The Takeaway: HughesNet’s service update (Gen5, released in March 2017) just made it the best satellite internet available. HughesNet still has its share of lingering problems—poor customer service and long-term contracts—but the Gen5 update is such a huge improvement that we can’t help but get a little excited. It’s almost like we’re dealing with an entirely new and improved HughesNet for 2017.
- Same plans and speeds nationwide
- Higher-than-advertised speeds
- Discounted pricing
- Long-term, restrictive contracts
- Weak customer service
- Limited equipment
HughesNet Gen5 plans and pricing
Out with the old (Gen4) HughesNet and in with the new (Gen5) HughesNet.
The new HughesNet Gen5 service for 2017 is the result of HughesNet launching its EchoStar XIX satellite. HughesNet says the EchoStar XIX is the “world’s highest-capacity broadband satellite,”1 which seems worth bragging about, but we care only because it means better satellite internet plans for us.
HughesNet plans make so much more sense than before (Gen5 plans compared to Gen4 plans), and we love it. For example, the same four HughesNet plans are now available across the entire United States. The hassle of trying to figure what HughesNet plans are available where you live is no more. You used to get different plans and prices for different ZIP codes! Now HughesNet has four plans, four prices, and one set of speeds (25 Mbps download, 3 Mbps upload). It’s that simple—all internet providers should make choosing a plan this easy.
|10 GB||20 GB||30 GB|
|Download Speed||25 Mbps||25 Mbps||25 Mbps|
|Upload Speed||3 Mbps||3 Mbps||3 Mbps|
...less competition means higher prices all around.
As happy as we are that HughesNet simplified its plans, we’re still not hot on the prices. We can’t blame people for balking at 10 GB for $49.99 per month, but that’s the nature of the beast: satellite internet was made for those without access to other types of internet (cable, DSL, etc.)—and it’s an expensive technology. Until more people decide to launch satellites into space, we’re stuck with a lack of competition in the satellite internet market. So, as it goes, less competition means higher prices all around.
We’ve heard from plenty of customers who complain satellite internet is so much more expensive (and slower) than other internet service providers (ISPs), and we’re not making excuses for HughesNet pricing. But here’s what we say: satellite internet is for those with no other choice but dial-up internet service.
Don’t get satellite internet if you can get DSL, cable, or fiber internet service. You’ve been warned. HughesNet doesn’t stand a chance against those types of ISPs, and its prices are about what you’d expect for satellite internet.
If you compare HughesNet’s prices to other satellite internet providers, you won’t find much of a difference. HughesNet’s biggest competitor, Exede, has a similar price range: $49–$149 per month compared to HughesNet’s $49–$129 per month. If you’re looking to save a few bucks, the monthly service price may not be the biggest differentiator. However, equipment and associated fees may be something to consider.
HughesNet equipment requirements
What equipment do you need for HughesNet?
HughesNet equipment consists of a .75 M satellite antenna (about the same size as a satellite TV dish) and a modem. You can get your hands on the equipment by choosing a purchase or lease option (see table).
|Satellite antenna and modem||$249.99||$14.99/mo.|
|Lease set-up fee||n/a||$99.00|
HughesNet’s monthly lease for the satellite and modem used to be $9.99 per month. We think the $5 per month increase could be for the Wi-Fi enabled modem, which is new for HughesNet, but this is 2017, not 2007, so we’re a bit disappointed to be charged extra for something traditional ISPs typically include. Exede’s monthly lease is still $9.99 per month, but its modem lacks Wi-Fi. So if you’re the rare person who doesn’t want or need Wi-Fi, you may want to look into Exede.
Should you purchase or lease HughesNet equipment?
Purchase or lease, you’re going to have to dig deep into those pockets. If you purchase the equipment, you pay close to $450 up front ($250 equipment + $200 installation). If you lease, you pay close to $460 over two years ($15 x 24 months + $100 set-up).
Remember, the contract is for two years minimum, so if you’re planning on using the service for just that duration, it’s only about a $10 difference ($450 purchase or $460 lease). If you have long-term plans for sticking with satellite internet (more than two years), the purchase option makes way more sense.
What are the early termination fees for HughesNet?
We’ve heard from so many customers who were shocked by early termination fees (ETFs) and equipment-related charges. Yes, there is an early termination fee if you end your contract before 24 months. The fee is $400 if you cancel during the first 90 days of the contract, and then it decreases by $15 per month for each month of active service. Ouch!
If you leased the equipment, you have 45 days from cancellation to return the equipment in good condition, or you can be charged up to a $400 fee, which is separate from the ETF. That’s some serious dough, so if you have a question about fees, be sure to check the paperwork.
