Satellite systems are complicated to install and so customers need to get the equipment installed by HughesNet technicians. This can cause a delay when taking out the service.
Although HughesNet satellite service is available all across the USA, there are some locations that the signal does not reach. It isn’t possible to see the satellite with the naked eye, however, the customer’s antenna needs a “line of sight” to the satellite. Fortunately, HughesNet has two satellites in geostationary orbit over the USA, so if the line of sight to one is blocked by a mountain or a tall building, it could still be possible to get the satellite link by pointing at the other one.
The two HughesNet Satellites are called Echostar 17 / Jupiter 1 and Echostar 19 / Jupiter 2. The transmission system for both satellites uses the Ka-band. Wireless internet transmissions, including satellite connections, used radio frequency beams. Radio frequencies are divided up into ranges and are measured in Hertz. The Ka-band is a range of frequencies from 26.5 to 40 gigahertz (GHz).
The internet connection isn’t handled within the satellite. Instead, the satellite acts as a relay station, bouncing signals back down to earth. The two endpoints in each satellite connection are the HughesNet HQ and the dish of a customer. Each message has to travel 22,300 miles up to the satellite and then 22,300 miles back down to earth. That means that each bit of data travels 44,600 miles from the HughesNet base to the customer’s dish. Access to the internet is made at the HughesNet location, so then all signals have to travel on to an ultimate destination, which could be on the other side of the world. So, every request from the customer’s browser and response from the server of the website being requested has to travel a very long way.
HughesNet has a policy of making modest claims about its service. Most broadband providers advertise their service capability “up to” a certain speed. So, most customers don’t actually get the speed that was in the advert that attracted them. HughesNet takes the opposite approach. It worked out what is the minimum speed that customers are likely to get and it advertises that.
The policy of under-selling its services has won HughesNet a lot of accolades. It consistently beats its speed claims and that translates into awards for excellence. The USA’s Federal Communications Commission tests the major broadband services every year and produces its results in the Report on Consumer Fixed Broadband Performance in the United States. The aim is to name and shame those broadband providers that seem to be cheating their customers with false performance claims.
HughesNet shines in the FCC report because it actually delivers more than double its promised speed. The precise figures are speeds of 261 percent more than advertised during off-peak hours and 186 percent faster than promised during peak hours.
The downside of HughesNet’s service lies in all of the distance that its signals have to travel and the possibility of interference on the way. This gives the connection a greater susceptibility to damaged or lost packets. Those missing packets can be retransmitted and so don’t influence activities such as downloading. However, in live applications, such as video streaming or internet telephone calls, lost packets can result in distortion, gaps, pauses, and other defects because the service can react quickly enough to make up for lost packets in real-time.