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HughesNet vs. Starlink Internet plan comparison


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Researched by
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Reviewed by
Updated 6/18/24

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HughesNet brand
Staff rating
2.1
Customer rating
3.1
(13)

  • Plans starting at $49.99
  • Download speeds up to 25 Mbps
Starlink
Staff rating
2.6
Customer rating
4.7
(4)

  • Plans starting at $120.00
  • Download speeds up to 100 Mbps
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See what providers service your area.
HughesNet brand
Staff rating
2.1

Slow speeds, but more affordable satellite plans for casual users

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.

What we like

  • Affordable plans for satellite
  • Wide availability
  • Bonus data during off-peak hours
What we dislike

  • Slow speed
  • Price hike after six months
  • Two-year contract required
Savings tip: HughesNet often has sign-up promotions for first-time customers. Call to ask a rep about current deals and discounts.
Check deals
Starlink
Staff rating
2.6

Satellite internet with cutting-edge technology

Starlink uses new low-orbit technology to deliver satellite internet to customers around the globe. The company got its start offering faster speeds and much lower latency than other satellite providers, but now offers download speeds comparable to those offered by other satellite providers. Starlink still offers decently low latency for satellite, but it can’t compete against fiber or cable internet providers.

What we like

  • Low latency
  • Expanding coverage
  • Options for mobile satellite connectivity
What we dislike

  • High upfront equipment cost
  • Slower speeds than originally advertised
  • Poor reputation for customer service
Savings tip: Starlink often has sign-up promotions for first-time customers. Call to ask a rep about current deals and discounts.
Check deals
HughesNet brand
Value
1.5
The most affordable broadband satellite internet plans out there, but limited speed

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 faster download speeds or more than 100 GB of data, compare your options with Viasat and Starlink.

Pricing details vary by location. Visit
HughesNet's website
or call 1-833-804-4974 to speak with a rep.
See pricing
Starlink
Value
2.0
Average pricing among satellite providers

Starlink offers a variety of internet plans in four main categories: Standard, Priority, Mobile, and Mobile Priority. Its Standard plan is decent for home internet if you don’t have any fiber or cable internet options, but it will cost $90–$120. The Mobile plan is intended for RVs and travelers. These standard plans aren’t subject to official data caps, which is a nice change! If you go with the mobile option, you can pause it month to month but your traffic will be deprioritized relative to home and priority users.

Starlink’s most expensive plans are now named Priority plans, and there’s one for fixed locations and one for use on the go. Both have data caps, and both require a spendy high-performance receiver. Both plans cost at least $250 per month, with increased rates if you need more high-speed data. That’s some of the most expensive prices we’ve seen for internet anywhere, so these plans are pretty hard to recommend for most households.

Satellite internet provider Viasat has plans that are priced similarly to Starlink's standard options, but with data caps and much higher latency. That means that, while you can get a Viasat plan of 100 Mbps in some places, your connection will still feel very slow because it takes so long for data to get to and from the high-orbit satellites. HughesNet, the other big satellite provider in the US, has pricing similar to Starlink's but strict data caps and download speeds that reach only 25 Mbps.

Even with its benefits compared to other satellite providers, Starlink earned a pretty low score on value because the service is much slower and more expensive than home internet from cable or fiber internet providers. It doesn’t compete very well against DSL or fixed wireless internet either, but it’s a decent option of last resort if you are a digital nomad or live in a rural area.

Pricing details vary by location. Visit
Starlink's website
or call to speak with a rep.
See pricing
HughesNet brand
Performance
1.5
HughesNet’s 25 Mbps of speed does the basics, but don’t expect much more

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).

Available speeds vary by location. Call 1-833-804-4974 to speak with a HughesNet rep or
go to its website.
Starlink
Performance
3.0
Speeds are slowing as more people sign up

Starlink once offered download speeds that were much, much faster than what satellite competitors could offer, but the company changed its plans and pricing in May of 2023. Today, the service sells home internet with download speeds of 25–100 Mbps, upload speeds of 5–10 Mbps, and latency in the range of 25–50 ms. Those speeds look fast enough for gaming and video conferencing on paper, but third-party research from Ookla found that Starlink users are getting average download speeds of about 66 Mbps, upload speeds of nearly 8 Mbps, and latency of a 62 ms in the first quarter of 2023. That kind of service might be good enough for online shopping or even streaming one show in high definition, but you wouldn’t be able to make video calls, play some online games, or livestream your gameplay. (1)

That same study showed Starlink performed better on all speed metrics than competitors Viasat or HughesNet, but was worse than cable and fiber providers across the board. Unfortunately, Starlink speeds are slowing as the company adds new subscribers because of network congestion. The change in plan offerings is the best evidence of that, but it's not hopeless. The company has launched nearly 4,000 satellites and is planning new launches with updated V2 equipment it says will improve reliability and handle much more bandwidth. (2)

Available speeds vary by location. Call to speak with a Starlink rep or
go to its website.
HughesNet brand
Equipment and installation
2.5
Easy professional installation and reasonable equipment prices

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.

