Review by Doc Lithius
Good "Generally fast speeds, reasonably dependable."
- Location: Rapid River,Delta,MI
- Cost Contract price not specified.
Bad "Bandwidth caps not mentioned outright, online gaming severely hindered, unexpected speed drops, poor tech support practices."
Overall "Not great, but definitely not awful. Not too good for gaming, but perfect for high-speed things."
|Pre Sales information:|
Value for money:
(ratings match consensus)
You say you live in a frozen wasteland? Or you say you're in a barren desert? You say you're in a dense forest in the middle of nowhere? You say that Cox Communications, AT&T, or Verizon don't service your area of the world? You say that you can't even get dial-up where you are? I bet you think there's no hope in sight for your digital communication problems... Well, I bet you're wrong! As it turns out, you can get high-speed internet almost anywhere in the world! That is, if you're willing to pay a little more...
Hughes Satellite Internet, otherwise known as "HughesNet", is advertised as "broadband unbound". Anywhere in the world you can go, chances are you can get HughesNet satellite service! Just so long as you have some kind of clear shot to the South, in any case.
The commercials state that you'll get speeds many times faster than dial-up. The commercials don't lie, either. Even the lowest plan available (1.0Mbps download/128Kbps upload) gives you speeds more than 10 times faster than your average dial-up modem! ...at most. As the commercials will tell you, the maximum speeds available are not at all guaranteed. Much like a 56K modem maxing out at 33Kbps, your speed could be significantly lower than what you're paying for. HughesNet has little control over this as it mostly has to do with the weather, how many people are sharing your modem's satellite, and possibly even solar flares and other space anomalies getting in the way of your connection.
The commercials state that you can also "watch online videos", as well as the usual web browsing and e-mail checking you'd do with any given connection. While this is true, what they don't tell you upfront is that on any given day, your connection has a limited amount of broadband allocated to it! The third non-business plan available gives users 550MB a day to work with (in addition to 1.6Mbps DL/250Kbps UL). This may seem like an awful lot per day, especially compared to some cell phone internet plans which give you double that per month as opposed to day. Then you have to realize that online videos can be anywhere from a few MB to several hundred MB in size each! And streaming video? Or even streaming audio? Consider your "Fair Access Policy" exceeded!
The "Fair Access Policy", as they call it, is your bandwidth cap. It varies with each plan and, should you go over, your speeds will be reduced to speeds even slower than dial-up for the next 24 hours. Fortunately, HughesNet does give you a "Complimentary Restore Token" each month, which can bring you back up to speed with absolutely no penalty whatsoever. If you've already used your complimentary token and don't feel like waiting that 24 hour period, you can also spend $10.50 (charged to your monthly bill) and have it restored that way.
HughesNet also offers all their customers a "Download Zone" time period, between 2 AM and 7 AM Eastern Time, in which there is no bandwidth limitations. While it's generally suggested this time period be used for automated downloads and downloading major updates to software and the sort, it can actually be used for anything at all. Videos, streaming, downloading massive files... Anything like that! Just remember, as soon as 7 AM Eastern Time hits, you'll start using your daily bandwidth again.
In recent times and with recent hardware (HN9000 modems), HughesNet has made it much easier to keep track of your bandwidth usage through the use of hourly bandwidth updates (via their webpage) and more recently, a live bandwidth meter which displays your used bandwidth up to the minute and down to the Megabyte. 2010 also gave HN9000 modem users an extra meter to keep tabs on things, which hangs out in the Windows Taskbar (next to the clock). It's not without its occasional glitch, but for the most part, it seems to work pretty well.
HughesNet seems to have a rather random maintenance schedule, sometimes updating things smack dab in the middle of the day, or sometimes updating them during the night during the free period. These updates may range in usefulness, being anything from a minor coding patch to a major feature addition, but regardless of the nature, the modem becomes unavailable for a good five minutes while it turns off, updates, resets, and turns back on. Not a major thing since it doesn't happen but maybe a couple times a month, but annoying all the same.
HughesNet says not to play online games using their service. What they don't tell you, however, is that gaming using their service actually has very little impact on the satellites or your bandwidth usage! If you're a patience person, you can work with the noticeable amount of lag you get in games using HughesNet. Not all online games work, notably first-person shooters and other games that constantly send a lot of data back and forth, but a good majority of other games work, such as massively multi-player online role-playing games, browser and FaceBook games, and even some games you wouldn't expect to work well such as real-time strategy games!
I'd like to add that the technical support for HughesNet is a bit of the iffy side. I understand that HughesNet outsources their customer service to India, but there have been numerous occasions where I found it hard to understand what the people were trying to tell me due to their thick accents. In addition to that, it seems to me that they have literally no idea whatsoever as to how your system works short of what's written on the pamphlets, books, manuals, or scripts they read.
In addition to the hard-to-understand and not-terribly-helpful customer service representitives, there's the actual technical support side of things. On average, HughesNet customers in need of a repair person can expect to wait for help for around two weeks. Let me tell you... Two weeks is a long time for someone to be without the internet, especially if do a lot of things online such as hosting websites or even paying bills.
Lastly, the price is just a little on the high side. After you buy the equipment and have your first month's service charge paid for, you've already paid anywhere from $400.00 to $700.00 dollars, not including the $150.00 extra you may have to pay if no suitable location can be found for your satellite and you have to mount it on a pole. (Standard installation is free to new costumers and includes up to 125' of coax, mounting, grounding, routing the coax into the house, commissioning the HughesNet account, and 20 minutes of troubleshooting.) The $100.00 rebate is a nice gesture, but considerably less nice when you're paying a minimum of $59.99 a month for service that's just not worth $59.99 a month, generally speaking...
Ultimately, HughesNet is one of those things you buy after much careful consideration over the alternatives. If you don't live anywhere you can get the usual forms of high speed internet and desperately crave that speed for any reason, this is your best option out of the available satellite internet providers and it's certainly better than nothing. However, if you can get DSL, Cable, FiOS, or anything along those lines, don't bother with HughesNet. HughesNet is just not worth the price or frustration if there are better options available to you.
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updated 4.1 years ago