February 25, 2024

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Hughesnet satellite internet rating

Pros

  • Reliable, consistent broadband speeds in all service areas
  • HughesNet Bonus Zone provides an extra 50GB of data a month during off hours
  • No hard data caps

Cons

  • Two-year contract, with early termination fees if you cancel

See more pros and cons

Hughes Network Systems was the first satellite internet service to offer broadband speeds of 25 megabits per second in 2017. Since then, a lot has changed, and I’m not just talking about Elon Musk’s efforts to disrupt the satellite internet category. With Hughesnet’s new upgraded plans, customers can now expect faster speeds of up to 100Mbps and can save $30 a month for the first year.

More than anything, the pandemic affirmed our collective dependence on internet connections — and it made the lack of access for so many in rural America painfully clear, too. The federal government has been aiming to help with that. In the meantime, satellite internet service might be the only option for getting online where internet infrastructure falls short.

Satellite internet is faster than phone-line-based DSL, but it can’t compete with the speeds you get with cable or fiber connections. That said, ground-laid cable and fiber aren’t readily available to people outside densely populated areas. Even with speeds that fall well short of cable or fiber, established satellite providers such as Hughesnet, which can genuinely claim to offer service everywhere, are more relevant than ever.

With wide availability across all 50 states, Hughesnet is an excellent connection option for rural residents. Compared to its competitor Viasat, Hughesnet now matches up to its max speed of 100Mbps and 200GB of priority data available. Viasat, however, has a better track record with outages on Downdetector.com. If you need speed, Hughesnet’s new plans could be the one for you, and might even fit the bill if you’re in an area where you can’t get cable or fiber. Let’s dig in and take a look at the details.

hughesnet-coverage-map

Hughesnet’s coverage map spreads across the country, including Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. 

FCC/Mapbox

Hughesnet plans and prices

Hughesnet now offers three new plans with varying speeds and rates. The Select Plan is its cheapest plan at $50 a month for the first year and features download speeds of up to 50Mbps and upload speeds of 5Mbps. This plan is recommended for small households. Promotional rates may also be available based on where you live. New customers can save up to $25 monthly for the first 12 months of a two-year contract. Equipment can be leased for $15 per month with a $99 lease setup fee, or you can buy it upfront for $300 (including installation).

While all plans offer unlimited standard data, 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.

Hughesnet satellite internet plans

Plan Max speeds Monthly promo cost Monthly cost (after 12 months) Contract terms Monthly equipment costs Data allowance
Select Plan 50Mbps download, 5Mbps upload $50 $75 Two years $15 a month or $300 one-time purchase 100GB
Elite Plan 100Mbps download, 5Mbps upload $65 $90 Two years $15 a month or $300 one-time purchase 200GB
Fusion Plan 100Mbps download, 5Mbps upload $80 $110 Two years $20 a month or $450 one-time purchase 200GB

Prior to these upgrades, Hughesnet’s Gen5 plans offered customers the same max download speeds. It was known for the simplicity and consistency of their plans. But the 2023 Ookla report on Starlink LEO satellite performance in the US showed that Hughesnet and Viasat were behind most of the market. Hughesnet recorded median download speeds of 15.87Mbps in the third quarter of 2023. That said, it will be a while until we see how Hughesnet’s upgraded plans affect the nationwide report.

As for value, Hughesnet is slightly cheaper than its main rival, Viasat. With Viasat, you’ll need to pay $85 per month to match Hughesnet’s 50Mbps download speed, and that monthly price will go up to $120 after just three months. However, both Viasat and Hughesnet have unlimited data. On top of that, Hughesnet now offers download speeds of up to 100Mbps for $80 per month for the first year, making its cost cheaper than Viasat’s at $250 per month for the first three months.

No data cap, but data is far from unlimited

While Hughesnet touts its “unlimited data,” that’s a bit of a misnomer. Yes, there are no hard data limits, so 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 severe slowdowns once you hit that monthly data cap. Hughesnet will cut your download speeds from 50Mbps down to 1 to 3Mbps for the remainder of the month. Keep that in mind as you consider which data plan to select.

For example, you might be tempted to go with the cheapest plan, which Hughesnet recommends as perfect for smaller households. But that plan comes with 100GB of data, which is considered close to being unlimited data. Yet still, it’s also fair to consider how much data your household consumes. Netflix estimates it takes approximately 1GB to stream an hour-long show in standard definition and 3GB to stream an hour in high definition. If you use Netflix at its lowest data setting (0.3GB per hour) you can view approximately 600 hours of streaming.

