Review: HughesNet Gen5 Spot Beam Service (Satellite Internet)

hughesnet-spotbeam-ka-band-rtc-mobile-internet-review

Spot beam services in the past have not supported mobile users, but that is changing.

Spot beam services in the past have not supported mobile users, but that is changing.

Traditionally – consumer-grade spot beam satellite services have been strictly limited to fixed installations.

Even if you were physically able to move and successfully re-aim a dish, the satellites would refuse to acknowledge you at your new location if you ventured out of your assigned "spot" on the satellite's coverage map.

Policies however have been slowly evolving – and HughesNet began quietly running a trial program in 2015 that allowed select business resellers to "mobilize" HughesNet Gen3 "Spaceway" and Gen4 "Jupiter" tripod-mounted systems so that they could connect automatically nationwide.

This very limited arrangement has continued with the new HughesNet Gen5 system.

If you are interested in satellite internet service on the road, HughesNet Gen5 is in many ways the best option available - with speeds that make it an interesting alternative even to cellular.

The older HughesNet generations are no longer recommended for new customers.

Our guide to the older service tiers is archived here:

HughesNet Gen3 / Gen4 Spot Beam Service

Gen5 "Jupiter 2" - Worth Waiting For

EchoStart 19 launched on December 18th 2016, and has now settled safely into its permanent service orbit.

HughesNet launched its 5th generation satellite in December 2016, and revealed in early February 2017 some of the details of the upcoming Gen5 "Jupiter 2" service - which rolled out to customers in April 2017.

Unlike the limited coverage of HughesNet Gen4, Gen5 covers the entire continental United States, parts of Alaska and Canada, and even into Mexico with faster service than HughesNet has ever been able to offer before.

This is a huge improvement over older generations - and suddenly makes HughesNet a lot more interesting for RVers.

Gen5 standardizes the speeds to offer a promised peak of 25Mbps down and 3Mbps up, a substantial improvement that makes HughesNet a lot more competitive with LTE cellular technology.

Getting Gen5 Service

Mobile Satellite nternet's equipment.

MobileInternetSatellite.com sells Gen3 and Gen4 tripod setups, and now offers Gen5.

HughesNet began rolling out Gen5 service starting on April 1st, 2017.

Service will require a new HT2000W satellite modem, so anyone with older HughesNet service will require new gear. And since the satellite is in a new location in the sky, existing dishes will need to be re-aimed too.

Do keep in mind - traditionally all HughesNet plans (even upgrades from older service generations) have required agreeing to a multi-year contract to sign up for a new tier of service.

Make sure that these new plans will meet your needs before getting locked in!

Gen5 Service Plans

HughesNet has both residential plans and business plans.

Only business plans can be configured for frequent moves.

Gen5 Residential Plans & Pricing

Here are the four Gen5 consumer residential plans currently offered:

  • 10 GB Plan - $49.99/mo
  • 20 GB Plan - $69.99/mo
  • 30 GB Plan - $99.99/mo
  • 50 GB Plan - $129.99/mo

HughesNet is currently offering introductory discounts on new Gen5 service.

Sadly there is no unlimited data plan, but every one of these residential plans comes with 50GB of monthly "Bonus Bytes" that can be used between 2am and 8am for system updates and bulk downloads.

When your monthly anytime data allowance runs out, speeds will slow down for the remainder of the month - but you will still be able to get online at a throttled speed.

HughesNet also sells "tokens" that you can buy and then redeem for extra unthrottled data when you need it. Tokens are priced at 3GB for $9 through 25GB for $75.

Interestingly - to help stretch out data usage, HughesNet will be following T-Mobile's BingeOn playbook with Gen5 - limiting video streams to 480p "DVD Quality" resolution by default unless you explicitly enable HD video.

But What About Mobility?

Spot beam services in the past have typically never officially supported mobile users. If you try to connect outside your home "spot" the system will ignore you unless your account has been specially provisioned.

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HughesNet has NEVER directly supported mobile satellite internet installations.

This isn't just a matter of policy - it is a technical limitation due to satellite internet dishes needing to be professionally set up and aimed, as well as how the satellite divides up the country into hundreds of "spots" that function similar to cell towers - only a lot further off the ground.

