HughesNet Review – 2020

Satellite systems are more complicated than regular internet and so they offer slower speeds at higher prices than cable or DSL. The satellite service is available in very remote areas that even the telephone wires do not reach. Satellite internet services are also probably the only choice for broadband on a boat.
Rating:
4.5/5

Overview of HughesNet Internet Services

HughesNet has been operating under different names since 1996. It is one of the few broadband providers in the USA that delivers its service by satellite. The nature of satellite systems means that HughesNet has the largest service footprint of all internet providers in the USA, although it has one of the smallest user communities.

HughesNet has only one serious rival for satellite internet services in the USA, which is ViaSat. While HughesNet’s satellites cover more of the USA than the footprint of the ViaSat service, ViaSat offers faster speeds than HughesNet. By comparison, the next two largest satellite internet providers in the USA are X2nSat, which covers seven states and Big Bend Telephone Company, which only operates in one state.

Table of Contents

Pros of HughesNet

  • The largest coverage map in the USA – if HughesNet can’t reach you, no one can
  • Service in all US states and dependencies
  • Usually exceeds its advertised speeds
  • Extra throughput allowance for unsociable hours
  • A long-standing operator with stable technology
  • Good customer service track record

Cons of HughesNet

  • Speeds can be inconsistent
  • No bundling with a TV service
  • Access could be blocked by nearby tall obstructions

Some Points About HughesNet

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.

HughesNet Plans

HughesNet has four plans but only one speed. The difference between the plans is the data cap placed on each.

 

Plan Download Speed Upload Speed Data Cap Feature
10 GB 25 Mbps 3 Mbps 10 GB Off-peak bonus data allowance

Built-in Wi-Fi

Video streaming data rate recording reduction

20 GB 25 Mbps 3 Mbps 20 GB
30 GB 25 Mbps 3 Mbps 30 GB
50 GB 25 Mbps 3 Mbps 50 GB

The off-peak data bonus gives each account an extra 50 GB of data throughput per month but only for usage between 2 am and 8 am each day. The router provided with the service includes household Wi-Fi. When the HughesNet system detects that a customer is streaming video on the connection, it adjusts the resolution to 480px, which reduces data consumption. This means that each customer can get more throughput than the data cap would allow if videos were streamed in HD.

Once the data cap is reached, HughesNet doesn’t cut off the service but slows the download speed to 1 to 3 Mbps. It is also possible to buy extra data packs, which keeps the service at a regular speed.

HughesNet Pricing Overview

All HughesNet plans require a minimum contract of two years. Anyone who breaks the contract before the scheduled end date will have to pay an early termination fee (ETF) of up to $400. That fee reduces with each passing month.

The table below shows the prices of all HughesNet plans as at January 2020.

 

Plan Introductory Offer First 6 Months Standard Price/Month Setup Cost Equipment Fee
10 GB $39.99 $59.99 $99 $14.99/month
20 GB $49.99 $69.99 $99 $14.99/month
30 GB $79.99 $99.99 $99 $14.99/month
50 GB $129.99 $149.99 $99 $14.99/month

As a special offer, the company will waive the setup fee. However, not all areas of the country qualify for that gift. The equipment fee is reduced by $5 per month for the first six months of service. It is possible to buy the equipment outright instead of leasing it. This option costs $349.98. In some areas of the country, the equipment purchase price is $449.98.

HughesNet Customer Service

Each customer gets an account on the HughesNet website. This credential-protected section gives the customer the ability to see account information and make changes to the chosen plan or buy extra data units.

The customer support team can be reached by phone, through a live chat facility on the website, or by email. The company also maintains a presence on social media to inform customers and offer another channel of communication. HughesNet has profiles on Facebook, Instagram, Vimeo, and Twitter.

Choosing HughesNet Plans

In addition to its internet service, HughesNet offers a telephone system. This could be very attractive for those who live in an area that is not reached by the wired telephone network and cannot get cellphone reception. Bundling the two services together works out cheaper than taking out internet and telephone services from two different companies. The voice service only applies to a telephone in the property receiving the internet service — it does not offer service to mobile devices.

The low data caps on HughesNet plans don’t compare well to those imposed by other internet providers, while many services have no data caps at all. For example, Charter Spectrum and Verizon Fios have no data cap, while Xfinity, CenturyLink, and AT&T have a monthly data cap of 1 Terabyte, which is 1,000 gigabytes.

If you live in a place that cannot get the internet by DSL, cable, or fiber, then satellite is one of your few remaining options. By taking advantage of the off-peak bonus and video streaming data throughput compression, it is possible to squeeze better value out of the HughesNet satellite internet service.

HughesNet offers a very technologically complicated service, so it isn’t unreasonable that this system is more expensive than other alternatives, where there are internet delivery alternatives available.