Hughesnet Satellite Internet Review: Upholding Dependability Over Speed

If you live in a rural or underpopulated area, satellite service might be your only viable option for a home internet connection.

Article updated on April 18, 2024 at 5:00 AM PDT

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Trey Paul
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Trey Paul Senior Editor
Trey Paul is a CNET senior editor covering broadband. His 20+ years of experience as a writer and editor include time at CNET's sister site, Allconnect, and working with clients like Yahoo!, Google, The New York Times and Choice Hotels. An avid movie fan, Trey's career also includes being a film and TV critic while pursuing a degree in New York.
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Hughesnet satellite internet rating

How we calculated our rating

/ 10
Customer Care
  • 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
  • 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

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. While the federal government has been aiming to help with that, 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.

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With wide availability across all 50 states, Hughesnet is an excellent connection option for rural residents. Compared to its competitor, Viasat, Hughesnet now matches up to its maximum speed of 100Mbps and 200GB of priority data. Viasat 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's coverage map spreads across the country, including Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. 


Hughesnet plans and prices

Hughesnet now offers three new 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, or you can buy it upfront for $300 (including installation).

Locating local internet providers

While all plans offer unlimited standard data, what varies from plan to plan is your monthly priority data allowance. The more you pay each month, the more priority data you get. Here's the current breakdown.

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Hughesnet satellite internet plans

PlanMax speedsMonthly promo costMonthly cost (after 12 months)Contract termsMonthly equipment costsPriority data allowance
Select Plan 50Mbps download, 5Mbps upload$50$75Two years$15 a month or $300 one-time purchase100GB
Elite Plan 100Mbps download, 5Mbps upload$65$90Two years$15 a month or $300 one-time purchase200GB
Fusion Plan 100Mbps download, 5Mbps upload$95$120Two years$20 a month or $450 one-time purchase200GB

Source: CNET analysis of provider data.

Before these upgrades, Hughesnet's Gen5 plans offered customers the same maximum download speeds. It was known for the simplicity and consistency of their 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 a while until we see how Hughesnet's upgraded plans affect the nationwide report.

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.

No data cap, but data is far from unlimited

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.

You can expect slowdowns once you hit that monthly priority data cap. 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. 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 details to know about Hughesnet 

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.

One-time installation fee

Hughesnet charges $200 for standard installation, though this fee is waived if you decide to plunk down $300 or $450 to buy your modem instead of renting it. 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. Hughesnet offers free professional installation for new lease subscribers as a limited-time offer.

Additional monthly equipment fee

You will not be able to use your own modem with Hughesnet's new plans. To lease the Hughesnet Wi-Fi Modem, which doubles as a Wi-Fi router, you will need to add $15 a month to your bill. While this is the most popular option for customers, you can avoid this monthly charge altogether by buying the equipment for a one-time fee of $300 or $450, depending on your chosen plan. This also includes the standard installation charge.

That's still a very hefty price, but it might be worth considering if you plan on sticking with Hughesnet for the long term. Compared with paying $15 per month in perpetuity, you'll break even in under two years by paying that one-time, upfront expense of $450 (remember, the $450 figure includes installation, which typically costs an extra $200). If you plan on keeping your Hughesnet connection any longer, paying upfront is the less expensive proposition.

Potential early termination fee

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.

Graph showing the results from the South region of J.D. Power's 2023 ISP study

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

J.D. Power

Hughesnet vs. competitors: Hughesnet has work to do on the customer satisfaction side 

The American Customer Satisfaction Index didn't include separate scores for satellite providers like Hughesnet and Viasat in 2023. Still, those rankings factored into the ACSI's overall aggregate score for internet providers -- and that score showed a slight increase, a 6% change, compared to 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."

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?

Yes. The Fusion plan, a combination of satellite and wireless technologies, allows for lower latency and supports online gaming.

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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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