Exede vs DishNet vs HughesNet Internet Review

The battle of the big three in the satellite Internet service field. These three companies comprise the bulk of the satellite internet market. Exede is owned by Viasat and utilizes its own satellite Viasat I, HughesNet is owned by Echostar and receives its signals from the satellite Echostar XVII, DishNet uses the services of both Echostar XVII and Viasat I. In the following article we will compare the likenesses and differences among these companies, some subtle and some not so subtle. Let’s look at the review from the standpoint of speed, bandwidth, service and contract commitment, equipment and installation, and finally, costs.

SATELLITE INTERNET SPEED

Ah, the almighty speed factor – give me more speed!!! The speeds offered by these providers range from a low of 5Mbps to 15Mbps download, with upload speeds that range from 1Mbps to 3Mbps. Keep in mind these speeds are significantly higher than just two or three years ago thanks to the launch of advanced satellites over the last two years, and we expect further speed increases in the near future.

Currently, HughesNet offers the fastest download speed of 15Mbps, followed by Exede at 12 Mbps and DishNet at 10Mbps. An important difference with Exede is that their speeds of 12Mbps down and 3Mbps up are uniform across all their package offerings. Frankly, these differences are not going to change your normal Internet useage experience that much. Any speed over 5Mbps should provide the normal/casual Internet user with a satisfactory high speed broadband experience. Be aware of advertised speeds vs. actual speeds, an FCC report concluded that Exede most often approached or went beyond their advertised speed.

SATELLITE INTERNET BANDWIDTH

Bandwidth can be simply described as how much information is available to download. Satellite Internet imposes limits on how much data you can download as the satellites have a finite amount of data available and to prevent any one person or group from “hogging” the available data from an individual satellite. This is the reason that satellite Internet providers largely base their pricing on the amount of data you select in addition to the download speed.

Exede offers the largest monthly download capacity at 25GB, followed by HughesNet at 20GB and finally DishNet at 15GB. Again, depending on your individual useage, most casual internet users can get by with 10GB per month. Most of the satellite Internet company’s websites include calculators that you can use to estimate what download capacity is right for you. Furthermore, when you exceed your monthly bandwidth allowance, your speed will be throttled back to approximately that of dial-up until the month’s end. Most providers do allow you to purchase additional capacity in the event this happens.

A word about Bonus data. Bonus data is additional download capacity during the early morning hours, normally some time between 12:00-8:00 am. Both HughesNet and DishNet “double” your average data allowance during selected overnight hours, so if you select 10GB per month, you get and extra 10GB during the Bonus period. However, Exede offers “unlimited” additional data from 12:00am to 5:00am even if you have exceeded your monthly data limit, the bonus data will work at regular speeds. This is a significant difference among the plans.

SATELLITE INTERNET SERVICE AND CONTRACT REQUIREMENTS

Fueled by competition, all three of these satellite Internet service companies strive to provide the best service possible. They all have 24/7 phone support services, on-line help and databases, ability to manage your account on-line including checking your data useage, etc. As with any support services, there will be differences among the three service providers featured here. Differences among individual employees that provide “help desk” type services can also affect your experience; however, there is no clear advantage from one service to the other.

All three satellite Internet service providers reviewed here require a two year commitment when you select your service. There are normally early termination fees and requirements to return the leased equipment.

SATELLITE INTERNET EQUIPMENT AND INSTALLATION

Exede, DishNet and HughesNet all have monthly lease plans for the equipment you will need to complete your home satellite Intenet system, namely, the satellite dish and modem. The monthly lease costs are normally $10/month. Some providers offer a discount for paying the two year lease fees in advance. One significant difference among the three satellite Internet providers featured here is HughesNet that offers the ability to purchase the equipment instead of leasing. The longer you expect to use the equipment, the more cost effective the option to purchase the equipment becomes. We conducted an analysis of the lease/purchase option and found that over a ten year period a savings of $900 could be realized by purchasing the equipment.

Installation by all three carriers requires the expertise of a professional installer. There are specific alignment procedures regarding the dish needed to hone in on the specific orbiting satellite used by that service. Furthermore, cables from the satellite dish to your modem must be routed through walls in your home requiring compliance with local codes.

Installation and activation fees among the three providers varies between $100 and $200; although the service providers reviewed here use the installation and activation fees as “perks” or selling points to provide a competitive advantage. Many times there are the “free installation if your purchase this type of system for a limited time only” type of ads. These specials are so fluid that it is difficult to choose a carrier that has a clear advantage.

SATELLITE INTERNET PRICING

As we have mentioned, pricing is largely based on the amount of data, or bandwidth allowance, you select. Upload and download speeds also factor in the total pricing of an individual plan.

Pricing among the three satellite internet providers presented here ranges from approximately $50 per month to $130 per month, depending on the bandwidth allowance you choose. Packaging, combining satellite internet with satellite TV, as is the case with Dish, can lower costs by $10/ month.

If we look at pricing by comparing the overall cost per GB of data allowance, the comparisons are remarkably close (which they should be based on the competition). For example, for 15 GB data allowance, all three carriers charge $80/ month. There are some differences in speed in that Exede has 12Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload at the 15GB level, whereas Dish and Hughes offer speeds of 10Mbps download and 2Mbps upload. These differences are not appreciable as it relates to your on-line experience. It all depends on how you plan to use the internet and your individual needs.

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