HughesNet Gen5 internet speed
How fast is HughesNet Gen5 internet?
HughesNet lists 25 Mbps download speed and 3 Mbps upload speed for every single one of its plans. That’s a huge improvement over last year’s speeds (5–15 Mbps download, 1–3 Mbps upload), but we recommend taking a closer look at the fine print: “individual customers may experience different speeds at different times of the day.”2 In other words, actual speeds will vary.
Internet speeds are never guaranteed—especially download speeds. That being said, HughesNet has delivered better-than-advertised download speeds in the past. The FCC measured HughesNet’s actual-to-advertised speed as 152% in 2016.3 That means, believe it or not, most users get faster speeds than what they pay for. Really. An ISP delivering faster speeds than advertised can be difficult to comprehend, but the data is there to back it up. Who knows if HughesNet Gen5 can deliver those same kinds of results selling 25 Mbps download speed, but we’ll find out when the results come in from the FCC.
HughesNet Gen5 data caps and allowances
How much data do you need?
Because all of HughesNet’s plans now advertise the same speeds, picking a plan might be as simple as deciding how much data you want.
HughesNet did away with marketing gimmicks and simply named plans according to data limits: 10 GB, 20 GB, 30 GB, and 50 GB. But how do you decide how much you need? Well, it might help to know how much data is in 1 GB.
1 GB is about equal to one of the following:
- Visiting 445 webpages
- Watching 78 minutes of Netflix (in SD)
- Listening to Spotify for 24 hours (96 Kbps)
If you want to watch Netflix or other video-streaming services using satellite internet, you’re going to have some challenges ahead. We know people who run out of data in the first few days binge-watching Netflix. HughesNet, or any other satellite internet provider for that matter, can’t handle video streaming. Video streaming hogs data, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find some creative workarounds (we encourage you to list any ideas in our comments!).
Heads up: A VPN won’t cut it.If you use a virtual private network (VPN), your internet speed can be reduced by 50–70%, according to HughesNet.
How does HughesNet bonus data work?
HughesNet’s bonus data (Bonus Zone) gives you an extra 50 GB of data a month with whatever plan you choose. It sounds awesome, but there’s a huge caveat: you can use it from only 2 a.m. to 8 a.m. But don’t get too disappointed—we think you can find a few ways to make the most of it.
If you have the know-how—or you can get someone else to help you—you can set up your computer to perform system updates during bonus data hours. If you’re especially “techy,” you can even download your shows and movies during the night hours to watch later. (We highly recommend it!)
What if you hit the data limit?
Your internet speed will be throttled when you exceed your data limit. There’s no overage fee, which is nice, but your speed will be so slow you probably won’t want to use the internet. We’re talking speeds “as low as or lower than 1 Mbps.”4 So don’t expect to do anything else but checking email and surfing the most basic of websites.
If you run out of data during the month, you can always get “data tokens.” These tokens are another feature of the Gen5 update, and they are sold in the following increments:
- 3 GB for $9
- 5 GB for $15
- 10 GB for $30
- 25 GB for $75
You’ll notice the prices for data tokens work out to $3 per 1 GB. It’s by no means an amazing price, but it’s way better than getting penalized with overage fees.
Like every internet provider, HughesNet can improve on its customer service and satisfaction. It provides installation services through third-party installers, and “a portion” (HughesNet does not specify) of its customer support is “managed by offshore call centers.”5 So you never know what kind of service you’ll get when someone comes to install your satellite internet dish or when you call customer support. To be fair, we didn’t experience any issues with customer service—but that doesn’t mean you won’t.
To help set expectations for satellite internet service, we recommend checking out the “What to Know Before You Buy” section in our Best Satellite Internet review.
The bottom line
HughesNet made the smart move to include the same bonus features and standardize speeds in all its plans, so it’s a little harder for us to come up with a solid recommendation.
Still, we think the 20 GB plan will work best for most customers. It has a good amount of data, and the best thing about it is something we haven’t mentioned—a discount! The deal expires 6/30/17, but the discount is good for $20 off the 20 GB plan for the first 12 months. We dig it.
Have questions? Ask us.
We love helping out with questions. If you’re trying to find a workaround for watching Netflix or wondering how much data you need to jam out to Spotify, ask us in the comments section below.
Have a complaint? Make it count and tell the FCC.
We’ve heard some brutal customer service stories, but all we can do at Reviews.org is try to make our information better. If you really want to make your voice count, tell the FCC. The FCC’s Consumer Complaint Center lets you easily leave a complaint or share your experience. Who knows–your words to the FCC could make a difference by demanding more from service providers.