This is where the Hughesnet Bonus Zone, available as part of all plans, comes into play. During the off-peak hours of 2 a.m. to 8 a.m., customers receive an additional 50GB of data per month. Depending on your chosen plan, this could more than double your data allotment, and it might help you bridge the gap between your typical usage and your plan’s ceiling. Granted, it’s not the most convenient time, but with some planning, you could schedule a movie download or some other activity to take advantage of the extra data.

Additional details to know about Hughesnet 

Hughesnet’s satellite internet service is relatively 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, though this fee is waived if you decide to plunk down $450 to buy your modem instead of renting it, for its Fusion plan. There is no self-installation option like you might find with other internet connection types. A standard installation includes a technician visit, Hughesnet satellite dish, and Wi-Fi modem setup. As a limited-time offer, Hughesnet is offering free standard installation if you order online.

Additional monthly equipment fee

You will not be able to use your own modem with Hughesnet’s new plans. To lease the Hughesnet Wi-Fi Modem, which doubles as a Wi-Fi router, you will need to add $5 a month to your bill. While this is the most popular option for customers, you can avoid this monthly charge altogether by buying the equipment for a one-time fee of $99, including the standard installation charge.

That’s still a very hefty price, but it might be worth considering if you plan on sticking with Hughesnet for the long term. Compared with paying $15 per month in perpetuity, you’ll break even in under two years by paying that one-time, upfront expense of $450 (remember, the $450 figure includes installation, which typically costs an extra $99). If you plan on keeping your Hughesnet connection any longer, paying upfront is the less expensive proposition.

Potential early termination fee

That two-year break-even rate on the modem purchase probably isn’t an accident, as all Hughesnet plans require 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 you’d still need to pay a fee of $100 if you cancel during the last month of your contract.

Affordable Connectivity Program availability

Hughesnet participates in the ACP, a Federal Communications Commissions program to assist low-income families. Eligible households will receive a discount of up to $30 per month (up to $75 per month for qualifying tribal lands) toward internet service. This program is available to both new and existing customers facing financial hardships.

Graph showing the results from the South region of J.D. Power's 2023 ISP study

Hughesnet ranked bottom in 2023 for customer satisfaction in the South.

J.D. Power

Hughesnet vs. competitors: Hughesnet has work to do on the customer satisfaction side 

The American Customer Satisfaction Index didn’t include separate scores for satellite providers like Hughesnet and Viasat in 2023. Still, those rankings factored into the ACSI’s overall aggregate score for internet providers — and that score showed a slight increase, a 6% change, compared to the previous year. It’s a slight change, but it’s hard to read too much into that for Hughesnet specifically. 

Elsewhere, the 2023 J.D. Power US Residential Internet Service Provider Satisfaction Study was much more telling, with Hughesnet earning 577 on a 1,000-point scale in the South region. That’s below average for the area, down by 1 point than its score in 2021 and made for a last-place finish compared with 10 other ISPs in the study. The final dagger? It was the lowest score of any ISP listed in the J.D. Power satisfaction 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,” Wymer said. “So for those who choose to live in those less densely populated areas, we want to be their primary choice.”

What’s the bottom line on Hughesnet?

If you live in a highly populated urban or suburban area, you’ll likely have other, faster internet connection choices, and Hughesnet isn’t for you. But if you reside in a rural or less densely populated area without many options for getting online, Hughesnet might be the best and most reliable connection available. This is even more evident now that it offers faster speeds at different rates. Hughesnet shows commitment to supporting broadband speeds to all serviceability areas, making it a compelling pick under those circumstances.

Hughesnet FAQs

What is the Hughesnet Bonus Zone?

The Hughesnet Bonus Zone describes the window of 2 a.m. to 8 a.m. each day when customers can access 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’s internet service fast?

Hughesnet’s new upgraded plans meet the FCC’s definition of broadband speed — 25Mbps download, 3Mbps upload. While you can make the case that this baseline qualification as broadband speed doesn’t qualify as “fast,” it is undoubtedly faster than the DSL plans that might also be available to rural customers.

Can I game with Hughesnet’s plans?

Yes. The Fusion plan, a combination of satellite and wireless technologies, allows for lower latency and supports online gaming. That said, customers can also experience faster speeds of up to 100Mbps, allowing you to do more with your internet such as connecting to more devices or streaming TV in a higher picture quality. 

How about watching my favorite movies in HD?

Yes, but it’s not automatic. The Hughesnet service automatically streams videos at 480p to help you save your data, but you can change this setting pretty easily via the Hughesnet mobile app.

Will Hughesnet speeds get faster in the future?

Since the company’s Jupiter 3 satellite launch in 2023, consumers can now see new offerings available after that satellite made it into orbit, including plans that support download speeds from 50Mbps 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.”