Starlink has the fastest speed and lowest latency of any satellite internet service, but its availability and customer service lag behind competitors. While Starlink’s performance is impressive for satellite internet, it can’t compete with a traditional cable or fiber connection.
T-Mobile provides an inexpensive 5G internet plan with no contract and decent speed, but not a lot of choices or professional installation.
Where it’s already available, Starlink is a solid alternative to other satellite internet providers. Starlink offers one home internet service plan at a flat price just over $100 per month. Starlink aims to provide download speeds of 50–250 Mbps, with speeds varying based on location, network congestion, and other technical factors. That’s up to $2.27 Mbps of speed per dollar.
While it’s more expensive than many cable or fiber plans, this is a great value compared to other satellite internet providers. HughesNet doesn’t offer speeds anywhere near as high, although some of its plans are cheaper than Starlink’s. Viasat’s highest service tier offers up to 100 Mbps download speeds, but still can’t compete on speed or price.
Like HughesNet and Viasat, Starlink has limits on how much high-speed data you can use during peak hours (7:00 am to 11:00 pm). You can get around it by logging on overnight or buying additional gigabytes of high speed data through the app.
Starlink sets itself apart, though, by being the only satellite internet company to offer an internet option for RV travelers. It costs just $25 more than the regular residential plan but may have slower speeds in busy areas.
T-Mobile 5G Home Internet comes in one download speed (100 Mbps), which is fast enough for a lot of people but slower than most cable plans (up to 1 Gbps) and fiber plans (up to 5 Gbps). The good news? T-Mobile’s plan includes unlimited data, but there may be slowdowns when the network is congested. It’ll cost you $50, which is $0.50 per Mbps, and about right for 5G plans. However, overall, 5G internet is super cheap compared to other kinds of broadband internet. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) benchmarks similar broadband plans at $105.67/month, (1) which comes out to more than a dollar per Mbps!
Even better, if you’re already a T-Mobile customer with a qualifying Magenta plan, your rate is $25/month. If max download speeds of 100 Mbps works for you, T-Mobile 5G Home Internet is a pretty sweet deal, especially if you’re already a customer. But if you’re looking for more plan options, you won’t find them here.
Starlink certainly can’t compete with a fiber connection, but it is more than capable of outperforming other satellite providers. Starlink’s stated performance goals are 50–250 Mbps download speed, 10–20 Mbps of upload speed, and 20–40 ms latency. These are much more ambitious goals than what HughesNet or Viasat could achieve with their geostationary satellites, but Starlink’s low-earth orbit satellite technology lets it perform beyond the limits of other satellite providers.
There are still issues with the service, though. On Downdetector, Starlink customers report suffering from occasional outages and slowdowns and speeds are slowing as more and more customers sign up. (1) The US FCC (Federal Communications Commission) has approved the launch of 7,500 more low-orbit satellites, though, so those average speeds could jump back up. (2)
According to Ookla’s satellite internet performance data from Q3 2023, Starlink outshines other satellite internet providers in terms of median download speed, upload speed, and latency. (3) Across the whole US, Starlink’s median download speed was 53 Mbps, down from about twice that the year before. That's still faster than HughesNet and Viasat, but about 100 Mbps slower than fixed broadband. While median download speed varied widely by location, it still remained within advertised ranges.
Starlink’s median upload speed (7.22 Mbps) was much higher than both HughesNet and Viasat. As expected, Starlink’s latency (67 ms) was remarkably lower than other satellite internet providers, but not as low as fixed broadband providers.
As with any fixed wireless internet provider, speeds fluctuate widely and can be affected by weather, terrain, peak hours, and more. That means you’ll rarely get a steady 100 Mbps. T-Mobile says you’ll likely see anywhere from 33 to 182 Mbps for download and 8 to 25 Mbps for upload. (2) But we think T-Mobile should toot its horn a little louder. Independent research shows speeds average out to around 119 Mbps for download and 16 Mbps for upload—both of which leave other wireless ISPs in the dust. (3)
Generally, 5G internet isn’t as fast as cable internet (up to 1,000 Mbps, or 1 Gbps) or fiber (up to 5 Gbps). But for most people, it’ll feel pretty zippy. Unfortunately, if you’re using your connection for gaming, the inconsistency could cause unpredictable, frustrating lags.
Unlike other satellite internet providers, Starlink does not require or even offer professional installation. Instead, you will be sent a Starlink Kit that contains all the hardware you need to install a Starlink dish yourself. Although the kit comes with a satellite dish and a base, you may want to purchase a mount to place the dish above ground level for a clearer view of the sky.
If you need internet while traveling, you'll need Starlink's kit for RVs.
To install Starlink, download the app on your phone and follow the instructions to find an unobstructed view and complete the setup. The do-it-yourself installation is designed to be straightforward, but it can take several hours. If technical issues arise, you can turn to Starlink customer support or an unofficial online community for help.
Unlike HughesNet and Viasat, Starlink doesn’t offer a leasing option for its equipment. Instead, customers have to buy the basic Starlink Kit for a high upfront cost of $599. That averages to about $25 per month if you spread the cost over two years, and that's higher than you'll pay for Viasat or HughesNet equipment. For a high-performance Starlink kit that can handle both freezing weather and temperatures above 95 degrees Fahrenheit, the setup cost starts at $2,500 before taxes.
T-Mobile uses a 5G gateway (included at no additional cost) to turn cell signal into Wi-Fi for your home. It’s strong enough to send signal about 30 feet away, depending on how many walls are in the way. It’s compatible with most mesh network extenders. Plus, you can create up to four separate networks, so you can create one for Airbnb guests or your least favorite roommate.
According to T-Mobile, installation should take around 15 minutes—if you have an Android or iOS phone and can download the T-Mobile internet app. If that doesn’t work out, you can call T-Mobile customer service and someone will help you get set up. If you don’t get cell signal or a landline at home, though, you’re going to have a rough day.
Starlink’s customer support seems to be struggling to keep up with the needs of its growing customer base. Along with sometimes inconsistent speeds and connectivity issues, this is leading to mixed experiences with the service.
Elon Musk, CEO of Starling recently said delays were most common in highly populated areas, but rural areas were the best place for the service, anyway. (4) There have also been reports of long delays in receiving Starlink equipment due to the effects of the global chip shortage on production. (5) Some customers who pre-ordered Starlink kits have had to wait over a year to receive them and received few updates from the company (6), but you can look up your address using this Starlink map to find out what to expect.
Other internet providers tend to offer more customer support options and be more reachable than Starlink. Starlink’s website does offer a customer support FAQ section, but there is no public contact phone number or email address. To contact the company directly for assistance, you have to log in and send customer support a message. On the plus side, it is possible to find help elsewhere. Starlink has an enthusiastic community of users who post helpful videos on YouTube and answer questions on Reddit.
T-Mobile is fairly new to providing home internet, but it has a solid track record of providing great service to its mobile customers. Both contract and non-contract customers see the best service in the industry, according to J.D. Power. (4)
We don’t like T-Mobile’s short 15-day money-back guarantee, which doesn’t give you much time for a test drive. (We much prefer Starry’s 30-day guarantee.) Even worse, your countdown starts when T-Mobile ships your 5G Gateway, not when it arrives. If there are any shipping delays or it takes you a day or two to get set up, you’ll run out of testing time fast.