Satellite internet is speeding up, but alas, that doesn't mean it's getting cheaper. HughesNet today announced its fifth-gen technology, with speeds of up to 25Mbps down and 3Mbps up.
Hughes wouldn't tell us much about pricing and data caps, though, and that's where American ISPs fail. Satellite ISPs, especially, have insanely restrictive data caps that tend to cut subscribers off from streaming entertainment. For instance, HughesNet's current $59.99 plan allows 20GB/month, of which 10GB must be consumed between 2 and 8 a.m. That's three hours of prime-time Netflix for the whole month.
Hughes' speeds match competitor Exede, which has offered 25Mbps down for a while now. But Hughes says it will offer 25Mbps to a much broader coverage area than Exede is currently reaching with its service.
A press release from Hughes says its service will have plans with between 10 and 250GB/month available, a "video data saver" that compresses videos, and 50GB of free data per month to use between 2 and 8 a.m. Prices will "start as low as $49.99." But Hughes wouldn't give us the specific prices for specific data buckets.
Exede's plans show that it responds to the competition. It has a 10GB plan with "unlimited free data" between 3 and 8 a.m. for $49.99/month. More expensive plans have throttled data when you exceed your monthly cap, which Hughes will also do with its new Gen5 service.
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Getting fast Internet out to rural areas is a struggle in all big countries. While ISPs are more affordable in urban Canada than the urban US, according to the Canadian government, rural Canadians still struggle to get connected, according to this CBC report. In Australia, a government-funded, satellite-based "national broadband network" is increasing competition, but not everyone is pleased with the service. In Canada, Australia, and the US, some rural customers turn to capped cellular data plans, which aren't intended for high volume home use.
When rural towns can get local fiber providers, they get a real boost. Olds, Alberta became a cause celebre a few years ago for setting up its own gigabit Internet network, and similar examples are scattered around the US, such as Plateautel in Clovis, NM.
The next technology leap for Internet in rural America may come in 2018, Samsung's Alok Shah told us at Mobile World Congress last week. Google and AT&T are looking at wireless ISP options using some new spectrum that's becoming available at 3.5GHz, which could reach miles from a tower via line of sight. Until then, satellite and cellular may be the limited options for people out in the boonies.
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