When it comes to internet in rural or remote areas, you may have very limited options.
Satellite internet is wonderful, because it doesn’t rely on cable being laid into the ground. This means it can be broadcast down to much larger areas, making it available to almost anyone.
Two of these options include both Hughesnet, and the much newer Starlink. But which one of these is actually better?
Despite both of them being satellite internet, they actually operate very differently – with one being a clear winner.
In this article, we’ll cover whether you should consider Starlink or Hughesnet, and break down the winners between each major category like speed, reliability, and much more!
Starlink Vs Hughesnet – Internet Speeds
When it comes to speed, Starlink is the clear winner – and it’s not even close.
Hughesnet currently has packages with speeds up to 25 mbps, until you point you hit their data cap. After that, your speeds will be reduced to 1 – 3 mbps.
Starlink on the other hand has speeds ranging from 50 to 200 mbps for their residential plans. Here is a Speedtest.net result I took while using Starlink’s RV internet – which is even slower than their residential internet!
According to Ookla, the company that owns Speedtest.net, the median download speed of Hughesnet tests was 22.19 mbps in the first quarter of 2022.
Comparatively, the median for Starlink in the United States was 90.55 mbps. Other countries scored even higher – for example, the median Starlink download speed for Mexico tests was 105.91 mbps.
Therefore, the answer is objectively clear – Starlink is the clear winner in the speed department, and the results are not even close.
Starlink Vs Hughesnet – Latency
Next up, we have latency.
When it comes to your perceived internet speed, download and upload speeds aren’t everything. Something that’s also important is called latency, or ping.
This can be thought of like ‘lag time’ – it is the time it takes for something you do to actually register.
For example, if you are playing an online game and you move your character to the left, it takes some time for that action to actually reach the game’s server and register your action to others. This is because that data has to be uploaded from your device, in order to reach that server.
Considering that satellites are far up into the sky, this takes a tangible amount of time. So, how do Hughesnet and Starlink compare?
Starlink is the clear winner here as well.
Starlink satellites operate much lower in orbit than Hughesnet satellites do.
While Starlink satellites operate at about 340 miles (550 kilometers) above Earth, Hughesnet satellites are as high as 22,000 miles – or over 35,000 kilometers above Earth.
This is a significantly larger distance for data to travel, resulting in significantly higher latency.
According to the same test data mentioned earlier, the median latency for Starlink is 43 ms, where the median latency for Hughesnet is 724 ms.
724 ms is a lot for things like Zoom calls, VPNs (which add additional latency), or online gaming. In fact, most competitive online games are simply not possible to play with Hughesnet.
Starlink Vs Hughesnet – Data Caps
Next, let’s talk about data caps.
Data caps are the amount of data that you’re allowed to use each month before your speed is throttled, or you’re billed extra.
Unsurprisingly, the winner here is Starlink as well.
Currently, Hughesnet offers different packages, depending on the data cap that you’d like to have in place.
While a 15 gb data cap package will run you around $65 a month after their promotional period expires, a 150 gb package will run you around $149.99 a month.
Starlink on the other hand is $110 a month for their residential service, and has no data cap at all. France is the only exception to this, and you can learn more about Starlink’s data cap in France by clicking here.
Considering that streaming video or downloading games can use up a lot of data very quickly, Hughesnet’s low data cap is a big deal.
While they won’t cut off your service, your speed will be lowered to 1 – 3 mbps, which is practically unusable for many use cases.
Starlink Vs Hughesnet – Customer Service
Customer service is one area where we believe that Hughesnet wins.
Currently, Starlink only allows you to contact them online, and they do not have a support number that you can call.
Hughesnet on the other hand has an online ticket system, live chat, email, and phone support options. They also have an online community where you can get help from other Hughesnet customers.
Hughesnet has been in business a lot longer than Starlink has, so their customer support agents may be better equipped to handle unique cases.
That being said, it’s best when you don’t have to contact either company at all – because that means your internet is working perfectly!
Hughesnet Vs Starlink – Reliability
Internet is useless if it isn’t working correctly. So, between Starlink and Hughesnet, which ISP is more reliable?
The truth is, both are about a tie, due to the way satellite internet works.
Your satellite dish will always be prone to congestion based on usage in your area, obstructions that block its view of the sky, weather, and other factors.
Wired services like cable, fiber or DSL or known to be more reliable than any WISP or satellite internet provider could be.
That being said, Starlink it’s bad – as a user of it myself, I experience an outage roughly once every couple of months, and everything is usually back again within a few minutes.
However, the strength of the network is highly dependent on your specific area, and where you place your dish.
Hughesnet Vs Starlink – Cancellations And Contracts
Suppose that you want to cancel your service. Which company makes this the easiest, and what fees will you have to pay?
Currently, Starlink has no cancellation fees, and does not require any sort of contract. You are free to cancel your service whenever you’d like, and doing so is quite simple.
With their RV service, you can even turn it on and off frequently, only using it when you need it.
According to their terms and conditions page, Hughesnet on the other hand requires a 24-month contract. If you cancel your service early, you will be required to pay an early cancellation fee of up to $400.
Therefore, the difference is clear.
Starlink Vs Hughesnet – Cost, Value, And Overall Assessment
Now let’s talk cost and value.
Hughesnet does offer cheaper plans, for very light internet users. While Starlink only offers one plan at $110 a month, the closest plan Hughesnet offers is $90 a month. This provides up to 50 gb a month in unthrottled data.
So, Hughesnet can offer some savings if you only use your internet sparingly, or you aren’t home much. Their equipment fee is also a tad cheaper – about $450, vs Starlink’s $599.
This means that the initial set up cost is a bit cheaper with Hughesnet as well.
However, Starlink blows Hughesnet out of the water in terms of value, and it’s not even close.
For $110 a month, you not only have internet that is orders of magnitudes faster, but also has no data cap whatsoever, and much lower ping.
In the modern age the plans that Hughesnet offers are simply not enough for regular streaming or online gaming, despite what advertisements may say.
If you can afford the price of Starlink internet, there is no reason not to get it over Hughesnet or Viasat. The difference is enormous and cannot be appreciated until you try them.
If Starlink is available in your area (and a cable / fiber provider isn’t), then there is almost no reason not to get Starlink.
Starlink beats out competitors like Hughesnet and Viasat in almost every category, and the results aren’t even close to each other.
While Hughesnet has been around much longer, Starlink simply uses superior technology that Hughesnet cannot compete with.
I hope that you’ve found this article to be insightful. If you have any other questions about Starlink or Hughesnet, please ask them using the comment form below.
Wishing you the best,
– James McAllister