Hot on the heels of its fifth-generation service announcement, satellite internet provider HughesNet has quadrupled its data caps with new service plans, bringing roomier internet headroom to its million rural US customers.
Using the new Echostar XIX satellite more than doubles HughesNet's capacity, which will let it offer much better service plans, according to Hughes EVP Mike Cook. The proclaimed maximum download speed will jump to 25Mbps. Data caps will also turn into soft caps, with throttling at around 3Mbps, which is enough to stream standard-def Netflix.
"Once you've used your allowance you'll be able to carry on doing everything including streaming, at lower data rates," Cook said.
Hughes's primary competitors are another satellite service, Exede, which offers 25Mbps service but only in less congested areas, and expensive home 4G LTE solutions such as one from Verizon which charges $90 for 20GB.
The new plans cost $49.99 for 10GB (down from $59.99), $69.99 for 20GB, $99.99 for 30GB (Exede charges $149.99) and $129.99 for 50GB (which neither Hughes nor Exede offers right now). But for at least three months, subscribers will get a temporary tier boost for the same price (so 20GB for $49.99, for example).
"We have more data for the same price points, with no hard data caps," Cook said.
These prices sound insanely high to anyone with any other internet option, and they are. Satellite service is expensive to provide, and it's the last resort ISP for folks who live in places where no other ISP will connect. Cook doesn't see that changing any time soon, even with 5G wireless coming.
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"Our primary constituency, it's going to be a long time, if ever, before we see much 5G buildout into those markets," Cook said. "And in another four or five years' time, we'll have the next generation of satellite technology."
How HughesNet Compares
The new satellite lets HughesNet offer its 25Mbps service coast to coast, unlike competitor Exede which can only offer it in less congested areas, Cook said. And Exede's performance has been crashing recently. According to Ookla's Speedtest Intelligence, Exede was much faster than HughesNet through much of last year, but its speeds plummeted in December. Now, both providers average 11.5 to 12Mbps down. The new system may double HughesNet's speeds.
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HughesNet does have consistently higher raw latency than Exede, with 720ms compared to Exede's 634ms nationally in March. But HughesNet uses pre-fetching and compression to make the latency feel shorter, Cook said.
Video optimizations will also help save data and make streaming smoother, Cook said. HughesNet runs a video downscaling service, like T-Mobile's Binge On, which customers can opt out of.
The new plans are available on HughesNet's website today.
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