Expert Overview of HughesNet’s Services
HughesNet is one of two major satellite Internet providers in the USA, and offers nationwide coverage in 53 states. Their satellite Internet service is one of the strongest options for rural customers who may not have access to robust wired broadband. The speeds of HughesNet have been increasing into the 25 Mbps range in recent years thanks to the launch of their upgraded “Gen 5” satellite.
HughesNet Satellite Internet
Satellite Internet from HughesNet has a few quirks potential customers should be aware of:
- Data limits: Due to the technical constraints of serving a national subscriber base over the airwaves, satellite Internet bandwidth is inherently limited. To balance this, HughesNet provides one speed to all customers and pricing plans based on the data amount you can use in a given month.
- Binge hours: HughesNet allows customers to use 50GB of extra data so long as it’s in the early hours of the morning when few people are awake to crowd the network.
- Minimum contracts: Satellite Internet installation is more involved than other types, and HughesNet will often have a minimum contract length to ensure they don’t lose money on customers who only want service for a month or two. These short-term customers should look to wireless or prepaid hotspot options.
HughesNet Gen 5 EchoStar XIX Satellite
In 2016, the FCC rated HughesNet positively for delivering 152% of the speeds in their advertising materials to actual customers. That’s a surprising statistic for the broadband industry, since most providers advertise “speeds up to” rates and deliver only 85–95% of the promised download rates. In 2015, HughesNet was first on the list for delivering speeds that lived up to their advertising.
Hughesnet seems committed to maintaining this lead, and in 2017 they launched their “EchoStar XIX” satellite, which powers the Gen 5 service they’ve been marketing since launch. Gen 5 lets them offer 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload speeds, which meets the FCC definition of “broadband” Internet. This allowed the providers to offer higher speed and bandwidth across the board. HughesNet pricing was also dramatically simplified when they rolled out this service.
Satellite Internet Technology
Satellite Internet from HughesNet has three key parts: the transmitter sending data to space, the satellite receiving it, and the dish in subscriber yards that picks up the signal. As you might imagine, the core issue with this setup is latency — also known as “lag.” This can be problematic for users who want to use their connection for high bandwidth applications like Hangouts, or timing-intensive situations like gaming.
HughesNet Bonus Data
HughesNet’s “Bonus Data” system allows all customers to use 50 GB of additional data per month. The big catch here is that it has to be used between 2am and 8am, which is when the fewest other customers are competing for bandwidth. Typically, HughesNet customers use this bonus data by scheduling updates and downloads during this time period. This is particularly useful for gamers and techies.
HughesNet Data Tokens
In addition to the bonus data program, HughesNet also offers “data tokens,” allowing customers to purchase additional data use “a la carte” if they run out of data. Unlike many wired providers which will fine or even cut off customers who use too much data, HughesNet simply slows them down (AKA throttling) to prioritize customers who still have data left in their plan’s allowance.
HughesNet Corporate Structure
HughesNet’s parent company is EchoStar, a US satellite communications company focused on the TV and Internet service sector. HughesNet operates within Hughes Communications, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of EchoStar. HughesNet service has been available since the 90s, pivoting to consumer services in the late 90s and changing to the “HughesNet” brand name in 2006.
HughesNet Customer Satisfaction
Among the 11,655 reviews collected so far for HughesNet, 25.0 percent of subscribers recorded a positive rating for HugheNet.
This result is average overall within the consumer broadband industry, which currently holds an average rating among all providers of 48.4 percent. It’s worth keeping in mind with these figures that satellite is often seen as a “last ditch” option for rural customers, so comparisons to wired broadband aren’t entirely fair since satellite is a different class of service entirely.
The core issue that consumers generally have with satellite service like HughesNet when compared to wired service is the latency, or “ping.” This is the affect of the long distances data has to travel between the provider, the satellite, and subscribers in order to deliver data. This “lag” can be particularly noticeable for time-sensitive applications such as gaming or two-way video communication. 700–800 millisecond latency is normal for satellite, as opposed to the 40–100 ms you can expect with an average cable or DSL connection.
HughesNet services: Internet Only, No TV
HughesNet does not currently offer satellite television services. Customers who wish to get satellite TV along with their Internet service will need to set up a separate service and a dedicated reception dish with a satellite TV provider like DirecTV or Dish Network.
HughesNet is a satellite provider, so their service is available pretty much anywhere with a view of the southern sky, where the satellite transmitting service is located. (The HughesNet service area for Gen 5 includes Alaska and Puerto Rico.) Brazil, India, and some parts of Europe are also serviced by HughesNet.
The main issue with HughesNet availability isn’t whether or not it can reach you, but whether or not you have a clear space for installation of a reception dish. Trees, buildings, mountainsides, and any other physical obstacle between you and the satellite can cause issues. Luckily, since HughesNet is primarily used by rural customers, the issues with tall building blocking the signal that satellite TV providers face in urban areas isn’t so much of an issue.
HughesNet Customer Service
If you have questions or concerns about your HughesNet satellite installation, contact customer support at (866) 347-3292. If you want to return equipment and cancel your service outright, the retention department can be reached through the customer support line. You will likely be put in touch with a sales agent who will make you an offer on a special promotional rate to retain your business. Hughesnet business customers can call (800) 347-3272 to reach Hughesnet’s business customer service center.