HughesNet: A Review

For those wanting high-speed internet but live in rural areas without any major companies around, your options are limited.

Most who have lived in rural areas will learn they’re limited to dial-up or DSL services provided by their telephone provider, or they can sign up for satellite internet. Satellite internet, similar to satellite TV, uses a satellite dish to transmit and receive data from an orbiting satellite. There are many providers of this service, but HughesNet is by far the most popular.

I’ve been helping my father “cut the cord.” He’s switched to primarily using a cell phone, as I placed him on my plan with AT&T Prepaid (as opposed to TracFone which he’s used since the 1990s.) I purchased a Roku for him to use, which allows him to stream TV shows and movies.

However, going from cable to a Roku greatly increases his data usage. Streaming 1080p video consumes a lot of data in just an hour.

He has also been wanting to switch his internet service provider, since he felt our current provider is somewhat expensive. He decided to try a satellite internet provider. While he called a local Dish Network installer, the company in turn installed HughesNet service. (Unfortunately, the Dish installer didn’t mention it until he was done.)

My Review

Here’s what I have to say about HughesNet.

The Data Cap

Let’s start off with the elephant in the room when it comes to HughesNet – their data caps.

HughesNet is not for those streaming video, especially in HD. With HughesNet, the basic 10GB plan would be gone within a matter of hours. They estimate that it would take only five hours of streaming HD video to deplete the data allocation. But don’t worry! Even after you use the allotted data on your plan, you can still access the internet. You’ll just have to suffer as they throttle your speeds down to a measly 1 MBPS.

HughesNet does have this thing called “Bonus Data” that allows you to download large files (such as movies, system updates, etc.) on off-peak hours, such as 3 a.m. The only issue is: most people wouldn’t stream movies at these hours. Most people will do their work – include working with large files – during the day. Watching Netflix and Hulu, which streams in real time, usually takes place during the afternoon, and not 3 am.

HughesNet and the Need for Speed

What about speed? During basic speed tests, HughesNet did fairly good in comparison to the provider we had. I got 16 MBPS down, and almost 2 up. HughesNet advertises roughly 25 MBPS (down), but that will fluctuate depending on the weather, your location, etc.

However, there’s that elephant in the room again. Once you pass your 10GB cap, HughesNet slows the speed down to 1 MBPS. Which, in comparison to the normal speed, is just a snail’s pace.

There’s one more thing: by default, HughesNet has a setting in place that saves your data by throttling speeds on video downloads. Which is extremely annoying. I had to wait anywhere from a minute to five minutes for just a couple minutes of 1080p video to buffer. Unacceptable! This setting can be disabled, but you will burn through your data allowance much quicker.

Reliability

If anyone has had satellite TV, there’s one question: just how reliable is satellite internet? Anytime it thunderstorms, your satellite TV just fades out.

Well, in the three days we had HughesNet, one day happened to be extremely cloudy and continuously raining. There was no issues – no decreases in speed, no drop-outs, or anything. It was quite reliable. Granted, it wasn’t a thunderstorm or anything major – but it did do fairly well.

Hardware

HughesNet’s hardware is actually fairly decent. I’m going to start from the inside out.

A (horrible) picture of the HughesNet modem.

HughesNet leases you a modem/wireless router with their service. The modem we received was fairly decent, and operated on the usual 2.4 GHz band, as well as the 5 GHz band. Our current provider has a similarly nice modem/wireless router, but it only operates on the 2.4 GHz band.

The dish is your standard parabolic dish. The feed/radio mechanism appears to be heavy duty and well sealed from the elements, and was installed firmly to the arm.

A close-up of the radio/feed mechanism.

Support

In our short experience, HughesNet has fairly decent support. The technicians were honest and able to disconnect us when my father learned that it just wasn’t for him. They promptly sent us a box to ship the modem and radio/feed mechanism back in, and paid for the shipping back.

I give HughesNet huge props for their honesty and understanding. While other providers would say “well, you should’ve known that before calling” or “well, deal with it!”, HughesNet decided to take the high road and be understanding. They went above and beyond in ensuring that it wouldn’t be a hassle disconnecting from their service.

Overall

HughesNet is fine if there is nothing else around but sluggish dial-up or DSL service. It would be fine if you sparingly use the internet and have cable or satellite TV. But in areas with other options and for people with higher data needs (including streaming video), it just isn’t for everyone.

With that being said, a family friend had HughesNet installed and meets the criteria I mentioned above (no other providers, sparingly use the internet, and satellite TV.) They love HughesNet. But they rarely use the internet, and never stream videos.

On the other hand, neighbors of ours told us that they had HughesNet and had a similar experience to ours. For someone like me who is constantly on the internet streaming HD video, or my father who’s cutting the cord and switching to a Roku, it just wasn’t for us.

It just goes to show that it is important to talk to your neighbors, weigh your options, and take into consideration what your need are.

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