HughesNet Satellite Internet Overview | CNET

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Ry Crist/CNET Hughes Network Systems was the first satellite internet service to offer broadband download speeds of 25 megabits per second in 2017. A lot has changed since then — and I’m not just talking about a certain SNL-hosting tech entrepreneur’s recent effort to disrupt the satellite internet category.  More than anything, […]


Ry Crist/CNET

Hughes Network Systems was the first satellite internet service to offer broadband download speeds of 25 megabits per second in 2017. A lot has changed since then — and I’m not just talking about a certain SNL-hosting tech entrepreneur’s recent effort to disrupt the satellite internet category

More than anything, pandemic certified our collective dependence on our internet connections — and it made the lack of such access for so many in rural America painfully clear, too. Where internet infrastructure falls short, satellite internet service might be the only option for getting online. Even with speeds that fall well short of cable or fiber, established satellite providers like HughesNet that can truly claim to offer service everywhere are more relevant than ever.

So, is HughesNet the right choice for satellite internet at your home? Let’s dig in and take a look at the details. 

hughesnet-coverage-map

HughesNet’s coverage map spreads across the whole US, including Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. No matter where you’re connecting from or what plan you’re going with, you can expect download speeds of 25Mbps.


FCC/Mapbox

What are the basics of HughesNet home internet service? 

HughesNet offers satellite internet service, which is the only internet connection type available in all 50 states across the country. This makes it a prime option for rural residents

Satellite internet is faster than phone line-based DSL connections, but it can’t compete with the speeds of cable or fiber connections. That said, ground-laid cable and fiber are not readily available to people outside densely populated areas. In some regions, satellite internet service might be your only option for getting online.

What we like about HughesNet

  • Speed reliability: Customers consistently receive broadband speeds in all service areas. 
  • HughesNet Bonus Zone: During the off hours of 2-8 a.m. customers get an extra 50 gigabytes of data a month. 
  • No hard data caps: You don’t have to fear any extra fees if you exceed your monthly data plan. 

What we don’t like 

  • Two-year contract: You’ll need to commit to the service or face early termination fees if you cancel. 
  • High equipment costs: This is just part and parcel of satellite internet service.
  • “Unlimited” data is a bit misleading: While you won’t incur extra fees or experience a service shutoff, HughesNet will impose severe speed reductions once you hit your data plan’s threshold.

What internet plans does HughesNet offer? 

HughesNet keeps things pretty simple. No matter what plan you choose, you’re going to get broadband download speeds of 25Mbps and upload speeds of 3Mbps, your bill will go up by $20 after six months, and you’ll need to pay an extra $15 per month for equipment (or $450 upfront). 

What varies from plan to plan is your monthly data allowance — the more you pay each month, the more data you get each month. Here’s the current breakdown, as of spring 2021.

HughesNet satellite internet plans

Plan Max download speeds Max upload speeds Starting monthly cost Regular monthly cost (after 6 months) Contract terms Data allowance Equipment costs
HughesNet Gen5 25Mbps 3Mbps $40  $60  Two years 10GB $15 a month or $450 one-time purchase
HughesNet Gen5 25Mbps 3Mbps $50  $70  Two years 20GB $15 a month or $450 one-time purchase
HughesNet Gen5 25Mbps 3Mbps $80  $100  Two years 30GB $15 a month or $450 one-time purchase
HughesNet Gen5 25Mbps 3Mbps $130  $150  Two years 50GB $15 a month or $450 one-time purchase

All HughesNet Gen5 plans offer the same max download speeds to all customers in all service areas. That consistency of service and speed reliability is a huge plus and differs from most other providers, whose speeds might vary from location to location. In fact, the Federal Communications Commission report on broadband highlighted that HughesNet did the best among participating providers when it came to actual versus advertised speeds, with median speeds that were 150{0793a87f845eb44b99477bd66e6e65c596d083bdd527c3ff91552a70105bd9eb} or higher than the advertised speed.

How do you know what HughesNet plan is right for you?

While HughesNet touts its “unlimited data,” that’s a bit of a misnomer. Yes, there are no hard data limits, which means you won’t be cut off or charged more if you go over your monthly data allowance. That’s a huge relief as you try to plot out your monthly budget. 

However, you can expect serious slowdowns once you hit that monthly data cap. Specifically, HughesNet will cut your download speeds from 25Mbps down to 1-3Mbps for the remainder of the month. Keep that in mind as you consider which data plan to select. 

