HughesNet has the cheapest broadband satellite internet plans, with speeds up to 25 Mbps and data limits up to 100 GB. You'll pay a lot of money for not a lot of speed and not much data, but it's a workable way to connect for folks in rural areas. Where available, consider other connection types or satellite internet providers if you don’t want to be held back.
Rise Broadband offers competitive fixed wireless speeds at reasonable prices for rural customers. While it won’t compete with your typical fiber or cable internet service, it offers a compelling alternative to satellite.
With any HughesNet plan, you get the same 25 Mbps download speed, and you'll pay around double the national benchmark for similar non-satellite internet plans (1). This meets the minimum definition of broadband, but it’s still relatively slow, even for satellite internet. You’ll be able to check email and do basic web browsing, but it’s not ideal for more intensive use. HughesNet simply can’t compete in areas where cable or fiber connections are available.
HughesNet’s plans differ based on how much high-speed data you get and range from 15 GB to 100 GB. Like with Viasat, you won’t get any overage charges for going over your plan’s high-speed data limit with Hughesnet, but your speeds will get throttled to a nearly unusable 1–3 Mbps. There are a couple of unique ways to get extra data with HughesNet. During the off-peak Bonus Zone hours of 2:00 am to 8:00 am, you get 50 GB of extra data. If you run out of high-speed data during a billing cycle, you can also get back up to speed by purchasing Data Tokens, which start at $9 for 3 GB and don’t expire.
The best HughesNet plan is the Fusion 100 GB plan, which improves latency by tapping into wireless networks for some online activities.
You’ll want to steer clear of lower data cap plans, as you’re likely to blow through a 15 to 30 GB high-speed data allowance within days, especially if you do any streaming.
HughesNet plans start out at about $20 less than Viasat plans, but jump up after six months. They're still slightly more affordable when standard pricing kicks in, considering that Viasat has its own price hike after three months. But if you want a satellite internet plan with higher download speeds or more than 100 GB of data, compare your options with Viasat and Starlink.
Rise Broadband is a tough service to rate because it’s not your typical ISP. Rise Broadband provides what’s known as “fixed wireless” service, which means the signal is beamed from a tower wirelessly to your home (rather than running through cable or fiber lines). It’s also generally aimed more at rural areas where cable lines don’t exist. This means it primarily competes with satellite internet and DSL. All this has to be taken into account when considering value.
So, where does Rise stand? Compared to DSL and satellite, it’s an outstanding value. It offers better performance and higher data allowances (with an unlimited data add-on available) than satellite and DSL, and at significantly lower prices. That said, if you’re in an area that has a cable or fiber option, you may find that those providers offer more for your money.
With any satellite internet provider, performance will depend on individual factors, including your location and how well your dish is positioned. There are also factors beyond your control, such as bad weather and occasional outages. Cable or fiber connections tend to be faster and more dependable, while satellite connections have slower speeds and higher latency due to the long distance between your home and the satellite overhead.
According to data from Ookla, HughesNet’s median download speed in Q4 of 2021 was 20.92 Mbps (2). That’s not too far off from its advertised top speed of 25 Mbps. According to this data, its upload speed and latency are just a bit lower than Viasat’s. And, although Starlink seems to outperform both HughesNet and Viasat on each of those points, Starlink seems to have more issues with reliability and isn’t as widely available. Common complaints about HughesNet’s service on Downdetector include slow speeds and some outages, sometimes for days in a row (3).
Performance-wise, Rise Broadband offers solid speeds—with the caveat that we’re comparing internet options in rural areas here. Most coverage areas have a choice of 25 Mbps and 50 Mbps plans, and some select areas have up to 100 Mbps available. These speeds would be pretty bad in areas with more options. However, if you’re considering fixed wireless, you probably don’t have many more options.
Compared to a satellite provider like Viasat, these speeds are about average—maybe even a little slow. However, fixed wireless like Rise won’t suffer from the huge latency of satellite internet, which makes it much more usable for gaming and other real-time tasks. Rise should handle HD streaming in a small household without too much trouble. You can optionally add unlimited data for an extra $10 per month, which makes a big difference without making the price unreasonable.
When you sign up for HughesNet, you can decide to either lease or purchase equipment from the company. Usually, the cost for leasing equipment is around $20 per month and purchasing is around $450. Purchasing equipment is a good deal if you think you’ll continue your service beyond the two-year contract term, and it doesn't require a credit check.
Depending on current promotions, you can sometimes get discounts for leasing or purchasing and have the $99 installation fee waived. You may also be able to score a $100 prepaid gift card, even if you're using your ACP benefit.
Ordering online can sometimes save you up to $50, but the address system on the site is clunky. If you enter yours and Hughesnet says it can't find your address, you may need to call in.
HughesNet’s equipment costs and installation process are about the same as Viasat. Starlink, on the other hand, requires you to purchase the equipment up front for a higher cost and install it yourself.
HughesNet will send a technician to professionally install your equipment, which includes a satellite dish, Wi-Fi modem, router, and everything else you need. Installation typically happens within five days of signup, and service windows are about 3 hours long.
The technician will put the dish on your house, or on a pole mount in the ground for $25 extra, and ensure a clear line of sight to the satellite. A hole will be drilled into your home for the cable to connect to the modem inside. Once the system is active and tested, the technician will also connect up to two devices to the network for you.
Rise Broadband offers surprisingly competitive equipment. The provider offers the TP-Link Deco M4 mesh system, which can easily cover an entire large home. Customers can choose to rent up to three of the devices for $5 more per month each, so you can save a little money if you don’t need the full range of all three routers.
Rise Broadband’s installation fee is a whopping $150. That’s one of the highest of any providers we’ve seen. However, many promotions waive this fee. If you can’t find one in your area, it’s also worth asking the sales rep about it—you never know.
Customer experience with HughesNet is comparable to its primary satellite internet competitor, Viasat. For billing and tech support questions, the company gives you several ways to contact customer support: by phone, live chat, or email. HughesNet also has an online forum for customers to ask and answer each other’s questions, as well as FAQs and help articles. You can easily manage your account through the website or mobile app.
HughesNet also offers Voice, a VoIP phone service that uses your satellite internet connection, plus an internet security package. Both are free for the first month, but you'll be charged starting in your second month, so set yourself a reminder to call and cancel the extras if you're not sure you need them.
The customer experience with Rise Broadband is good overall. It offers solid speeds at a great price—if you’re coming from satellite, it’ll be a whole new world. Our one major gripe isn’t so much with Rise as it is with fixed wireless in general: it’s more susceptible to weather interference than most other types of internet. If you’re in an area with frequent heavy rain or snow, you might have some reliability issues (although satellite would likely have the same issues, too).