The company’s new Jupiter 3 satellite, which launched during the summer, is responsible for the speed increase.
The use of satellite internet as a last resort has begun to change in the wake of Starlink. While SpaceX’s satellite internet service has expanded rapidly, other traditional satellite internet providers are not giving up. HughesNet launched a new communication satellite this summer, and it is now able to offer 100Mbps speeds in the US that can rival Starlink, though it is still lagging behind.
The new Jupiter 3 satellite (above), the company’s first Ultra High Density Satellite (UHDS), is the key to HughesNet’s speed boost. Ironically, Jupiter 3 was launched by a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket into a high geostationary orbit, one of the most cost-effective ways to send large payloads into space. SpaceX has been using the Falcon 9 rocket to deploy thousands of smaller communication satellites over the past few years, which has put pressure on HughesNet to increase speeds.
HughesNet was only offering a maximum of 25Mbps for $75 per month until Jupiter 3 went online this week. That was a hard sell considering that Starlink can deliver over 200Mbps for just a little bit more. However, Starlink service has slowed down to about 100Mbps or less in many regions. Monthly fees for the new 100Mbps service will start at $90, but the bandwidth is capped at 200GB per month. Your speeds will plummet once you exhaust your allotted “priority access” for the month. Starlink flirted with a data cap but ultimately settled on a more ambiguous fair-use policy.
This is due to HughesNet’s more centralized approach to delivering connectivity; while it has improved slowly during Starlink’s initial expansion, just one new satellite has quadrupled maximum data speeds. According to SpaceX, Jupiter 3 added 500 gigabits of total bandwidth to its network, and its ability to independently direct 300 spot beams makes that bandwidth efficient. The company’s current Starlink satellites are smaller than a car, but Jupiter 3 is about the size of a bus, and its solar panels make it as tall as a 10-story building.
While HughesNet’s service is almost at parity with Starlink, the company’s future remains uncertain. While HughesNet service is almost at parity with Starlink, SpaceX regularly launches more Starlink nodes, and the upcoming Starship rocket will only accelerate deployment. HughesNet has not caught up to Starlink, though; because Jupiter 3 is in a high orbit, it will undoubtedly still have higher latency than Starlink. HughesNet offers a “Fusion” plan for $110/mo that combines satellite and terrestrial cellular networks to reduce latency. HughesNet is also lacking in upload speeds, which top out at 5Mbps. Starlink is not exactly a speedster here, but it is still capable of around 20Mbps for most subscribers.