Equipment and installation options can vary widely depending on
HughesNet plans
available in your area.
View plans
Starlink
Equipment and installation
2.5
High upfront equipment costs but easy self installation with an app

Unlike other satellite internet providers, Starlink does not require (or even offer) professional installation. Instead, you will be sent a Starlink Kit that contains all the hardware you need to install a Starlink dish yourself. Although the kit comes with a satellite dish and a base, you may want to purchase a mount to place the dish above ground level for a clearer view of the sky.

If you need internet while traveling, you'll need one of Starlink’s mobile plans. If you don’t need to use the receiver while you’re traveling faster than 10 miles per hour, you can stick with the basic $600 model. If you need internet while your RV or boat is moving, though, you’ll need one of the Mobile Priority plans and the required high-performance receiver.

To install Starlink, download the app on your phone and follow the instructions to find an unobstructed view and complete the setup. The do-it-yourself installation is designed to be straightforward, but it can take several hours. If technical issues arise, you can turn to Starlink customer support or an unofficial online community for help.

Unlike HughesNet and Viasat, Starlink doesn’t offer a leasing option for its equipment in the US, or require an activation fee. Instead, customers have to buy the basic Starlink Kit for a high upfront cost of $599. That averages to about $25 per month if you spread the cost over two years, which is more than you would pay for Viasat or HughesNet equipment. If you need the high-performance Starlink kit because of either extreme weather or your Priority service plan, setup starts at $2,500 before taxes.

Equipment and installation options can vary widely depending on
Starlink plans
available in your area.
View plans
HughesNet brand
Customer experience
3.0
Plenty of support resources, and you can get actual human help

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.

Visit HughesNet's website
or call 1-833-804-4974 for more information on contracts and money-back guarantees.
Go to provider
Starlink
Customer experience
3.0
Tech-savvy customers with a do-it-yourself attitude will have the best experience with Starlink

Starlink’s customer support seems to be struggling to keep up with the needs of its growing customer base. Along with sometimes inconsistent speeds and connectivity issues, this is leading to mixed experiences with the service.

Elon Musk, CEO of Starlink, recently said delays were most common in highly populated areas, but rural areas are the best place for the service, anyway. (3) There have also been reports of long delays in receiving Starlink equipment due to the effects of the global chip shortage on production. (4) Some customers who pre-ordered Starlink kits have had to wait more than a year to receive them and received few updates from the company (5), but you can look up your address using this Starlink map to find out what to expect.

Other internet providers tend to offer more customer support options and be more reachable than Starlink. Starlink’s website offers a customer support FAQ section, but there is no public contact phone number or email address. To contact the company directly for assistance, you have to log in and send customer support a message. On the plus side, it is possible to find help elsewhere. Starlink has an enthusiastic community of users who post helpful videos on YouTube and answer questions on Reddit.

Visit Starlink's website
or call for more information on contracts and money-back guarantees.
Go to provider
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Made up your mind?
Find out what providers are available near you.
HughesNet
3.0
(13)
5 Star
7%
4 Star
31%
3 Star
31%
2 Star
23%
1 Star
8%
C
Carlos from Mojave, CA
HughesNet Customer for Less than a year
Reviewed on: 6-24-2022
It’s slow and sometimes nothing will even load when we supposedly have 30 gb a day
A
Amberly from Canisteo , NY
HughesNet Customer for 4+ years
Reviewed on: 6-22-2022
I think this company provides very good service for the price I like that the price does not change it's a set set price every month their customer support team is great the response time is amazing and I like most everything about this company I do wish that their speeds would be a little faster but they aren't that bad.
M
Mauleenfrom Hemphill, TX
HughesNet Customer for 1+ years
Reviewed on: 6-17-2022
The internet service is not worth what’s being charged. If there were more options for internet in this area, I would definitely switch to a better service. No competition in this rural area.
D
Debfrom West Jefferson, OH
HughesNet Customer for 1+ years
Reviewed on: 6-17-2022
We live in a rural area and Hughes Net is the only option for us
Starlink
4.7
(4)
5 Star
75%
4 Star
25%
3 Star
0%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
J
Johnfrom Hebron, MD
Starlink Customer for Less than a year
Reviewed on: 4-22-2023
Starlink works well in our area. Where we live, cell service and cable do not exist. The speed is comparable to cable speeds.
B
Bonniefrom Palestine, TX
Starlink Customer for Less than a year
Reviewed on: 4-2-2023
The speed of the internet is great. The improvement would be to have a dark dish instead a white one for aesthetic purposes. As well, for the pricing to not increase after just a few months of usage after a year of waiting to receive the service.
A
Amir Khubanifrom Demarest, NJ
Starlink Customer for Less than a year
Reviewed on: 9-11-2022
It is very reliable, since I can use it without an actual connection. It is pretty expensive.
B
Briana from Boise, ID
Starlink Customer for 4+ years
Reviewed on: 8-29-2022
It's pretty good, though the box is a bit old and they tend to not be the best with tech support. Overall we're happy with it.
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