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.
Xfinity is a fantastic provider overall. It offers fast speeds, reliable service, and reasonable prices. Some plans still require contracts, and others still have data limits. Watch out for Xfinity’s hidden fees and spotty customer service record, but it may not be as bad as it once was.
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.
Xfinity is generally a very good value, especially at the middle and lower tiers. In fact, it offers some of the best budget plans of any of the major internet service providers, with a 50 Mbps Internet Essentials plan for less than $20 per month and a 400 Mbps plan for $50 per month in some areas. Those plans have a data cap of 1.2 terabytes per month, which is disappointing but common among cable internet service providers (ISPs). Removing it costs an extra $30.
The 400 Mbps plan, which is about right for an average family, is also a great price. It rings in at about 36% of the national benchmark in its range. (1) That means you're paying just $0.18 per megabit, with plenty of megabits to go around.
Faster plans are available, but they are pretty pricey compared to the best fiber internet competitors we reviewed. Some areas can get speeds up to 2 Gbps, and others can get plans as fast as 6 Gbps. That is ludicrously fast, but it’s also really expensive. Most households don’t need those internet speeds unless they’re streaming a ton of 4K content at the same time or have 10 or more users, so we don’t recommend them for most households. They do come with unlimited data, though, so might still be worth it for some households.
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.
Xfinity internet performance is excellent. Its speeds are fast and reliable. In fact, in many markets, it has one of the fastest internet speeds around. The service is reliable and consistent. If outages occur, Xfinity is responsive and generally restores service within hours. Xfinity internet is also highly rated for speed (2), and research from the US Federal Communication Commission (FCC) scored it among the top for reliability (3).
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.
Xfinity internet offers the usual choice of professional and self-installation. The professional option is often more affordable than competitors, at $100. It's required if you haven't had Xfinity service at the address for more than 12 months. The self-install kit is free, though you may pay for shipping and handling. If you have trouble installing yourself, you can contact customer service for help but may face long hold times.
As for equipment, the Xfinity xFi gateway is fairly typical (and costs a fairly typical $14 per month). You can also add a Wi-Fi extender (and unlimited data) if you bump up to xFi Complete for about $15 per month for the first two years (and $25 per month starting in year 3). This is a bit steep for just the extender—you can grab an excellent Wi-Fi extender for right around $50. However, using Xfinity's equipment gives you unlimited data, and you qualify for a free upgrade after three years.
Read more about how internet bills work.
If you use your own equipment, unlimited data costs an extra $30 per month for lower tier plans, but is included for plans of at least 1 Gbps.
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.
The Xfinity internet customer experience is kind of a mixed bag. On the one hand, you have reliable service, with the option for unlimited data if you want it. This makes for a great day-to-day experience.
On the other hand, Xfinity internet has a spotty customer service track record. Technically, it ranks above average on customer surveys (4). That said, we all remember the memes from a few years ago. While customer service seems to be improving (based on survey scores, at least), not everyone has a great experience, and we still see a lot of complaints about billing issues and miscommunication between the company and the techs it hires.
If you need to connect with the company, we recommend using its customer service portal and downloading the Xfinity app first before trying to reach reps by phone.