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HughesNet vs. Starlink Internet plan comparison


Rebecca Palmer smiles for the camera
Headshot of Brittany McGhee
Researched by
Headshot of Bri Field
Reviewed by
Bri FieldAssigning Editor
Updated 3/17/23

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HughesNet brand
Staff rating
2.0
Customer rating
3.3
(18)

  • Plans starting at $49.99
  • Download speeds up to 25 Mbps
Starlink
Staff rating
2.5
Customer rating
4.6
(3)

  • Plans starting at $110.00
  • Download speeds up to 250 Mbps
HughesNet brand
Staff rating
2.0

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
Starlink
Staff rating
2.5

Speedy satellite internet that's still growing

Starlink has the fastest speed and lowest latency of any satellite internet service, but its availability and customer service lag behind competitors. While Starlink’s performance is impressive for satellite internet, it can’t compete with a traditional cable or fiber connection.

What we like

  • Fast speeds for satellite
  • Low latency
  • Reasonable pricing for satellite
What we dislike

  • High upfront equipment cost
  • Inconsistent performance and customer service
  • Lack of availability
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 higher download speeds or more than 100 GB of data, compare your options with Viasat and Starlink.

Starlink
Value
2.0
Best performance for its price among satellite providers

Where it’s already available, Starlink is a solid alternative to other satellite internet providers. Starlink offers one home internet service plan at a flat price just over $100 per month. Starlink aims to provide download speeds of 50–250 Mbps, with speeds varying based on location, network congestion, and other technical factors. That’s up to $2.27 Mbps of speed per dollar.

While it’s more expensive than many cable or fiber plans, this is a great value compared to other satellite internet providers. HughesNet doesn’t offer speeds anywhere near as high, although some of its plans are cheaper than Starlink’s. Viasat’s highest service tier offers up to 100 Mbps download speeds, but still can’t compete on speed or price.

Like HughesNet and Viasat, Starlink has limits on how much high-speed data you can use during peak hours (7:00 am to 11:00 pm). You can get around it by logging on overnight or buying additional gigabytes of high speed data through the app.

Starlink sets itself apart, though, by being the only satellite internet company to offer an internet option for RV travelers. It costs just $25 more than the regular residential plan but may have slower speeds in busy areas.

HughesNet brand
Performance
1.0
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).

Starlink
Performance
3.0
Higher speed and lower latency than the competition, but it lacks consistency

Starlink certainly can’t compete with a fiber connection, but it is more than capable of outperforming other satellite providers. Starlink’s stated performance goals are 50–250 Mbps download speed, 10–20 Mbps of upload speed, and 20–40 ms latency. These are much more ambitious goals than what HughesNet or Viasat could achieve with their geostationary satellites, but Starlink’s low-earth orbit satellite technology lets it perform beyond the limits of other satellite providers.

There are still issues with the service, though. On Downdetector, Starlink customers report suffering from occasional outages and slowdowns and speeds are slowing as more and more customers sign up. (1) The US FCC (Federal Communications Commission) has approved the launch of 7,500 more low-orbit satellites, though, so those average speeds could jump back up. (2)

According to Ookla’s satellite internet performance data from Q3 2023, Starlink outshines other satellite internet providers in terms of median download speed, upload speed, and latency. (3) Across the whole US, Starlink’s median download speed was 53 Mbps, down from about twice that the year before. That's still faster than HughesNet and Viasat, but about 100 Mbps slower than fixed broadband. While median download speed varied widely by location, it still remained within advertised ranges.

Starlink’s median upload speed (7.22 Mbps) was much higher than both HughesNet and Viasat. As expected, Starlink’s latency (67 ms) was remarkably lower than other satellite internet providers, but not as low as fixed broadband providers.

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.

Starlink
Equipment and installation
2.5
Upfront equipment costs are high, and you’ll have to install it yourself

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 Starlink's kit for RVs.

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. 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, and that's higher than you'll pay for Viasat or HughesNet equipment. For a high-performance Starlink kit that can handle both freezing weather and temperatures above 95 degrees Fahrenheit, the setup cost starts at $2,500 before taxes.

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.

Starlink
Customer experience
2.5
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 Starling recently said delays were most common in highly populated areas, but rural areas were the best place for the service, anyway. (4) There have also been reports of long delays in receiving Starlink equipment due to the effects of the global chip shortage on production. (5) Some customers who pre-ordered Starlink kits have had to wait over a year to receive them and received few updates from the company (6), 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 does offer 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.

HughesNet
3.3
(18)
5 Star
17%
4 Star
28%
3 Star
33%
2 Star
17%
1 Star
5%
C
Carlos from Mojave, CA
HughesNet Customer for Less than a year
Reviewed on: 2022-08-03
It’s slow and sometimes nothing will even load when we supposedly have 30 gb a day
D
Debfrom West Jefferson, OH
HughesNet Customer for 1+ years
Reviewed on: 2022-07-31
We live in a rural area and Hughes Net is the only option for us
M
Mauleenfrom Hemphill, TX
HughesNet Customer for 1+ years
Reviewed on: 2022-07-15
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.
A
Amberly from Canisteo , NY
HughesNet Customer for 4+ years
Reviewed on: 2022-06-17
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.
Starlink
4.6
(3)
5 Star
67%
4 Star
33%
3 Star
0%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
M
Marian from Madisonville , TX
Starlink Customer for Less than a year
Reviewed on: 2022-12-06
It' fast and worth the money monthly
A
Amir Khubanifrom Demarest, NJ
Starlink Customer for Less than a year
Reviewed on: 2022-09-11
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: 2022-08-15
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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