Tips on using HughesNet Satellite Internet Systems

Hughesnet / Direcway Satellite Internet Systems

When properly installed, HughesNet systems can provide satisfactory performance, equivalent to a DSL or high-speed broadband cable connection. However, many users complain of poor or intermittent performance with their HughesNet system. Here are a few tips and suggestions to try if you're not getting the most out of your HughesNet or DirecWay Satellite Internet System:

1. First and foremost, HughesNet does not guarantee its service levels. They advertise only that their service levels can provide "up to" the following speeds:
SERVICE LEVEL MAX. DOWN MAX. UP FAP Limit* $ PER MO. MIN. DISH SIZE

Home

up to 700 Kbps up to 128 Kbps 200 MB. $59.95 0.74 meter

Pro

up to 1.0 Mbps up to 200 Kbps 375 MB. $69.95 0.74 meter

ProPlus

up to 1.5 Mbps up to 200 Kbps 425 MB. $79.95 0.74 meter

Small Office

up to 1.5 Mbps up to 300 Kbps 500 MB. $99.95 0.98 meter

Business Internet

up to 2.0 Mbps up to 500 Kbps 1,250 MB. $179.95 0.98 meter
*Fair Access Policy - Limits the total download amount per day. When the FAP is exceeded, speed will be reduced.
Most likely, your actual speed will be 50% to 80% of the maximum at best, and can be much worse at times.

2. The standard 30" DirectWay or HughesNet dish systems owned by many users only permit the first three service levels, Home, Pro, and ProPlus. These three levels are generally OK for use by one or two users, but they can be slow if you are sharing your system with more than that. It just depends on how and when everyone is using the shared system. You might think of sharing your HughesNet system's capacity like sharing a water pipe with your neighbors. If you have a small water pipe serving your neighborhood and no one uses a lot of water at the same time, then everything is fine. But if one or more of your neighbors are "power users" and wash their clothes a lot or leave the hose running all day, then that will affect everyone else's water supply. If they only water at night, you may not notice if you only use the water during the day.

3. In the same way you might be sharing a single HughesNet system with you neighbors, your Hughesnet system is sharing space on the satellite with other HughesNet system owners. When there are a lot of HughesNet users on the same satellite at the same time, usually in the afternoons, then the speed for all of the users on that satellite may slow down.

4. HughesNet has about a dozen satellites than can be seen from the US, and most subscribers are spread out among these satellites. To receive HughesNet service in southern Mexico, however, the .74 meter and .98 meter HughesNet dishes are limited to using just one of two satellites; SatMex 5 or 6. The traffic on these two satellites is very congested because they're the only two satellites being used for just about every HughesNet system throughout much of Mexico, parts of the Caribbean, and Central and South America. The 1.2 and 1.8 meter HughesNet dishes have more satellites to choose from, and also provide more margin to overcome rain fade.

5. Each HughesNet satellite has a number of channels, and users are assigned to a specific channel when their system is provisioned by HughesNet. These channels are shared with other users, and some of these channels are more congested than others. Also, as the satellites age, some of these channels may deliver degraded performance compared to others.

6. Certain uses and applications like Voice Over IP (VOIP), audio or video streaming, downloading large files, or receiving updates through the Internet can seriously slow down a HughesNet system. Modern operating systems and many applications are often running in the background and continuously downloading patches and updates. Other users may be receiving these updates at the same time as you, and all this activity can slow down the entire system.

7. HughesNet maintains a "Fair Access Policy" (also known as a FAP). This policy allows each user to download a certain amount of megabytes within a given period of time (For the Home Plan, it's 200 MB total within 24 hours). Once your downloads exceed your FAP threshold, your bandwidth will be throttled back to something around 56 Kbs, about the speed of a regular telephone dial up modem.

Again, using our water analogy, it might help you to think of your available FAP megabytes like the reserve of water in a storage tank. The storage tank may hold 200 gallons when full. But when you empty the storage tank, the available water coming out of the tank will be limited to no more than the dribble of water going in. Over time, your storage tank refills and you have more water. In the same way, your FAP allowance recovers over time until you are once again able to use full speed.

OK, so what can you do about any of this?

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