Home Lifestyle Hughesnet Satellite Internet Review: Plans, Pricing, Speed and Availability Compared

Hughesnet Satellite Internet Review: Plans, Pricing, Speed and Availability Compared

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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
  • Unlimited data is misleading — Hughesnet will impose severe speed reductions once you hit your data plan’s threshold
  • High equipment costs

Hughesnet Internet review

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 newly upgraded plans, customers can expect faster speeds of up to 100Mbps and save up to $25 a month for the first year.

More than anything, the pandemic led us to confront the consequences of not having access to the internet — and it also made the lack of access for so many in rural America painfully clear. According to the latest data from the Pew Research Center, while 73% of rural Americans are subscribed to a high-speed internet connection at home, they are less likely to have access than 86% of suburban residents and 77% of those who live in urban cities. The federal government has been aiming to help with that, and even certain cities are taking matters into their own hands. 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. 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.

Hughesnet Internet plans and pricing

Plan Monthly price Max speeds Fees and service details
Select Plan $50 ($75 after 12 months) 50Mbps download, 5Mbps upload Unlimited data (100GB soft cap), $15 monthly equipment or $300 upfront and 2 year-contract
Elite Plan $65 ($90 after 12 months) 100Mbps download, 5Mbps upload Unlimited data (200GB soft cap), $15 monthly equipment or $300 upfront and 2-year contract
Fusion Plan $95 ($120 after 12 months) 100Mbps download, 5Mbps upload Unlimited data (200GB soft cap), $20 monthly equipment or $450 upfront and 2-year contract

Source: CNET analysis of provider data.

With Hughesnet, you can choose between three main offerings, all offering unlimited data. Customers should expect a two-year contract when signing up for service. If you decide to lease equipment with Hughesnet, it will cost you $15 monthly or an upfront charge between $300 to $450. Still, Hughesnet provides more affordable options in comparison to its rivals, Starlink and Viasat.

The starting plan features download speeds of 50 megabits per second and 5Mbps in upload for $50 a month. However, that price will jump to $75 after a year. Whichever plan you choose, you can expect a $25 discount on your monthly bill in the first year.

How many members of your household use the internet?

CNET’s top pick for Hughesnet’s best plan is the Elite Plan because it offers a similar speed to the top-end plan but with a cheaper starting monthly price.

Where can you get Hughesnet satellite internet?

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

FCC/Mapbox

With wide availability across all 50 states, Hughesnet is an excellent connection option for rural residents. Compared with its competitor, Viasat, Hughesnet isn’t that far behind with its max download speed of 100Mbps and 200GB of priority data. Viasat also doesn’t tie down its customers with term agreements and has a better track record with outages on Downdetector.com. If you need speed, Hughesnet’s new plans could be 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 plans and pricing

Hughesnet’s Select plan broadband label lists several additional fees and highlights its data cap and download and upload speeds.

Hughesnet/Screenshot by CNET

Hughesnet now offers three 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. 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 (including installation), or you can buy it upfront for $300 with a $200 installation fee.

While all plans offer unlimited standard data, your monthly priority data allowance varies from plan to plan. The more you pay each month, the more priority data you get. But more on this later.

Before these upgrades, Hughesnet’s Gen5 plans boasted simple services that offered customers the same maximum download speeds. It was known for the simplicity and consistency of its plans. 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. It will be awhile until we see how Hughesnet’s upgraded plans affect the nationwide report.

Data caps

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.

Once you hit that monthly priority data cap, you can expect slowdowns. Hughesnet will deprioritize your data plan for the remainder of the month. What does that mean? You may not see the same speeds as before, as Hughesnet states your standard data “may be slower than other traffic during high-traffic periods.” 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. That plan comes with 100GB of data, which falls under the monthly data usage that the average US household consumes. According to OpenVault’s latest report, the average American household uses over 606GB of data per month. That said, you’ll need to consider how much data your household consumes to know if that’ll be satisfactory. For example, Netflix estimates it takes approximately 3GB to stream an hour-long show in high definition and 7GB to stream an hour in 4K. If you watch an hour of 4K programming daily, you’ll hit your maximum in less than 15 days, which is not a far-fetched scenario. You’ll need to be clear with your other household members about how much data you’ll need and how to budget your usage.

Additional fees

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.

Installation

Hughesnet charges a one-time fee of $200 for standard installation, though this fee is waived if you decide to lease your modem instead of buying it for $300 or $450. 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.

Equipment

With Hughesnet’s new plans, you will not be able to use your own modem. To lease the Hughesnet Wi-Fi Modem, which doubles as a Wi-Fi router, you will need to add $15 or $20 a month to your bill, depending on your chosen plan. You can avoid this monthly charge altogether by buying the equipment for a one-time fee of $300 or $450. However, watch out for a $200 installation fee if you decide to purchase your equipment.

That’s a very hefty price. If you decide to choose the Fusion plan, it will cost you upward of $650 just to buy out the equipment and to pay for the installation, alone. In that case, you might be better off sticking to leasing your modem for the long term. If you don’t plan on keeping your Hughesnet connection much longer than two years, leasing your equipment may be the less expensive proposition.

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.

Hughesnet vs. competitors: Customer satisfaction can improve

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

J.D. Power

The latest data from the American Customer Satisfaction Index didn’t include separate scores for satellite providers like Hughesnet and Viasat in 2024. Still, those rankings factored into the ACSI’s overall aggregate score for internet providers — and that score showed a slight increase, a 4% change, compared with 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 from 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.”

As for value, Hughesnet is slightly cheaper than its main rival, Viasat. With Viasat, customers only have the option to select one plan. With Viasat’s newest all-in-one plan, you’ll need to pay $100 monthly for download speeds up to 150Mbps. Whereas with Hughesnet, you’d pay $65 monthly for the first year for speeds of 100Mbps. Both Viasat and Hughesnet have unlimited data.

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. 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

Is Hughesnet’s internet service fast?

In March, the FCC raised the standards for broadband internet to 100Mbps in download and 20Mbps in upload. While Hughesnet meets that criterion, at 100Mbps in download speed, Hughesnet falls short on upload speeds at 5Mbps. Not to mention, some areas may not be eligible for speeds of 100Mbps and can only access Hughesnet’s slower speed tiers. Still, Hughesnet is undoubtedly faster than the DSL plans that might also be available to most rural customers.


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Can I game with Hughesnet’s plans?

How about watching my favorite movies in HD?

Yes. The Hughesnet service is set to automatically stream videos up to HD quality. You can also change this setting via the Hughesnet mobile app to help you save your data.


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Will Hughesnet speeds get faster in the future?

Since the company’s Jupiter 3 satellite launch in 2023, consumers have seen new offerings available after that satellite made it into orbit, including plans supporting download speeds from 50Mbps to 100Mbps. 

“This [was] one of the largest satellites to be launched and basically doubles the size of our network,” Hughes Senior Vice President Mark Wymer said. “The satellite industry continues to innovate and move forward, so it’s an exciting time.” 


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