Even if you could re-aim a dish that you moved yourself, if you leave the spot beam that your service address is assigned to you will be essentially invisible to the satellite and unable to connect at all.

This makes satellite internet service particularly tricky for mobile users to take advantage of.

There are two ways around this spot beam limitation.

Option #1: Occasional Moves

The easiest way to move HughesNet service is working with an authorized HughesNet reseller that is willing to train you how to properly set up the dish on a portable tripod and to aim it yourself.

Then whenever you change locations the reseller can call HughesNet's operations center on your behalf to assign you manually to a new service address as if you had moved there and they had performed the "pro" installation for you.

This is only practical to do if you move service just two or three times a year - such as seasonal snowbirds moving between a summer and winter home base.

MobileInternetSatellite.com specializes in offering this training and service to RVers - selling full portable tripod kits for taking HughesNet service on the road.

Option #2: Frequent Moves

To learn more about the benefits and limitations of satellite internet service, read our in-depth guide.

If you want to move your service more frequently than a few times a year, things get complicated.

To enable true mobility, your account needs to be specifically configured to be able to automatically change spots.

HughesNet currently is NOT allowing consumer plans to be enabled for this sort of mobile service. 

But certain business-grade plans being resold and supported by HughesNet partner companies WILL be able to be mobile-enabled in the system so that they can automatically roam spots as often as desired.

The folks at MobileInternetSatellite.com are now able to offer these truly mobile Gen5 plans to RVers, so if you are interested in this option be sure to check in with them.

Here is the current pricing tiers:

If you want truly mobile service, you will need to pay more for a business plan.

Gen5 Performance - 25Mbps!

HughesNet only promises 25Mbps down and 3Mbps up, but with the new satellite currently so lightly loaded many users are reporting much faster results!

All Gen5 plans offer a peak of 25Mbps down and 3Mbps up.

But do keep in mind these are PEAK speeds, and during congested times real-world speeds may actually be slower.

On the other hand, as of August 2017 many customers are reporting that they are getting well over the advertised speeds with Gen5 since the new satellite is still lightly loaded.

Only once Gen5 is widely deployed will we get a sense of what average typical speeds will be over time.


Testing Status

We do not intend to obtain a HughesNet tripod system to test first hand, due to our own lack of storage space for the bulky dish required.

But we have owned and used a previous generation (Gen2) HughesNet tripod system, and we are tracking several people who have purchased Gen3, Gen4, and now Gen5 setups and who have shared with us their first hand experiences.

Some insider information and tips are shared with our members below.

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Purchasing Options

The dish might say "HughesNet" on it, but if you want support in taking the service on the road you will need to purchase through a reseller.

The dish might say "HughesNet" on it, but if you want support in taking the service on the road you will need to purchase through a reseller.

You can NOT sign up for "mobilized" HughesNet service directly with HughesNet, and you can not easily take an existing residential HughesNet system on the road.

It just wont work. The account needs to be provisioned differently to enable mobility, and the modem needs to have special firmware settings unlocked to make roaming between spot beams possible.

MobileInternetSatellite.com is focused on providubg RV-centric solutions & support for mobile HughesNet offerings, and is currently the best starting point for any RVer researching getting a HughesNet tripod setup.


WARNING: Make sure you know what you are buying.

HughesNet Gen3 "Spaceway" service is available with nationwide coverage now, but Gen4 "Jupiter" service is only available in parts of the country and the truly nationwide Gen5 service only began to be available starting in April 2017.

Gen5 service will require a new HT2000W satellite modem, so anyone with older HughesNet service will need to upgrade to new gear.

 

As of August 2017, HughesNet Gen4 "Jupiter" service is no longer available for new customers.

HughesNet Gen3 "Spaceway" remains available for new customers until Fall 2017, but only for customers who absolutely need a static IP address. Once static IP addresses are available for Gen5, Gen3 will no longer allow for new customers either.

HughesNet Spot Beam Ratings
  • Overall Ratings

Quick Take

A tripod-mounted satellite internet dish that requires potentially hours to setup and aim at every new location you move to may not seem all that appealing.

But for those who regularly venture beyond any cellular coverage map - this is a an interesting and relatively affordable new option to consider.

There is after all something magic about being online in the literal middle of nowhere.

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