Hughes Gets Serious about Broadband Satellite

You don't find many people clamoring for satellite broadband service, which is typically reserved for those living in the boonies or any other locale where cable and/or DSL aren't options. That's because broadband satellite service pretty much sucks. The cheapest tier HughesNet offers runs $60/month, and all that gets you is 1Mbps downstream and 128kbps upstream with a paltry 200MB download allowance. For $350/month, you can bump all the way up to 5Mpbs/300Kbps with a 500MB allowance. Yeah, it's like that.

The good news is all that's about to change, or so we hope. Hughes Network announced the signing of a $115 million loan agreement with BNP Paribas and Scoiete Generate to fund the launch of Jupiter, a next-generation, high-throughput, Ka-band satellite.

According to CNet, the new satellite will offer more than 100Gbps of capacity and serve between 1.5 million to 2 million broadband customers in Canada and the U.S. Average download speeds should hover around 5Mpbs with top-level service in the vicinity of 20Mbps. But will it be affordable?

"The speed and capacity improvements with the new satellite are impressive," said Vince Vittore, a principal analyst with Yankee Group. "But I can't see a way for the pricing to be competitive. Hughes would have to figure out a way to significantly reduce the cost of the service. So I see it remaining a niche service for some time."

Hughes new Jupiter satellite will result in faster down/upstream speeds, but what will it do for pricing?

Sadly, we agree with Vittore's assessment. Hughes hasn't disclosed any pricing details related to Jupiter, but we can't imagine pricing will suddenly be in line with cable and DSL. On the bright side, that's a place Hughes wants to get to.

"When you do the math, it's conceivable that we can offer high-speed broadband service at competitive prices," said Arunas Slekys, vice president of corporate marketing for Hughes. We're not there yet, but you can see how it's on the horizon. And we think we will be able to reach a more mainstream customer base."