Just because you’ve moved out to the country doesn’t mean you want to go completely off the grid. But getting an internet connection outside city limits can be like searching for a needle in a haystack—unless you get satellite internet.
HughesNet is one of two satellite internet providers that beams down that holy grail we call internet to most of the US. And while its speeds struggle to match those of competitor Viasat, its lack of contract gimmicks is refreshing.
You can get a HughesNet signal almost anywhere. Enter your address to see what speeds are available in your area.
HughesNet Prices and Plans
|10 GB Data||$59.99/mo.||25 Mbps|
|20 GB Data||$69.99/mo.||25 Mbps|
|30 GB Data||$99.99/mo.||25 Mbps|
|50 GB Data||$149.99/mo.||25 Mbps|
*Data current as of 1/17/19. Pricing and availability vary by location. Price for 24 months. Actual speeds may vary and are not guaranteed.
HughesNet prices start strong with its lower data plans, but once you need 30 or 50 GB of data, Viasat starts to look better.
At least until you consider the contract. HughesNet agrees to keep your price the same for two whole years. Viasat jacks up your price after three months—but you can grab a two-year price guarantee if you’re willing to stick with a three-year Viasat contract.
HughesNet plans are also a bit more straightforward. You’ve got only one speed to choose from, and the plan name is how much data you get each month before your speeds are slowed (or throttled). Still, some of us like to have choices, and HughesNet offers only a few.
Your HughesNet contract lasts for twenty-four months and comes with a guarantee that you’ll pay the same monthly price for those two years.
Early Termination Fees (ETF)
Decided you’re fed up with HughesNet? It happens. Just beware you may pay a steep ETF if you cancel your contract before it’s up.
Just how much that ETF is depends on how much time is left on your contract.
If you . . .
- Cancel before installation: You’ll be refunded what you paid when you placed your order.
- Cancel within the first 90 days: You’ll owe $400.
- Cancel after the first 90 days: You’ll owe $400 minus $15 for each month of service you had.
One saving grace for HughesNet is how well it delivers on speed. Sure, 25 Mbps doesn’t look like much compared to Viasat’s maximum of 100 Mbps, but chances are your HughesNet connection is faster than what you paid for.
How do we know? The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) published an internet speed report of each internet service provider’s (ISP’s) actual speeds compared to advertised speeds. Here’s how HughesNet scored.
HughesNet Speed Scores for 2018
|Advertised Speeds||Median Actual Download||Actual Speed/Advertised Speed|
|25 Mbps||31.27 Mbps||125.1%|
Plus, 25 Mbps is probably more than enough for most households. Unless you have multiple people gaming and streaming on the same internet connection, you shouldn’t need more speed than that.
Is 25 Mbps not cutting it?
HughesNet just signed a contract to launch a new EchoStar 24/JUPITER 3 satellite in 2021—boosting its 25 Mbps speeds to 100 Mbps. We can’t wait.
Actual speeds may vary and are not guaranteed.
What you see is what you get with HughesNet. Your plan name explicitly outlines how much data you get each month. But if you go over that data cap, be prepared to suffer through speeds of 1 to 3 Mbps. Yuck.
HughesNet Data Caps
|Plan||Download Speed||Reduced Speeds After|
|10 GB Data||25 Mbps||10 GB|
|20 GB Data||25 Mbps||20 GB|
|30 GB Data||25 Mbps||30 GB|
|50 GB Data||25 Mbps||50 GB|
*Data current as of 1/17/19. Pricing and availability vary by location. Actual speeds may vary and are not guaranteed.
But wait, let’s back up a bit. Do you really need 50 GB of data each month? Or can you settle for 10 GB?
This is the question you should ask yourself before you sign up for any internet plan. To find the answer, take a look at how much data you use each month. You can usually find this on your bill. Your average data usage will give you a better idea of how much data you should pay for, which will save you money in the long run.
If you can’t find how much data you’ve used in the past, here’s a general idea of how much data popular online activities require.
But what if you have the grandkids over for the week and they use more data than you’ve ever used in a month? (Hey, it happens!) Don’t worry about getting penalized with slower speeds. You can buy extra data tokens from HughesNet to cover all the streaming and gaming going on at nana and poppa’s.
|HughesNet Data Token||Price*|
*Data current as of 1/17/19. Pricing and availability vary by location.
Here’s where we give it to you straight: the reason we often don’t recommend satellite internet is because of latency.
