Questions I see often on the HughesNet community support forums. Note: I am not affiliated with HughesNet (other than being a customer).
General HughesNet GEN4 FAQ
Q. How much latency does a GEN4 system have?
About 700ms. This number changes depending on your location and is a function of the line-of-sight distance from the satellite.
Q. Can I play games?
You’ll be able to play certain games. First-Person Shooter (FPS) games are probably out. SecondLife has been reported to be very laggy. RTS games like Homeworld or Homeworld 2 stand a fair chance since they are not tightly coupled to response time.
I’m not a gamer, so I haven’t tested any games myself…
Q. Will my game console work?
You can connect your game console to your GEN4 system for web browsing; some games will work, some won’t. You’ll probably have to disable Web Acceleration (see far below).
Q. How well do VPNs work?
VPN software does work with a satellite system, but a VPN will probably be much slower than you expect. You won’t get 10MBit/s out of any VPN over satellite.
Q. How about VoIP software?
Most VoIP software dislikes the high latency of a satellite system. HughesNet has their own VoIP plan optimized for satellite connections, but I’ve not tested it. Your mileage may vary.
Q. How does the GEN4 “BonusBytes” system work? -or- Why do I have two allowance quotas? -or- What happened to the earlier “Free Download Zone”/”Open Download Hours”/”Unlimited Nighttime Download”?
Unlike with the previous (legacy HN9000 and earlier) systems, the GEN4 has no unlimited nightime download hours. Instead, you are given a certain amount of data to use during the daytime hours and a certain amount of data to use during the time period between 2AM and 8AM local time. Note that these quotas are monthly, not daily. For example, my current plan offers me 10GB to use all month during the daytime hours. (This is nearly 333MB/day if you divide it up, but there is nothing stopping you from using all 10GB in one day if you want.) It also offers 10GB “BonusBytes” for me to use any time between 2AM-8AM. (Another 333MB/day.)
The “BonusBytes” period is useful for scheduling unattended downloads and operating system updates.
Q. Why does HughesNet use download quotas at all?
A satellite Internet system, much like a wireless network, is a shared medium. The more users utilizing the medium at any one time, the less bandwidth available to all.
Consider a lowly 802.11g access point. One wireless client can achieve an approximate practical top speed of 24Mbit/s when transferring data to/from the access point. Two clients, both scrambling for as much bandwidth as possible, will each get a little less than 12Mbit/s. Four clients will get less than 6Mbit/s, and so on. The relationship is not strictly mathematical; each client introduces performance loss and overhead. Twelve clients will probably not hit 2Mbit/s.
The satellite system works in a similar way.
Now, with a home/business wireless network, the usual way to ensure that all clients get a fair amount of bandwidth is to limit the rate at which data is transferred. For example, each client may be limited to 512Kbit/s download. (Many web servers limit download rates as well, either to promote fairness or to annoy you into coughing up more money to pay for faster downloads.) But there are several problems with limiting a large number of customers this way:
- Each customer gets a miniscule amount of bandwidth (and so very slow download/upload speeds), and
- Not all customers are utilizing the medium at once, and when they are,
- Not all customers are gobbling up as much of the medium as possible.
In other words, the system is underutilized the majority of the time.
HughesNet allows customers to download and upload very fast (10Mbit/s down, 1Mbit/s for my plan), but to keep all the customers from saturating the shared medium, they institute a limit on the amount of data that is transferred. In theory, this allows customers to enjoy a faster Internet connection while still preventing the satellite from having a meltdown. In reality, the system still gets saturated during peak hours and performance suffers somewhat.
Bear in mind that, unlike a terrestrial ISP, a satellite ISP must funnel all customer traffic through a very small number of ground stations and gateways. Each one of these is a potential bottleneck, and so it behooves HughesNet to limit customer bandwidth to ensure that the system does not collapse in a cascading failure.
Q. What happens if I go over my quota?
When you go over your quota, your download speed will be limited to 150Kbit/s. This is fast enough for casual web browsing and email-checking, perhaps even fast enough to browse still images of cats in boxes. Your allowance will be reset at the end of the month.
You are not charged for going over your download quota.
Q. What is Web Acceleration?
Web Acceleration is a transparent HTTP (but not HTTPS) proxy system. One part lives on your modem and the other part is over the satellite link. When you request a webpage, the remote side pre-fetches images and other objects, compresses things as best it can, and then sends them in a big burst to the modem, which makes the web page feel more responsive.
Occasionally, you’ll come across a site that won’t load with Web Acceleration enabled, or will only load partially. You’ll even come across websites that have banned “your” IP address. (In actuality, the IP address of the proxy you happen to be sharing with someone who was banned!) Fortunately, Web Acceleration can be turned off in the modem’s System Control Center.
You’ll want to turn it off when playing online games on your game console.
Despite HughesNet’s admonition to only temporarily disable Web Acceleration, it’s perfectly fine to keep it turned off. It may make your connection faster at the expense of longer page loads the first time you visit a website. Note that you’ll have to turn it back off each time the modem reboots.
I personally keep it off at all times.
Q. How do I get to the Web Acceleration control page? -or- Where is the “Advanced” area in the System Control Center?
- Go to your System Control Center at http://192.168.0.1
- Click the faint “i” icon in the upper-right hand corner of the screen.
- Click “Web Acceleration”
- Click “Control”
Be careful what else you click here. You can render your modem inoperable if you’re not careful.
Q. What is DNS Acceleration?
DNS Acceleration is a component on your modem that caches DNS queries and responses to reduce the amount of time it takes to resolve a domain name (such as jacksontech.net) into an IP address that your computer can use. The cache can be too aggressive at times and the only way to clear it is by rebooting the modem. For more technical information on the DNS Acceleration system, see the Networking FAQ.
Q. How do I reboot the modem?
In the Advanced section of the System Control Center, click the red circular arrow at the top of your screen. It is labeled “Reboot Terminal.”
Q. What is “SQF”? -or- Why is my signal strength not as important as I think it is?
SQF is a metric used by HughesNet to measure to signal strength from the satellite. You can see it on your “System Status” page. According to HughesNet, anything above 80 is reasonable. Mine is at 112 right now. It was 131 when my system was installed–but I still get the same download speeds as I did on install day (very near the promised 10MBit/s) even with the lower signal strength. Why?
Contrary to popular belief, a higher signal level does not necessarily guarantee higher speeds. (In fact, if a transmitter’s power level is too high, it may introduce noise into the signal, which lowers speed.) Signal strength is meaningless by itself. It only becomes relevant when compared against the radio “background noise” the receiver picks up. The difference in strength between the signal and the background noise is called the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR). The larger the SNR, the more likely you are to receive faster download speeds.
Once the SNR passes a certain point, any increase in transmit power is meaningless. That point seems to be around an SQF of 80.
However, HughesNet does not publish SNRs anywhere, so this is mostly educated guesswork…
By the way, all of this holds true for wireless networks as well. For those of you running DD-WRT who have cranked up your TX power to 100+mW hoping for some extra range: all you’re doing is burning out your wireless radio faster.