Hardware

WildBlue two-way satellite Internet offers speed and reliability to remote locations


The Job

Our business is located on a ranch with no available cable or DSL high-speed options. In addition, we needed secure and highly-reliable service which doesn’t depend on telephone or cable providers’ reliability. The solution must also support remote Internet access and a separate secure workgroup network. Our options were a two-way satellite link or wireless Internet service (only available in limited areas).

The Tool

After carefully considering our available options, we went with a two-way satellite system from WildBlue.

Click here to see our gallery of John's WildBlue installation.

WildBlue offers several subscription options based on bandwidth usage, including special enterprise business packages for more than 10 sites. We choose the Value Pak with provides download speeds to 512Kbps and upload speeds to 128Kbps for $50 a month.

A WildBlue modem is required to connect one or more customer PCs to the WildBlue network. WildBlue uses standardized modem technology based on the DOCSIS cable modem standards to offer a low-cost, small satellite modem. WildBlue provides professional installation of the WildBlue equipment which will take 2-3 hours. Wildblue offers a limited warranty on equipment.

Putting it to the test

A week after checking out a local demo installation and placing the

order, a local installer arrived to install the WildBlue satellite

dish, run cable to our cable closet, and install the high-speed modem. This took about two hours total. My installer team included a close neighbor, but other users report their installer traveling 100 miles or more at no extra cost to the customer.

Since the system is entirely self-contained, you only need to connect a PC to the modem for configuration – no software or hardware is installed on your computer. For convenience we used a tablet PC then connected a wireless switch/router in its place but setup could have been done through the wireless network so the dish and modem don’t even need to be hardwired into your building.

The dish is larger than satellite TV dishes, measuring 28-inches by 26-inches. We have mission critical businesses so the modem was connected to an inexpensive UPS. Total power consumption for the modem, which also powers the 30GHz. dish transmitter, is 85 watts. Since we have a remote location a 802.11g network can be secured easily and we use a Linksys wireless switch/router.

We immediately achieved about 450Kbps downlink speed and about 100Kbps uplink speeds across our network. This has varied somewhat during use but has never been as slow as dialup and is above 300Kbps downlink speed virtually all the time with uplink speeds averaging about 80Kbps. We contracted for 500Kbps downlink speeds and you can upgrade to 1Mbps or 1.5Mbps simply by paying the higher rate, no service visit is involved.

The dish was conveniently mounted on a storage building but could have been mounted on our main building. The only consideration is a view of the south-west sky (from the east coast) and a certain minimum height because the dish is a powerful microwave transmitter and has to be mounted where no one can reach it accidentally. The installer had to add extra bracing inside the wooden building which he did quickly and professionally at no extra cost. He also ran the cable, although we buried it (our choice, he was prepared to do so.) The 1.4 lb modem/power supply (9-inches high, 8.5-inches deep, 2-inches wide) is connected to the dish by two supplied cables and output is 10/100 Ethernet via a standard RJ-45 connector.

Right tool for the job?

After several months use which included high winds (gusts to 65MPH), snow, sleet, and rain storms, we have only experienced a few minutes of weather-degraded performance. Peak performance wind rating is listed as 45 MPH; the maximum operating wind speed is supposed to be 60 MPH; and dish survival is specified as 100 MPH wind speed. We are in a very high wind area and selected the mount location so we could easily add a small windbreak for the dish but haven’t found that necessary.

Once or twice a month the link has gone down for no apparent reason – it usually reinitializes in a few minutes, but always restarted immediately when the system was cycled through a cold restart (powered our UPS off for a few seconds, then back on.) System configuration is stored in non-volatile memory and reboot requires no user intervention.

WildBlue is a shared-bandwidth service with no fixed bandwidth guarantee, but we have only experienced a few minor slowdowns which were definitely related to satellite or ground station overload, a few other problems were almost certainly due to problems on our local wireless network – they disappeared too quickly to be able to test. Just to see if I experienced unusually good service, I researched WildBlue at http://www.dslreports.com/ and found that virtually all the comments were positive.

WildBlue did experience some growth problems at the end of 2005 and they temporarily halted new installations until they could increase capacity to keep up with surging demand. Contacting customer care was easy and got a fast response, although I had no real problems so I couldn’t fully judge the quality of the service. Overall I give WildBlue a 9 (out of 10) Service and 5 (out of 10) Price. Among the solutions many positives, the system provide a fast, reliable installation, easy speed upgrade if desired, we own the equipment, the service and hardware are guaranteed, the system can be run off a small UPS, and no PC is required for installation. On the downside, WildBlue is the cheapest of the two-way satellite services I explored, but is considerably more expensive than wired options such as cable and DSL.

Write your own review

If you've found the perfect tool for the job, we want to hear about it. Send us an e-mail

describing the product and the job you're using it for. If we feature

the product in The Right Tool for the Job? blog, you'll earn a little

cash and be featured across the TechRepublic Web site and in our

newsletters.

