If you are considering satellite internet, you have many different options in 2023. HughesNet is the leading satellite internet service in terms of number of customers. Starlink is newer on the market, but is expanding rapidly.
Which service is faster? Which is more reliable? What are the costs? These are probably the central questions you have when considering Starlink vs HughesNet. In this article, we’ll cover all of the objective information about each service and let you know which is best for your needs.
Table of Contents
What is HughesNet?
HughesNet started offering satellite internet to consumers in 1996. The HughesNet system uses satellites in geosynchronous orbit to connect customers to ground stations. The service is widely available, even in remote areas.
HughesNet was one of the first companies to offer satellite internet to consumers. As a result, they have grown to become a market leader.
The technology used by HughesNet has changed over time to improve network performance. Their latest Jupiter 2 satellites are able to provide speeds defined by the FCC as “broadband”. Many rural customers without broadband options are now able to obtain those speeds through satellite internet services like HughesNet.
What is Starlink?
Starlink is a satellite internet service operated by SpaceX. The service has been in development for years. They recently started offering service to the public in late 2020. Starlink is rapidly expanding as their network capacity increases with each new satellite launch.
Starlink uses advanced satellites in low earth orbit to connect customers to ground stations. The satellite position is much closer to the earth, resulting in high performance specifications. Starlink is available in remote locations, but capacity is currently limited as the satellite network expands.
When comparing Starlink vs HughesNet, speed is going to be the most important factor for many people. Speed determines how long it takes to download a video, or upload a picture to social media. The higher the speed, the better. Let’s take a look at the real world download and upload speeds of each service.
HughesNet Median Speeds
According to the latest Ookla.com Quarterly Performance Report, the median download speed for HughesNet is 22.62 Mbps.
The median upload speed for HughesNet is 2.52 Mbps. HughesNet advertises their speeds at 25 Mbps down, 3 Mbps up. That is very close to the real world data provided by the Ookla report.
Starlink Median Speeds
If we look at the same Ookla report referenced above, the median download speed for Starlink is 62.53 Mbps.
The median upload speed for Starlink is 7.24 Mbps. Starlink says that customers should expect between 50-250 Mbps, which is also close to the real world data.
Check out our article on Starlink Internet Speeds for more details.
Winner: Starlink Starlink is 3 times as fast as HughesNet for downloading and uploading
Latency is the time it takes, in milliseconds, for data to travel from one computer to another. It is important for tasks like online gaming and video calls. Ping and lag are sometimes used to describe latency. The lower the number, the better.
Starlink and HughesNet use different satellite deployment strategies. HughesNet satellites orbit at a much higher altitude than Starlink satellites. As a result, HughesNet is at a major disadvantage when it comes to latency.
HughesNet Median Latency: 716ms
Starlink Median Latency: 48ms
HughesNet latency is much higher than Starlink. HughesNet even acknowledges on their website that their internet service is not compatible with online gaming or video conferencing.
Starlink can be used for online gaming and video conferencing. Starlink speeds and latency are much closer to traditional broadband internet.
Winner: Starlink Starlink latency is much lower, allowing for online gaming or video calls
For reliability, both services share the same disadvantage of using satellites to connect to the internet. Heavy rain, snow, and ice can cause service interruptions on both services.
Trees, buildings, and other obstructions can lead to reliability problems with either service.
Winner: Tie Both Starlink and HughesNet are going to be less reliable than fixed broadband because of the limitations of satellite internet
A data cap or data limit is a limit to the amount of data a customer can download or upload in a given month.
HughesNet does not have a hard data cap. HughesNet does slow speeds after the data cap has been reached.
Starlink does not have any data caps and does not slow down speeds for customers that use large amounts of data.
Winner: Starlink Neither service will cut off your internet because of a data cap, but HughesNet does slow down speeds after a certain amount of data
For satellite internet, there are two main costs to consider, equipment and service.
HughesNet allows customers to lease or buy their satellite dish and router. HughesNet equipment costs $449.98 to purchase, or about $180/year to lease.
Starlink customers need to purchase the hardware kit for $599. This includes the satellite dish and wireless router.
Monthly Service Cost
HughesNet offers residential customers different tiers of service based on data limits. The prices range from $64.99-$159.99 per month.
HughesNet customers are required to sign up for a 2 year contract with penalties/fees for early termination.
Starlink charges residential customers $110/month for service. There are no contracts required and users can cancel service at any time without fees.
Winner: HughesNet The up-front equipment and monthly service costs for HughesNet are cheaper than Starlink
HughesNet must be installed by a professional because of the need to properly align the dish to the satellites. Installation services are included for free with the equipment.
Starlink can be DIY installed or professionally installed, which will cost extra. The dish has motors that automatically align to the satellites. Mounts and accessories are available from Starlink and aftermarket.
See also: Starlink Mounting Options
Winner: Tie Although the HughesNet installation is free, professional installation is required. Starlink can be installed DIY, but professional installation and mounting accessories will cost extra
Starlink Vs HughesNet Summary
If Starlink and HughesNet are both available in your area, Starlink is the clear winner in this battle. The speeds and latency are unmatched from any other satellite internet provider currently on the market.
Overall Winner: Starlink
Here is a quick summary of the comparison we did in this article:
|Download Speed||22.62 Mbps||62.53 Mbps|
|Upload Speed||2.52 Mbps||7.24 Mbps|
|Latency||716 ms||48 ms|
|Reliability||Weather affected||Weather affected|
|Data Caps||Yes, throttling||No|
|Costs||$64.99-$159.99/month + equipment||$110/month + equipment|
|Installation||Professional, free||DIY or professional, accessories extra|
Thanks for reading. Do you have HughesNet or Starlink? Let us know about your experience with either service in the comments below!