Starlink vs HughesNet: Which Satellite Internet is Right for You?

Starlink vs HughesNet: Which Satellite Internet is Right for You? March 11, 2024

Satellite internet services provide broadband access to rural and remote areas unreached by cable or fiber networks. Traditional providers like HughesNet have operated for years, but Starlink is a newer service from SpaceX that launched in late 2020. Starlink and HughesNet both use satellites in orbit to provide internet access. ...

Satellite internet services provide broadband access to rural and remote areas unreached by cable or fiber networks. Traditional providers like HughesNet have operated for years, but Starlink is a newer service from SpaceX that launched in late 2020.

Starlink and HughesNet both use satellites in orbit to provide internet access. But Starlink utilizes a growing network of hundreds of low Earth orbit satellites, while HughesNet relies on just a few geosynchronous satellites positioned much farther from Earth.

This key difference gives Starlink some distinct advantages in speed and latency over HughesNet. As Starlink continues to build out its satellite constellation, it’s likely to pull ahead of HughesNet as the top choice for most consumers needing satellite broadband.

Coverage Areas

Starlink and HughesNet take different approaches when it comes to coverage areas.

Starlink is currently only available in certain parts of the United States, Canada, the UK, and several other European countries. However, Starlink aims to achieve near global coverage by 2021. The company is launching satellites into low Earth orbit to provide high-speed internet access anywhere in the world. As of January 2022, Starlink reports they are providing coverage to areas where 99% of the developed world’s population lives.

In contrast, HughesNet relies on satellites in geostationary orbit to beam internet across the Americas. This results in HughesNet being available across most of the continental United States, including rural and remote areas. However, internet speeds suffer due to the higher orbit and limited bandwidth available per satellite.

Ultimately, Starlink aims to provide high-speed low-latency internet globally, while HughesNet focuses on blanket coverage of the Americas even if speeds are relatively low. Starlink’s ambitious vision could hugely expand quality satellite internet access, but it will take time to fully build out their constellation of satellites.

Also, Read : Why Become a HughesNet Reseller?


When comparing Starlink and HughesNet on speed, there are a few key factors to consider:

  • Download/Upload Speeds: Starlink offers download speeds between 100-200 Mbps and upload speeds of 10-20 Mbps, according to Starlink. HughesNet’s Gen5 service advertises download speeds of 25 Mbps and upload speeds of 3 Mbps.
  • Real-World Tests: Early beta users of Starlink have reported download speeds between 50-150 Mbps and upload speeds of 5-18 Mbps in real-world tests. HughesNet customers often see much lower speeds than advertised, with many reporting 1-5 Mbps download and even slower upload speeds.
  • Peak Hours Performance: One advantage of Starlink is more consistent speeds, even during peak usage hours when satellite internet normally slows down due to congestion. HughesNet has a reputation for extremely slow speeds during peak evening hours. Their Gen5 plans enforce “Priority Data” caps which can limit speeds to 1-3 Mbps during peak hours if exceeded.

So in summary, Starlink offers significantly faster download and upload speeds compared to HughesNet, based on early beta testing. Starlink also maintains higher speeds during peak usage hours versus the severe congestion and throttling issues faced by HughesNet customers. However, it’s worth noting that Starlink is still in beta and speeds may vary.


Latency refers to the time it takes for information to travel to and from the satellite to your home. This is especially important for real-time applications like video chatting, online gaming, and voice calls.

Starlink offers significantly lower latency than HughesNet. Starlink latency is typically 20-40ms, whereas HughesNet latency is 600ms or higher according to FCC data. This is because Starlink satellites orbit much closer to Earth.

Lower latency results in much faster response times. Pages load almost instantly with Starlink, while HughesNet customers often experience delays as pages load. Buffering is commonplace with HughesNet but largely nonexistent for Starlink users.

For gaming, the difference is night and day. Fast-paced online games are nearly unplayable on HughesNet due to lag. Starlink allows gaming without perceptible delays, giving users a major advantage. The same goes for applications like video conferencing, streaming, and voice calls – Starlink offers real-time responsiveness while HughesNet has noticeable lag.

In today’s world where so much depends on low latency connectivity for remote work, schooling, telemedicine, and entertainment, Starlink far outperforms HughesNet. The much lower latency enables use cases that are simply not viable on geostationary satellite internet like HughesNet. For many rural users, Starlink’s low latency is a complete game-changer.


Reliability refers to the uptime and availability of an internet connection. This is a crucial factor for rural customers who rely on their internet service for work, school, medical needs, and more.

In terms of uptime, Starlink tends to be more reliable than HughesNet. Starlink’s network is designed to provide constant connectivity through advanced satellites with laser interlinks. This allows traffic to be seamlessly switched between satellites if obstructions occur. In contrast, HughesNet’s network architecture requires a direct line of sight between the customer dish and the satellite at all times. Any interference leads to dropped connections which customers report happening frequently.

Outage frequency is another mark against HughesNet. Customers report regular outages ranging from a few minutes to hours, disrupting their ability to get online. These appear tied to network congestion as more users connect in peak hours. Starlink customers experience significantly fewer outage events given the greater capacity of SpaceX’s satellite network.