17 comments
n4qa
n4qa

Here in rural sw VA, we've had the 500k d/l, 128k u/l pkg for 90 days. Speakeasy & DigitalLanding consistently report 500k+ d/l & 50-80k u/l. D/l speed does slow a bit during prime-time. Worst problem we have with this service, to date, is loss of connection during moderate-to-heavy rainstorms, most likely due to puny uplink transmitter. Overall, we're somewhat satisfied w/ WildBlue but will definitely re-assess options near end of contract term.

shnauzmommy
shnauzmommy

Wildblue was very slow for me, especially in the evenings, then quit working altogether...instead of renewing my contract with them or pay for a service call, I decided to check other services. I don't live where i can get cable or DSL. For anyone even considering satellite service, don't do it until you check with VERIZON about their wireless air card. They did not charge me one cent for the air card (they charge a deposit if you do not have good credit). It was very easy to install, and I sometimes get double the speed I was getting with Wildblue. The cost for the air card is $60 per month, with no equipment to buy - I wish I had done this 2 years ago instead of buying all that satellite equipment. If you live somewhere where Verizon has good cell phone coverage, the aircard should work. Other cell phone providers don't have the speed Verizon has, so go with the best (they are the same price). Forget satellite - it is too slow and aggravating! Oh, and with the air card, you can take your laptop and use it anywhere! Pretty cool!

belle159
belle159

I've had wildblue for several months (1.0mbps). A couple months ago I started to experience a slowdown (stopping) when watching videos so I upgraded to the 1.5mbps. Still having the video issues I contacted their tech group. After following instructions from them checking my speeds (322-505bps) I was told that it was probably a local issue. I asked if there could be a problem on their end. Answer NO!! What I learned from them was how to check the D/L & U/L speeds. I found that during the time from 3:00pm to 11:00pm 205bpm to 608bpm at a claimed 1.5mbpm. The other times ranged from a 1000 to 1523mbps. This data was taken from 7 days of checking the download speeds.Called them back again to ask about a problem,presenting the data. Answer no problem. 3 days ago from a reliable source I was told that they are having a satellite issue. Wildblue will take your money while lying to customers just wanting the service they signed up for. The speed they advertise is not what you receive. Beware

ballanjl
ballanjl

I live in an isolated area and wildbule was pretty much my only choice. It was better than 21kb dial-up. Four months ago we were able to connect to cable. This is where the problems all started. Since canceling service I have continued to get billed! Since it was set-up for direct withdrawal from my checking account they continued to make withdrawals. Now that I canceled theie access at the bank I now have them withdrawing from my credit card. Try getting a refund!! I've been waiting for three month for the first one they promised. DON'T SIGN-UP IF YOU EVER WOULD THINK ABOUT CANCELING SERVICE. Did I mention the average wait time with billing is 55 minutes?

chicken_shb
chicken_shb

I too have recently run into the "FAP" monster with Wildblue. To set a baseline, I have had the highest package from Wildblue for almost 2 years and overall like the service. Over those 2 years I have never come close to exceeding any limits, either up or down. My problems were encountered once I signed up for an online backup service, with the service attempting an initial backup of about 10-11GB of data. About 4-5GB into the upload the speeds dropped, both up and down. I contacted Wildblue to discuss, request a short-term increase, etc. but they have either been very difficult to get in touch with (on hold forever, website chat links not working, etc.) or did not respond. Now I understand the "limits" of satellite's overall bandwidth and managing use for everyone but here are some of my issues with the FAP and the way it's administered. - The upload and download limits are measured/managed separately. My upload limit has been exceeded but I have used less than 20% of my download limit, How about creating a combined limit or, if upload is truly more "costly", provide a transfer ratio (2:1, 3:1, whatever). This would allow Wildblue customers to use the bandwidth where they need it the most. - Decreasing speeds for all transfers, both up and down. Now, if they?re going to measure/manage the limits separately how about reducing the speeds separately as well! Why are my downloads speeds being reduced if only my upload limit has been exceeded. I have over 80% of my download limit left, let me use it, I paid for it! - Each month I have an upload limit of 5GB but never come close to using it. Let?s say I use 1 GB per month (mostly likely this is much higher than my actual usage), that leaves 4GB of upload limit unused. Over a 2 year period that would equate to about 96GB of unused bandwidth on my part that Wildblue may/could have made available to satisfy the needs of other customers. How about a credit for this unused bandwidth or least some leeway when I need to exceed the limits? My unused download is much larger and should follow the same logic. - I?m sure other customers, like myself, normally don?t come close to the bandwidth limit. This unused bandwidth is than available for other Wildblue customers, such as myself, that have a short-term need for additional bandwidth. If not, where is this additional bandwidth going? All I'm asking for is some fairness, flexibility and understanding for the "normal" user! Is that too much to ask for?

