Exede12 Internet Service – Review

Yesterday, we were lucky enough to be the second installation of Exede12 satellite internet service in our area, at least by our installer. The first installation was the company’s own, so ours is the first in the wild, so to speak. Our installer was “Arc Satellite Systems” of Longview, Texas.

First, a bit of background. Our home, in East Texas, happens to be in a semi-dead spot as far as land communication goes; too far from the nearest station for DSL service; fiberoptic ends one mile from our place; land-based radio service does not reach here; and the only choices available for us are dial-up (ha!); satellite; and Verizon 3G.

We’ve been on several satellite systems in the past, and always found it wanting; advertised speeds of 1.5 mbps down, actually averaging perhaps half that, with HughesNet [1] most recently. Verizon 3G is what we’ve been on for a couple of years, doing all our internet on MiFi 2200 hot spots that are intended to be for portable use. Speeds are slightly better than HughesNet, though not consistently. They do have the advantage of being portable. AT&T – ’tis to laugh! Only if you stand in the right place[2]!

These slow internet speeds have been an annoyance and a thorn in my side for the last few years, because I know that just up the road you can get significantly better service, and it really ticked me off that we couldn’t get it here, noway, nohow.

Now, comes Exede12. It isn’t available everywhere, but bless my soul, it is actually available here. Exede12 is a satellite service like Wildblue and HughesNet, but Exede12 employs a new satellite that is capable of much higher bandwidths.

Exede12 has three package levels, all operating at the same speeds, but you get to pick your bandwidth requirements. They are 7.5, 15, or 25 GB per month. The speed is (up to) 12 Mbps down, 3 Mbps up. We went with the 15 GB plan. [3] You can jump to the next level if you need to.

We have a number of internet-capable devices, which I planned to connect via Wi-Fi, so I ordered an Apple Airport Extreme Wi-Fi base station, which arrived Friday.

The installation by Arc Satellite went very smoothly considering that this was only the second installation of this system by Jimmy, the technician. I knew I was near the top of the list so I was expecting somewhat of a learning curve; but it went very well. From start to finish, installation took about three hours, with a roof-mount system.

Next came setting up the Wi-Fi network. I’ve done this before a few times, but I do have to say that Apple makes it really easy, if you read the instructions beforehand. It took about 15 minutes start to finish. Everything is on Wi-Fi except Texas Grandma’s computer which is Cat-5 cabled to the Airport Extreme. The Exede12 modem is, of course, also connected to the Airport.

I spent 30 seconds each telling the two iPhones, the MacBook Pro and the iPad which network to look at, and Windows 7 recognized the new connection without difficulty. Five devices and a hot spot, up and running in 15 minutes; amazing. I love Apple. (I used to love Windows….)

Now, as to performance:

I tested using InternetFrog.com. Therefore, your mileage may vary. Different on-line speed tests will give you different results.

Before installing Exede12, I ran three tests using my Verizon Mi-Fi hotspot on my MacBook Pro:

Verizon MiFi

Run #1: 0.48 Mbps Down, 0.91 Mbps Up

Run #2: 1.35 Mbps Down, 0.79 Mbps Up

Run #3: 0.57 Mbps Down, 0.87 Mbps Up

Averages: 0.80 Mbps Down, 0.86 Mbps Up

After connecting to Exede12, I immediately ran similar tests using the same computer:

Exede12

Run #1: 8.24 Mbps Down, 0.33 Mbps Up

Run #2: 9.47 Mbps Down, 0.4 Mbps Up

Run #3: 7.99 Mbps Down, 0.4 Mbps Up

Run #4: 8.22 Mbps Down, 0.26 Mbps Up

Averages: 8.48 Mbps Down, 0.35 Mbps Up

As you can see, the download speeds are way better (more than ten times better!) with Exede12, but the upload speeds – not so much. However, download speeds affect your perceived experience far more than upload speeds.

I have to say that the speeds as measured by InternetFrog (in the test runs above) do not match the promised speeds – but I didn’t expect them to. Having experienced satellite services before, that “up to” phrase in their advertising is something they take very seriously. Having said that, I did do spot checks during the afternoon, and have seen a few random tests with much higher speeds. I just ran the InternetFrog mobile test on my iPad, and got speeds of 12.65 / 0.85 and 16.11 / 0.86 in consecutive tests, for instance. So all such testing should be taken with a grain of salt, and you will get different results on different testing sites and on different devices. And I should note that some runs do exceed the promised 12 Mbps speeds, so they’ve already fulfilled their contract – something HughesNet failed to do.

Subjectively, browsing is much, much faster with Exede12. You can actually watch a video without waiting for it to start and stop. Pages on many sites just appear on the screen, rather than “painting”. There is always going to be a bit of time when your page request goes out to the internet, and gets processed and sent back. This system helps a whole lot with the “sent back” part of that equation.

I do have one nit. The Exede12 modem has a series of four blue LED’s on the front that, in normal operation, sit there and blink on and off. When the room is dark, that is going to be very annoying. A bit of duct tape may be in order…

I had been holding off on an operating system update, knowing Exede12 was coming, so I ran OS X software update. The file size was 1.36 GB, and it downloaded in 12 minutes. This calculates out to 15.5 Mbps download speed (for a single file download). This is actually a better test of the system performance than the speed tests above, because once the file starts downloading, you are pretty much testing pure download performance.

This identical operation on the Verizon system would have taken something over two hours, by past experience.

The download speeds on Exede12 are consistently an order of magnitude better than I have experienced on any other system. I am a happy camper.

One other thing. Kudos to the folks at Arc Satellite Services, who were nice, polite, and professional. If you are in East Texas and interested in Exede12, call them at 903-663-1390 and tell Mallory, who handled my many phone calls, that Brian said howdy. Good people, there. [4]

-Popgun

[1] With HughesNet, advertised at 1.5 mbps downloads, we averaged around 800 mbps; and never saw the 1.5 mbps advertised. False advertising, in my opinion, and it really seriously ticked me off, charging me for more than I was getting. I cancelled their contract after a few months and went to Verizon 3G. Before HughesNet, we were on StarBand, and DirecPC (which became HughesNet). We have WildBlue at work, so I am familiar with it, as well.

[2] At least, here at our home.

[3] The Verizon plan we are on limits us to 5 GB per device, and we have two of the devices. I’ll be canceling these, as their contracts are fulfilled – soon. Which will totally offset the cost of Exede12.

[4] The author received no compensation or consideration for this plug.

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