For example, one might be tempted to go with the cheapest plan, which HughesNet recommends as “perfect for the single user or couple who is passionate about fast internet.” But that plan comes with 10GB of data, which can be quite limiting. How limiting? When it comes to data usage, Netflix says that it takes approximately 1GB to stream an hour-long show in standard definition and 3GB to stream an hour in high definition. Even at Netflix’s lowest data setting — 0.3GB per hour — it wouldn’t be much of a challenge to blow through that 10GB cap over the course of a week or two.

This is where the HughesNet Bonus Zone comes into play. During the off-peak hours of 2-8 a.m., customers receive an additional 50GB per month of data. Depending on the plan you choose, this could be more than double your data allotment, and might help you bridge the gap between your typical usage and your plan ceiling. While not exactly the most convenient time of day, with a little planning, you could schedule a movie download or other activity to take advantage of the extra data.

Are there any other fees or details to watch out for with HughesNet? 

HughesNet’s satellite internet service is fairly straightforward, but you’ll want to understand everything that’ll show up on your bill before signing up. Here’s a quick rundown.

One-time installation fee 

HughesNet charges $99 for standard installation. There is no self-installation option. Standard install includes a technician visit and setup of the HughesNet satellite dish and Wi-Fi modem.

Additional monthly equipment fee 

You will not be able to use your own modem with HughesNet Gen5 plans. To lease the HughesNet Wi-Fi Modem, which comes with built-in Wi-Fi, you will need to add $15 a month to your bill. While this is the most popular option for customers, you can avoid this monthly charge by buying the equipment for a one-time fee of $450, which includes the standard installation charge.

Potential early termination fee

HughesNet service requires a two-year contract. Cancel before the contract is up, and you’ll incur an early termination fee as high as $400 if you’re still within the first 90 days of service. The amount decreases by $15 a month after that, which means that you’d still need to pay a fee of $100 if you canceled during the very last month of your contract. 

The ACSI didn’t include brand-specific scores for satellite internet providers like HughesNet in 2020.


American Customer Satisfaction Index

Where does HughesNet rank for customer satisfaction? 

The American Customer Satisfaction Index didn’t include separate scores for satellite providers like HughesNet and Viasat in 2020, but those rankings were factored into the overall aggregate score for internet providers — and that score was up 5{0793a87f845eb44b99477bd66e6e65c596d083bdd527c3ff91552a70105bd9eb} from 2019. That’s good, but it’s hard to read too much into that. 

Elsewhere, the 2020 J.D. Power US Residential Internet Service Provider Satisfaction Study was a lot more telling, with HughesNet earning a score of 620 on a 1,000-point scale in the South region. That’s not only below average for the region, but it made for a last-place finish when compared with nine other ISPs in the study.

“We’ve been working diligently to support the needs of our customers,” Hughes Senior Vice President Mark Wymer said when we asked about that ranking. “We’re constantly trying to improve, but I also think we’re providing a strong service and score very well with the FCC in terms of the service levels we’re providing.

“What we really focus on is the underserved areas of the US and bringing those customers a high-speed experience. So for those people that choose to live in those less densely populated areas, we want to be their primary choice.”

HughesNet satellite internet FAQs

What is the HughesNet Bonus Zone?

The HughesNet Bonus Zone describes the window of 2-8 a.m. each day when customers get access to an additional 50GB of data per month. While these off-peak hours might not seem convenient, they present a great time to schedule a movie download, set up system updates for your devices or maybe even do some early-morning online shopping.

Is HughesNet internet service fast?

The HughesNet Gen5 plans all meet the FCC’s definition of broadband speed — 25Mbps download, 3Mbps upload speed. It is certainly faster than the DSL plans that might also be available to rural customers.

So, can I game with HughesNet Gen5?

It’s not recommended, no. One of the challenges with satellite internet service as a connection type is the high latency. Latency describes the amount of time it takes for data to travel from one point to another — and with satellite internet, that data has to travel to space and back. That makes it tough to keep up in certain types of online games, especially shooters and other games where quick reflexes and real-time decision-making are critical.

How about watching my favorite movies in HD?

Yes, but it’s not automatic. The HughesNet service is automatically set to stream videos at 480p to help you save your data. However, customers can change this setting fairly easily via the HughesNet mobile app. It can be modified either short-term — for just a few hours — or permanently.

Will HughesNet speeds get faster in the future?

Up next on the horizon for Hughes is the launch of its Jupiter 3 satellite, currently scheduled to blast off in 2022. The company tells CNET that consumers should expect to see new plans made available after that satellite makes it into orbit, including plans that support download speeds of up to 100Mbps.   

“This will be one of the largest satellites to be launched and will basically double the size of our network,” Wymer said. “The satellite industry continues to innovate and move forward, so it’s an exciting time.” 

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