Lastly, weather can hamper satellite internet reliability. Heavy rain, snow or wind can interfere with signal transmission between the dish and orbiting satellites. HughesNet is prone to more weather-related issues than Starlink based on comparative consumer reports. Starlink’s lower orbiting satellites and advanced technology seem to make its service more weather-resistant overall.

Data Caps

When it comes to data caps, there are some key differences between Starlink and HughesNet.

HughesNet has relatively low data caps that range from 10-50GB per month depending on your plan. If you exceed your monthly data cap, your speeds will be throttled to 1-3Mbps until the next billing cycle. There are expensive overage fees if you go over your data cap – $10 per additional 50GB used.

Starlink has no official enforced data caps at this time. Users are advised that they may be throttled during peak usage times if they consistently use over 1TB per month, but there are no overage fees. For most residential use cases, Starlink provides essentially unlimited high-speed data.

Some HughesNet plans do offer “unlimited data”, but with a significant catch. During peak daytime hours (8am-2am), you are still limited to your standard data cap. Only during the late night hours of 2am-8am is unlimited data provided, with speeds throttled to 5Mbps.

So for most users, Starlink’s lack of enforced data caps provides a much better experience, with no need to worry about overage fees or speed throttling. HughesNet’s low data caps and overage fees make it a poor choice for heavy bandwidth usage.


Starlink and HughesNet have different pricing structures for their satellite internet services.

Monthly Costs

Starlink’s monthly service starts at $110 per month. There are no long-term contracts required. The price includes the Starlink kit with satellite dish, router, cables and mount.

HughesNet’s monthly fees range from $59.99 to $149.99 per month depending on the plan speed. Plans require a 2-year contract. Equipment fees are extra.

Equipment Fees

Starlink equipment is included in the $110 monthly fee.

HughesNet charges a $99 or $299 upfront hardware fee for their equipment. Additional fees may apply for professional installation.

Promotions and Discounts

Starlink occasionally offers promotions where the hardware kit or shipping may be discounted or free for new customers.

HughesNet runs frequent promotions where they discount or waive equipment fees, offer free installation, or include prepaid service months with a new contract.

So Starlink has higher monthly fees but no long contracts or extra equipment charges. HughesNet has lower monthly rates but requires a contract and has extra equipment and installation fees unless promotions are available.

Also, Read : HughesNet vs. Traditional Cable Internet: Which is Right for You?

Customer Service

Starlink and HughesNet take different approaches when it comes to customer service and support.

Starlink is still a relatively new service, having launched in late 2020. As such, there are not a lot of customer reviews available yet regarding their customer service. However, initial reports seem to indicate relatively quick response times via email, with issues usually addressed within 24 hours.

HughesNet has been around for over a decade and has had more time to develop their customer support systems. Reviews of their customer service are mixed. While they offer 24/7 phone and online chat support, some customers report long hold times. Response times via email can vary as well.

Overall customer satisfaction seems higher with Starlink’s customer service, likely owing to it being a newer system with fewer customers to support so far. HughesNet’s larger customer base leads to some frustration with wait times and responsiveness among some users. However, those looking for 24/7 live phone support may prefer HughesNet.

As Starlink continues to grow, it will be important to watch if their customer service quality remains high over time. But for now, Starlink appears to edge out HughesNet when it comes to customer satisfaction with support options.


Both Starlink and HughesNet require equipment beyond just a router to connect to their satellite networks. This equipment is crucial for establishing a reliable, high-speed internet connection.

Dish Size and Specs

Starlink uses a compact dish antenna that is about 2 feet wide and can be mounted easily on a roof or wall. The antenna uses advanced phased array beam-forming and has autonomous multi-beam tracking. It connects to Starlink’s constellation of low earth orbit satellites.

In contrast, HughesNet requires a much larger satellite dish that is around 2.5 feet wide. It has a motorized mount to track the orbiting satellite and needs to be professionally installed with a clear view of the southern sky. The dish uses older dish antenna technology to link to HughesNet’s geosynchronous satellites.

Router Capabilities

The Starlink router supports the latest WiFi standards, has a built-in power supply, and allows for wired connections. It has standard router features like port forwarding, custom DNS, and static routes. The router is designed specifically for Starlink’s network architecture.

HughesNet’s router options are more limited. The standard router has older WiFi technology without many advanced features. Customers can upgrade to a higher-end router, but options are still behind Starlink’s technology. HughesNet’s routers are not customized for their network.


When comparing Starlink and HughesNet, there are some clear differences that make Starlink the better option for most consumers.

Starlink offers faster speeds, lower latency, truly unlimited data, and generally more reliable service. The biggest advantage is the low latency that enables real-time activities like video streaming, gaming, and video calls. HughesNet’s high latency results in lag, buffering, and frustration with these types of uses.

While HughesNet has a larger coverage area currently, Starlink is rapidly expanding with aims to achieve near global coverage. However, Starlink availability is still limited, so HughesNet may be the only viable option in some rural locations.

Overall, Starlink provides a much better user experience for typical residential needs. The unlimited data, faster speeds, and low latency make it superior for things like working from home, distance learning, streaming, and online gaming. Unless Starlink availability is an issue for your location, it’s the preferable choice over satellite internet providers like HughesNet in most cases.

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