dmeyer11
dmeyer11

Not sure the two words, ?WildBlue? and ?Reliable? can be used in the same sentence. I pay for WildBlue service with much disgust. I am now on my third TRIA (part of the feeder horn on the dish) in the past 6 months. I have been tracking my overall operational availability (total uptime/total time) and have over 95 hours of total outage due to equipment failure, WildBlue outages, etc. over the past 4.5 months. I did not track during the first 6 weeks of service waiting for my first TRIA replacement. During that time I had no service. For those of you that understand percentages for reliability, that is about 96%. Most network reliability is stated as at least 99.9% or even 99.99% availability. That equates to 5 hours of outage per year. I am at 95 in 4.5 months. WildBlue reliable???? This is an oxymoron.

ctallmen
ctallmen

I have Installed over 100 Wild Blue and have found that the proper install of the equipment is most of the trouble (improper grounding is the number 1 trouble with bad parts) You have to remember that you are working on a transmitter, Bad grounding means that the static build up has to go some were! Duh back into your equipment! Make sure you have a good ground. I run into about a 5% or less bad parts trouble. and other people installs to be the number 1 trouble!

candtmorton
candtmorton

I work for customer service and you have to understand that we have to follow guidelines. We are trained a certain way and if we dont follow those guidelines we could lose our jobs. If it was up to me I would do things alot different then they want done. You have my deepest apologies.

randymckinley
randymckinley

After installation my Wildblue service was fine. My only complaint was that Wildblue staff did not want to discuss VPN support. After initial success, I could never get VPN to work. With time, mostly the last 6 months, I have been getting increasing connection communication errors (unknown)especially when connecting to my company secure website. I also seem to lose connection periodically and then it comes back up a few seconds later. I now have the option to switch to DSL and have done that. Connection errors I saw frequently with Wildblue have not reoccurred.

dft77
dft77

I have Wildblue through the electric company (NorthLandConnect). After 3 TRIAS the 4th one is working but not the same performance as the orignal. Lower signal strength as rain fade is worse now than with the orignal. As of Dec.2006 my Internet speed has slowed down again. A 2 minuite ping testing reveled up to .38ms latency and up to 63% packet loss. I have had a repair ticket for almost a week with no fix and the future looks gloom.

mjd420nova
mjd420nova

You have what is the equivilent of an earth station. Both uplink and downlink, not just down on satilite and up on phone line. The most critical element is that final stage microwave amplifier stage, usually mounted in the horn. Unfortunately this is also the the high failure device too. Maybe if you had a backup available??

jbonner
jbonner

wild blue seems to be my only option. I am paying DSL prices for near dial up performance. I am having troubles with my connections I don't understand. I am getting testing speeds at about 500 down and I never get better than 70 up. That would seem OK for my package purchase. However my real performance is way less than the testing speeds indicate. There seems to be a significant delay, sometimes minutes, from the time the test is launched until the test begins to measure. Curious. How can I check for proper grounding? Living in the country I really thought I had a solution. Is it a great theory with poor execution or is the technology wrong? disappointing.

brian
brian

I have had Wild Blue for 1 1/2 years. thought it was fine until after 3 months called because it was slow, only to find out was really slower than dial up. Replaced 4 Tria's, waiting now for 5 weeks to get 5th, was told by C/S to call BBB to issue a complaint with service, have waited over 3 months total to get service/parts. As soon as something else is available will be dropping wildblue so fast. On last call, they had the nerve to ask me if I wanted to sign up for another 12 months, and would save on repair charges also. Got a noce laugh on that one. Hate the service. 1000 download is fine, but upload is horrible

dmeyer11
dmeyer11

Yes, unfortunately I have dial up as a backup. But that is not the point. With the dial up service, plus my WildBlue service, I am paying over $120 a month for unreliable service. I would not recommend WildBlue to anyone.

dft77
dft77

We must have started about the same time with Wildblue by North Land Connect. Was installed in Nov. went through the winter with no problems, not even out with snow. Then came summer and the TRIA problems and it's been bad ever since. Many tickets made and just get the runaround and told I do not now what I am talking about. Pissed Off Bigtime as have 15+ years in the RF engineering Field. OH I also read as many blogs as i can about Satellite Internet. Not one worth the money, bul no cable, DSL, onle 24k at best Dialup. I'm screwed.

Tig2
Tig2

Friend of mine spent MANY hours on the phone with what laughingly passes as Customer Service from these folks. WildBlue was down a total of 3 months out of 6 for her and when cable came to town, she sacked them. My experience of their "Customer Service" while trying to help her with the problem was decidedly negative. When the CS agent asked me about the "IP thingy" I asked to speak with a qualified technician. I was advised that she was a senior technician. Scared me! I won't say that cable doesn't have a downside of its own, but the service my friend has gotten has been MUCH better. I have the same cable service and have been reasonably happy with it. Don't think you could pay me to go WildBlue!

johnw
johnw

We signed up for this service from the get go. The fist seven months were beautiful with no real issues to speak of. Then, beginning about a year ago we began having latency issues which have steadily worsened as this company has over sold their bandwidth and jacked around with packet prioritazation. Recently they pushed out a firmware update to their modems, breaking a lot of them from the number of complaints on the wild blie boards. Their customer service is horrible and they never have any intention of fixing the problems and lie and give customers the run around.

Editor's Picks