Why is the HughesNet internet so slow?

Photo by Donald Giannatti on Unsplash

We are HughesNet users. We’ve been using their service for the past few years because where we live, there is no cable internet service.

We have the 30 GB/month package, which costs $99.99/month. Though at the time of purchase, HughesNet promised our internet speed would be 25 Mbps, we rarely get that speed. It’s very slow.

Starlink Internet — a subsidiary of SpaceX — has started beta testing. Current beta testers are getting 50Mbps to 200 Mbps download speed and 20 Mbps to 40 Mbps upload speed. The latency varies between 20 ms to 150 ms. According to those Starlink beta users, SpaceX said their internet speed would improve over time. 

As we can see, the beta Starlink internet is already super-fast compared to HughesNet.

Then, why is HughesNet internet so slow? HughesNet Internet is so slow because they oversold their bandwidth, has too many customers which they can’t serve, uses a limited number of geosynchronous satellites, and due to their monthly data cap.

HughesNet provides inconsistent, slow, and frustrating service. 

Its internet is not optimized for VPN and online gaming. We can’t watch Disney+, Netflix, or Hulu. We even can’t upload videos to youtube because of the ridiculous 1-3 Mbps upload speed. 

Geosynchronous Satellite and Latency:

HughesNet uses geosynchronous satellites. These satellites are 35,786 km or 22,236 miles above the earth to use fewer satellites for global coverage. 

If you are in New York and a website hosted in a California data center, when you request website data, your request will travel 3,000 miles to California, and the response will travel back 3,000 miles. So the request to response data packet travel distance is 6,000 miles.

However, if we use HughesNet, the same request would travel from our satellite receiver to HughesNet geosynchronous satellite to the Satellite base station to the webpage server. From the server, the response packet travels back to our home through the same path.

Even if we remove the distance from satellite base station to webpage server, the request to response data travel distance is 22,236 miles (home to satellite) + 22,236 miles (satellite to base station) + 22,236 miles (response, base station to satellite) + 22,236 miles (response, satellite to home) = 88,944 miles.

The speed of the electromagnetic wave is 186,000 miles per second. Therefore, even before calculating delays due to electronics, HughesNet has a minimum of 88,944 miles / 186,000 miles per second = 478 millisecond request to response delay. This delay is called latency. However, in a real-world scenario, 600 ms latency is typical. It is what I get daily with HughesNet.

In comparison, a typical cable internet has 30 ms to 40 ms latency. 

Because of this insane latency, HughesNet is not suitable for online gaming. You can’t game on Xbox or PlayStation while connected to HughesNet Internet.

HughesNet oversold its bandwidth capacity:

HughesNet has a few operational geosynchronous satellites. These are HUGHES 65W, HUGHES 63W, SPACEWAY 3, EchoStar XIX, etc. 

There is currently one HughesNet satellite — EchoStar XIX — which serves internet in the US, Canada, and Mexico. This satellite has 200 Gbps.

1 Gbps = 1024 Mbps. So, 200 Gbps = 200 x 1024 Mbps = 204,800 Mbps.

In the US, each HughesNet customer gets 25Mbps download speed. Let’s do some quick math. It will reveal why HughesNet’s 25 Mbps speed promise is misleading.

Theoretically, HughesNet can serve a maximum of 204,800 Mbps / 25 Mbps = 8,192 customers simultaneously, everyone downloading at 25Mbps. However, in real life, not all 8,192 customers will use the internet at the same time. Even if they do, not everyone is going to stream Netflix. Even if they do, none has a truly unlimited data package. 

Nevertheless, guess how many customers HughesNet is serving in North America? It’s more than 100,000.1

Even if 25% of that many customers come online simultaneously, that’s 25,000. Therefore, HughesNet is now serving 25,000 customers concurrently beyond their capacity of 8,192 customers.

So, the HughesNet internet speed will be 25 Mbps / 3 = 8.33 Mbps instead of your promised 25 Mbps. However, in the real world, this scenario is much worse. We hardly get 4-5 Mbps download speed.

It is one of those examples of how a company over-promises and under-delivers. It seems that HughesNet can’t deliver and has to throttle their internet speed.

As we can see, HughesNet has oversold their bandwidth. It’s why HughesNet internet is very slow.

If you are using HughesNet and getting slow internet, remember it’s not your fault. It’s HughesNets’, but there’s nothing you can do to increase the internet speed. Unless HughesNet reduces their number of customers or increases their satellite count with high bandwidth, this slow internet problem will persist.

Exhausting monthly data quota:

HughesNet does not have an unlimited data package. They have four data packages at 25 Mbps speed — 10GB, 20GB, 30GB, and 50GB. If you exceed your data limit, HughesNet will throttle your internet speed at 0 to 3 Mbps until the next billing period. However, this speed is useless.

The data cap is absurd. Nowadays, everything is online —banking, entertainment, communication, stock market, etc. Therefore, we need an untethered internet. 

If you exhaust your monthly data allowances, it could be the reason why your HughesNet is slow.

Bad weather at satellite-gateway:

For internet connection, HughesNet’s satellite uses a base station. If there is bad weather at those base station areas, it will affect internet speed too. Therefore, even if a user is in Texas, but the gateway is in Montana, HughesNet internet speed in Texas will get affected due to the storm in Montana.

More on HughesNet’s slow internet from our experience:

It’s infuriating that whenever we complain about our slow HughesNet speed, they ask us to run a speed test. Sometimes they tell us to buy tokens. It’s entirely an evasive tactic from HughesNet.

When we contact HughesNet either by phone, chat, or forum2, they ask to do the same thing. Run speed tests. A lot of them. And then they do nothing. They don’t fix the real problem of why the internet is slow. 

After multiple technician visits, the slow internet issue is still not fixed — all they said that they would give us a few extra GB data for our inconvenience.

In the middle of nowhere, HughesNet is better than nothing. Furthermore, we are still under the HughesNet contract, which has a $400 cancellation fee. 

Conclusion:

HughesNet has oversold its capacity, misrepresented its capabilities. They will not assume responsibility for their inferior service. There’s no way HughesNet can fix their internet speed. It is not the customer’s fault that there is network congestion. It is not the customer’s fault that the customers are on a congested gateway. The only way to get a better internet is to ditch HughesNet and seek an alternative one, which we will do soon.