Internet is internet, right? Not necessarily. The connection type plays a major role in availability, pricing, speed potential, and overall performance. And this is why shopping for internet plans gets confusing real quick if you aren't familiar with the different technologies used to deliver the internet to your home.
If we eliminate the wired modes of connectivity—DSL, Cable, and Fiber—which are usually the choice of residents in top connected states, things become a little less complicated. You are left with satellite internet, Fixed Wireless and mobile broadband. Fixed Wireless however is not as ubiquitous a service type as the other two. And even between the two, there is an awful lot to keep straight. If you don't pay heed to the differences, you risk getting stuck with a connection that isn't as reliable or economical as you had wanted, or as fast as you need.
If you are curious about it, keep reading, and we will tell you all you need to know.
Satellite internet relies on the combination of a signal sent through a satellite in low or high Earth orbit and a receiver dish that accepts that signal. The receiver is placed in your home at a spot with a clear view of the southern sky (if you are in mainland U.S.).
This broadband type is the most widely available option and is a great choice for people living in rural America. However, long term contracts, higher prices, restricted data allowance, and high latency can try your patience in the long run.
Satellite internet download speeds generally range from 12 Mbps to 100 Mbps, depending on the provider and plan you choose. Upload speeds are even slower and usually come in at 3 Mbps.
The biggest downside of satellite internet is latency. Since the signal is transmitted over extremely long distances, there is always a slight delay—ranging from completely unnoticeable to downright annoying, depending on what you’re doing. Competitive gaming, for example, is nearly impossible if you’re using a satellite connection.
Like other broadband types, satellite internet prices are also driven by speed and data. But, honestly speaking, it is a pricey option given the costly infrastructure.
In general, satellite internet prices range from $50 to $150 a month, depending on your specific provider and plan.
The two top satellite internet providers in the U.S. are HughesNet and Viasat. Both have been in the business of satellite-based communications for decades. Although it's a close call between the two, HughesNet’s competitive pricing and unique features give it an edge.
Perhaps the best thing about HughesNet Internet is while it does not offer unlimited data options, all its plans get you 50 GB Bonus Zone data to supplement the allowance you get with the service plan. There are no hard data limits, and while the connection speed is throttled in case of a breach, you never go offline. Also there is the opportunity of purchasing more data if needed.
Available in all 50 states, satellite internet does not offer blazing fast speeds. But it maybe your only option if you live in a part of the country where wired internet infrastructure remains deplorably underdeveloped. It is also practical to opt for this connection type if no wired high-speed internet option is available in your area. For gamers however, satellite broadband is not the right choice.
Mobile hotspot is another internet option available wherever you get a cellular signal. It lets you connect devices to the internet using the data plan from your cellular service provider. Basically, it is a Wi-Fi connection based on your data plan in which your cellphone or a hotspot device acts as a wireless gateway. Quite similar to tethering—with the only difference being the connection is established wirelessly and not through a USB cable.
Mobile hotspots usually operate by taking an LTE connection and converting it into a Wi-Fi signal. You can then connect your laptops and other devices to it the same way you connect them to a home or public Wi-Fi network.
A mobile hotspot facilitates data transmission over 4G LTE wireless technology, delivering max speeds of around 30 Mbps. But some latest mobile hotspot devices come with 5G capability, so they hit speeds from 50 Mbps to around 1,000 Mbps in some areas.
Having said that, how fast your hotspot is depends primarily on the carrier you choose, the data plan you purchase, and how good the service is in your area. Unlike other types of internet connections, you can’t just upgrade to a higher-speed plan. You either have LTE in your area, or you don’t.
What you’ll need to pay attention to is the data limit. Most mobile hotspot plans include a monthly data limit, and once you hit that, the provider slows down your connection—requiring you to pay for additional hotspot data.
You can find mobile hotspot plans in the range of $20 – $200 per month from some of the best ISPs in the US. Like satellite plans, mobile hotspot deals also tend to be tiered on the basis of data allowance rather than speed. If you are a heavy internet user or do a lot of streaming, you can eat through your data allotment very quickly, either forcing you to pay an overage charge or upgrade your plan to continue using the service.
Mobile hotspots need cellular service to create a Wi-Fi signal. So you’ll need a data plan from a reliable provider to make your own hotspot work. AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile offer some of the best mobile hotspot deals in the U.S.
AT&T tends to be the most reliable option if your monthly internet usage falls within the hotspot data options offered by the provider. Also, if you have a good idea about your monthly data consumption, it would not be challenging for you to pick the right AT&T plan.
AT&T Wireless Unlimited Your Way plans present an affordable option when it comes to mobile hotspot data. The good thing about these plans is even after you’ve consumed the allotted hotspot data, you don’t go offline Albeit, you must face the speed throttled to 128 Kbps.
Learn more about AT&T unlimited mobile hotspot plans and how you can get them. And to check out AT&T Wireless plans, call 855-925-2541.
Besides, you’ll find a number of pre-paid data-only options for tablets and mobile hotspots with AT&T, Nationwide coverage is again the biggest advantage, not to forget access to 5G comes included.
A mobile hotspot is a great internet choice that goes wherever you go. Although it generally does not give you as much data and speed as a home internet plan, a mobile hotspot provides a reliable connection in places and situations where it’s difficult to get internet access. They are extremely useful when you’re on the go—working remotely while having lunch in a restaurant or staying in a vacation home.
Having said that, mobile hotspots are best for potable and short-term internet usage—using it more than that is probably not worth the cost.
In most cases, satellite internet is a better option, but in areas with good cell coverage, mobile hotspot is the faster option. With that said, shorter coverage range and strict data limits are some of the major drawbacks of a mobile hotspot. Frequent loss of connectivity is likely, you maybe limited to certain rooms and devices, and may also have to limit activities such as daily video streaming.
Whereas when you look at satellite internet, the home setup essentially functions like any wired in-home WiFi with coverage around the house. And if you are a HughesNet subscriber, you can even get additional 50 GB bonus data with all plans. It accounts for usage between 2 AM and 8 PM. But beware. Unless you are lucky to get one of the promo specials, satellite internet does come with a relatively expensive price tag.
Well, the crux of the article is you should go for what suits your internet usage pattern better—do you need a reliable internet source or portable internet? Whichever of the two options meets your needs better is the one perfect for you!