Latency is the time it takes your data to travel to the HughesNet satellite, then on to the host server, and back to you. It’s often measured in milliseconds (ms), and you might hear it referred to as “ping.”
Compared to other internet connections, satellite internet has a lot of latency. That’s because your data has to travel 22,300 miles to a satellite in orbit above Earth, then back again.
Here’s how HughesNet’s latency measures up in the latest FCC report.
|HughesNet Average Latency||585 ms|
That high latency probably won’t bother you if you’re just checking email or keeping tabs on Facebook. But if you want to game or stream, you’ll need to channel your inner Gandhi to not get frustrated over the lag.
Even with high latency, satellite internet still has its merits, like faster speeds than dial-up and wider availability than DSL. And if you can’t get cable or fiber in your area, that makes satellite internet a clear winner.
Can I game with HughesNet?
Gamers rejoice: you can game with satellite internet—though not all games are created equal, thanks to latency. Get the full answer and recommended games in our satellite internet gaming guide.
HughesNet Satellite Internet Equipment
If you sign up for satellite internet, you’re going to need some equipment. Shocker, we know.
For HughesNet, this includes a satellite dish and a modem. Be prepared to have your satellite dish professionally installed, by the way. There is no DIY option here—and for a good reason. Not many of us want to scramble up a twenty-five-foot ladder and install a heavy dish on our roofs. That’s a hospital trip waiting to happen.
What to Expect in the Installation Process
Let’s face it: pigs will fly the day an installation technician arrives precisely at the time they told you on the phone. So, if possible, we advise you take time off or work from home on the day your satellite dish installation is scheduled—or ask if the technician can come on the weekend.
Once your tech arrives, it will likely take two to four hours to get your satellite internet up and running. But since you’ve got the pros taking care of the heavy lifting, things should run smoothly once everything is installed.
The fee you pay for a professional installation depends on how you pay for your equipment.
HughesNet Installation Fees
- If you lease your equipment, it’s free plus a $99 activation fee.
- If you purchase your equipment, installation is included in the equipment fee and there’s no activation fee.
Pro Tip: Check with your HOA or landlord before installation.
Before you adorn your roof with a giant satellite dish, make sure you’ve got permission. Some HOAs may have bylaws restricting placement or even installation of satellite dishes. Renters should also check with their landlord so they don’t end up having to pay for the removal of the dish or any damages.
HughesNet Equipment Prices
HughesNet gives you the choice to rent or purchase your equipment—but which is the better deal? It depends on how long you plan to keep your service.
HughesNet Equipment Fees
- Monthly Lease: $14.99/mo. for 24 months
- Purchase: $449.98 one-time fee
If you’re not sure you’ll renew after your first two years, the monthly lease comes in at $359.76, which is less than paying for your equipment outright. (We should point out, though, that if you add that one-time $99 activation fee, your total rises to $458.76.)
But stay with HughesNet for at least thirty-one months, and you’ll start saving money by purchasing your equipment. And you won’t have to pay an extra installation or activation fee.
HughesNet Customer Service
Just like any other ISP, HughesNet is no stranger to customer complaints. So it’s probably no surprise that HughesNet (and most other ISPs) earned a poor grade in the 2018 American Consumer Satisfaction Index (ACSI).
|HughesNet 2018 ACSI Rating ("All Others")||63/100|
But what’s a web surfer to do when faced with poor customer service? We’ve got a few tips that will hopefully help you reach the light at the end of the tunnel.
- Use chat or email. Going with chat or email support provides two benefits: it keeps you from straining your neck while waiting on hold and gets every promise your ISP makes in writing. If you do call, grab your headphones and get comfy.
- Get everything in writing. If a promise is made, make sure your service representative sends you an email outlining all the details, prices, timelines, and anything else that’s important. That way you have solid proof if things don’t go as planned.
- Ask to speak to a manager. Is your current representative just not helpful? Don’t be afraid to ask for their manager. You can stay cool, calm, and collected—but you gotta advocate for yourself, baby!
- Use your trump card. Negotiating for a lower price? Let your ISP know you’ll move on to the next best thing without a moment’s notice—unless they step up to the plate. It’s less expensive for them to keep you as a customer, so use that to your advantage and negotiate like a boss. You got this.
Our Final Thoughts
HughesNet may not be up to par with Viasat for prices and speeds, but it does offer a shenanigan-free contract and straightforward data caps. And with its new satellite launching in 2021, we expect HughesNet to pick up the pace with speeds up to 100 Mbps.
Actual speeds may vary and are not guaranteed.