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.
Fast, inexpensive internet with great customer service, equipment, and installation? Wow is right. This internet company is a solid choice for most people. But if you’re a heavy streamer, its cable-fiber hybrid network might not be beefy enough.
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.
WOW! offers 100 Mbps to 1 Gbps plans at a great price, whether or not you sign up for an optional one- or two-year contract. If you don’t mind signing a contract, WOW!’s plans will cost you about 25% of the national benchmark for a similar plan (1). After that, prices transition to month-to-month rates, which are $10 to $15 higher but still well below the benchmark.
To get WOW!’s advertised prices, you need to sign up for both autopay and paperless billing (a $5 monthly savings) and commit to a two-year contract. If you’re not sure whether you want to be chained to WOW! for that long, don’t worry too much about it. If you duck out early, you’ll pay only $15 for each month left on your contract—which isn’t much more than you’d pay if you skip the contract from the start. (2)
There are data caps of either 1.5 TB or 3 TB, depending on your plan. These are pretty high, but if you’re a heavy user, you could be charged up to $50 extra every month and have your speed throttled.
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.
The majority of WOW!’s network is a hybrid of cable and fiber, though some customers in Alabama still have legacy DSL service. Although fiber technology can provide up to 10 Gbps and symmetrical upload and download speeds, a hybrid network can perform only as well as cable technology allows. WOW!'s speeds top out at 1.2 gigs, which is faster than most cable providers. Your max upload speed will be 50 Mbps, which is great for cable.
For most people, an asymmetrical 1.2 Gbps connection is plenty fast. But if you upload a lot of photos or videos, WOW! might not be powerful enough. You can also face throttling if you exceed your (admittedly generous) data caps. If that’s you, a fully fiber network, if available in your area, will be your best bet. You’ll probably also want to keep shopping if you can only get DSL with WOW!
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.
WOW! includes a free modem for your first year ($14/month after that). You can also rent a Whole Home Wi-Fi system, which includes a coveted eero base and one extender for $9.99. Additional extenders are $5.99 each, but most households won’t need more than one because eero’s that good. eero comes with an app you can use to manage your network, and you can add security services for an additional cost (under $10/month) if you want ad-blocking, malware protection, or parental controls.
A free self-startup kit is available to most new customers, but if you prefer professional installation, it’ll cost you $75. The good news is that with professional installation, WOW! waives its $10 activation fee, so it’s really just $65 more to have a technician’s help.
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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.
WOW! provides an award-winning customer experience, ranking fourth-highest in J.D. Power’s ISP Satisfaction list in the North Central US region in 2022. (3)
We should note that in 2021 WOW! sold a couple regions of its business (Evansville, IN and Chicago) to Astound broadband, so customers may see some changes in their service. That said, Astound ranks fifth on P.C. Mag's Readers' Choice awards, so you're probably in good hands. (4)