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High Speed

HighSpeed

Seven years. Seven long years. Seven long and slow years.

Well, you get the idea.

We have experienced extremely poor Internet access for years. It improved somewhat last year when Xplornet introduced their 4G service. With the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) project complete, we now have consistent high speed Internet.

EORN put in place a 5,500 kilometre fibre optic backbone network in Eastern Ontario. The network is valued at over $70 million. Xplornet was able to leverage that backbone to connect our home through a 4G LTE Fixed Wireless technology.

I was a bit skeptical at first as our older 10Mbps service generally delivered only 2-4Mbps. I thought that the 25Mbps would maybe get us 5-10Mbps. But no, the new service is consistently cranking 20-24Mbps.

Fast Internet.

Such joy.

Xplornet and High Speed Internet

“Think you can”™t get high-speed Internet in your neck of the woods? Xplornet brings high-speed to places “big-city Internet service”? just won”™t go. Right here. Right now.”

Xplornet is better than dial-up. But it is not a big-city Internet service.

I have lived with Xplornet since last September. And there are two modes of operation as part of the so-called high-speed Internet service: burst mode and sustained mode. If you download to any great degree, the best you can hope for is 1 megabit down on the Xtreme service. Although the marketing materials claim up to 5 megabits down, that is only true for burst mode. The first 6 to 8 Megabytes of data will stream down at speed but then a throttle manager kicks in and your downloads will be gated. In over a year of service I have never seen the sustained download rates exceed the average of 115 Kilobytes per second on larger file transfers. 115 translates to just under 1 megabit.

I was able to reach a level 2 technician at Xplornet to confirm that the 1 megabit sustained download was “appropriate”. Xplornet offers less expensive packages. For example, they also offer a 1.5 megabit service. But, exactly like the 5 megabit service, that one also gets throttled down. In my opinion, the stated service levels from Xplornet are misleading and more should be done to regulate this industry to ensure that consumers can make informed decisions.

What does this mean in practical terms?

  • A recent software update for my Mac — 500 Megabyte download — took almost three hours to come down.
  • A 10-song album off iTunes took twenty minutes to come down.
  • A Pro Tools software upgrade — about 1 GB — took over seven hours to come down.
  • A candidate mix — about 7 Megabytes — took over ten minutes to send (uploads are typically much slower on Xplornet).

If my web activities were basic email and website browsing, the service would be fine. But I am a very active technology user and I am frequently downloading software, transferring audio mixes, uploading photos and bringing down music purchases.

For that profile of user, there is currently no alternative for “high-speed” residential services where we live. Perhaps one day.

If you are considering Xplornet, keep in mind that the service is not a high-speed residential broadband service. If, like me, you have limited choice, it is fine for light web activities. If, like me, you are active on the web and you have a family that is also active on the web, the service will be very, very slow.

Too Fast

The installation of the high-speed wireless Internet service from Xplornet happened over lunch today. I had a chance to speak with one of the installers. And, naturally, I asked him about the performance.

“Will I get close to the 5 Mbps?”
He chuckled. “No sir. The service starts at 5 Mbps.”

I got hold of the speedtest.net results for the new service. First up is the before service where my Internet access had crawled to a halt. I was averaging on a good day about 750 kbps although there was one brief moment where the service peaked at 1.3 Mbps. More often than not, the service was running below 500 kbps. Which meant that the web was unusable for anything other than email. Even simple web page loads were taking 20 to 30 seconds to render on the browser.

With Kingston Online:

With Xplornet:

On some of the servers, I was getting over 8 Mbps! Imagine getting a service where they deliver more than what they promised. Kingston Online capped me at 20GB per month. Xplornet provides unlimited bandwidth — for the duration of my contract. That could change over time but it is wonderful to be back on a high-speed unlimited service.

HOORAY!

On an unrelated note, I have canceled all further sessions with my therapist. And many thanks to the folks who wrote to me and suggested Xplornet. That suggestion really paid off.

Line of Sight

The site survey happened much faster than expected. The folks who represent Xplornet came out today and made their assessment for the Line of Sight high-speed wireless service:

“Perfect shot to the high-speed tower.”

They will install the 2.4GHz Canopy subscriber module tomorrow afternoon. The service is rated at 5Mbps and unlimited bandwidth.

Right now it sounds to good to be true. I’ll test the new service tomorrow so tune in to Another Try at High-Speed and see what happens.

NLOS Amongst Other Things

The story of my pursuit for high-speed Internet access in our country home continues. When we last left the story, I was reeling from traumatic stress disorder brought on by Bell’s inability to appropriately determine eligible DSL services for my phone number.

My therapist is helping me through this very difficult time. I will get through it.

I was really pleased with the number of folks who emailed me with their suggestions. Thank you.

I decided to give my current provider an opportunity to update me on their progress with the random nature of my “high-speed” service. And I found out some very interesting technical information.

I am on a Non-Line-Of-Sight service that broadcasts on an unregulated 900MHz frequency. At best this technology can provide a maximum throughput of 3Mbps. It can never provide 4 – 7Mbps which is what I was told when I bought the service. It also explains why I am experiencing such a wide range of results in download performance. The towers are heavily subscribed and the saturation impacts relative performance. In fact, the best speed I have ever measured on this service is 1.6Mbps. Typical performance is 500kbps. Sharing that pipe with two or three other users in the house drags performance down even further.

I decided to call the local dealer for Xplornet. They are neighbours and their office is down the road. Okay. Down the road about 5 kilometers. Nonetheless, they are confident that they can rig me with a Line-Of-Sight service on the 2.4GHz band and get me up to 5Mbps.

The site survey is next week.

Our house is on a hill. I plan to climb up the roof and see if I can spot their tower. I fear that this is my last hope.