0 terabyte (TB) free Drive storage.
What Is Broadband Satellite Internet?
Broadband satellite internet relies on internet signals sent from network operations centers to satellites in outer space. Upon reaching these satellites, the spacecraft will transmit these signals to antennas at your home.
The antennas will then send the signal to your satellite internet modem. From there, you’d access the internet through Ethernet. Or add a router into the mix and have access to Wi-Fi.
Because of the equipment needed to operate satellite internet, companies like Starlink charge a $500 equipment fee. And require professional installation. However, you’ll need a technician to install the modem.
That way, signals transmit to your home correctly.
Satellites will have varying orbits:
- Low-earth orbit (LEO):
- Low latency & higher internet speeds
- Better for online gaming & video conferences
- Satellites hover 300 miles away from Earth
- Starlink & Project Kuiper use these satellites
- Geostationary orbit:
- Lower internet speeds & higher latency
- Best for online browsing
- Satellites hover 22,000 miles away from Earth
- HughesNet & Viasat use these satellites
All satellite internet service providers enforce soft data caps. That means you’ll have slower internet once you use all the data your plan offers.
Let’s use HughesNet as an example. Use all their data, and your internet speeds will fall to 1.0–3.0 Mbps. The plans usually offer data tokens. Data top-ups for your plan.
Refreshing your data will return your internet speeds to normal. But the costs add up quickly.
Pros & Cons of Broadband Satellite Internet
Wins I’ll give satellite internet include:
Otherwise, satellite internet doesn’t do so well in these areas:
- High ping: more than 200 ms on average
- Soft data caps: requires you to buy additional data
- Expensive equipment: up to $500
- Expensive plans: costs $86 on average
Fiber makes up for every con I listed for satellite internet. Plans cost less and don’t come with additional equipment fees. And you’ll get much faster internet with less ping.
Most Popular Broadband Satellite Internet Providers
Available satellite internet providers include the following:
|Plan||* Starting Price||Max. Speeds (DL)||Installation Fee||Monthly Data||** Avg. Latency|
|HughesNet||$64.99–$174.99/mo.||25 Mbps||Free||15–100 GB||728 ms|
|Viasat||$69.99–$299.99/mo.||30–150 Mbps||Free||40–300 GB||638 ms|
|Starlink||$110–$500/mo.||50–500 Mbps||$599||1.0 TB||42 ms|
* Does not include taxes and other fees. These will vary by region. Actual internet speed will vary by connectivity method (e.g., Wi-Fi vs. Ethernet), among other factors.
** I can’t find many viable sources that disclose Viasat and HughesNet’s latency .
Starlink is the best overall satellite internet provider. Despite its high costs, it provides the most data, the highest speeds, and lowest average latency. It’s the only satellite provider that allows households to game online and stream videos.
I want to recommend HughesNet’s Fusion plans. They supposedly offer lower latency. But all their marketing copy mentions is “low latency.”
They don’t provide numbers. Who knows, low latency in their eyes may mean 100 ms.
Only use HughesNet and Viasat as backup internet. Low soft data caps and sluggish speeds make them useful for general online browsing.
Other Internet Connection Options
Before buying a plan, compare other internet connection types:
|Internet Type||Strengths||Weaknesses||Best For|
|Fiber||Speed & reliability||Limited availability||Anyone|
|Satellite||More availability||Soft data caps & low speeds||Backup internet|
|Fixed Wireless Access||No required infrastructure & affordable||Trees or other obstacles could mess with your signal||Backup internet & can perform most online tasks|
|DSL||Affordable & decent DL speeds||Low upload speeds||Watching videos 1080p res. & under|
|Cable||High DL speeds & can bundle with cable TV||Throttling & hard data caps||Watching videos (under 4K) & online gaming|
Here are the connection types to choose in order:
- Fiber: fastest speeds, most reliable, and high upload speeds
- 5G fixed wireless access: no data caps & high speeds
- Cable: high download speeds & low uploads
- DSL: download speeds good enough for basic browsing
- 4G fixed wireless access: download speeds can handle most online tasks
- Satellite: only choose this if you have no other options
So long as you have the budget, pick fiber optic internet over other connection types. If that doesn’t meet your home’s budget, consider 5G fixed wireless access (FWA). So long as you live in an area that doesn’t have trees everywhere.
Or buildings. Or other physical obstacles. Because all these will interfere with 5G frequencies’ ability to reach your home.
Don’t want to deal with sensitive FWA signals? Go with cable.
I don’t want to cover other internet connection types. The above table and list speak for themselves.
FAQs: Fiber & Satellite Internet
Keep reading. I’ve covered frequently asked questions about satellite and fiber internet.
Is Satellite Faster Than Fiber?
Satellite internet is not faster than fiber.
Can Satellites Replace Fiber?
Satellite internet could not replace fiber. Unless it delivered much higher internet speeds without data caps for less money.
Fiber internet is better than satellite in every aspect. So long as fiber providers offer services in your area. Otherwise, you should make your way down the totem pole of connection types before choosing satellite.
Once you select an internet type, you’ll need a provider. We’ve compared most popular providers throughout the States in separate guides. Find one that offers the most value.