Review by spud coolzip
Good "Well, it's not AT&T"
- Location: Aurora,Dupage,IL
- Cost Contract price not specified.
Bad "Low speed for the $, severe BitTorrent throttling, finicky reception"
Overall "OK if you're willing to invest in extra hardware"
|Pre Sales information:|
Value for money:
I terminated AT&T Uverse because of their corporate politics. Their broadband service was solid and only had outages after really bad storms. The other wired service available here is Comcast, whose extreme-right PAC donations are to most of the same anti-consumer politicians as AT&T, but a bit smaller. That left me with Clear and the satellite companies as alternatives for desktop broadband.
I started with their little pocket-sized Clear Spot modem, which worked beautifully at my office if I used its USB port. (Its WiFi radio was worthless in that noisy, crowded environment.) I got a solid 6Mb/sec there. At home was another story. The only place I could get reception at in my house got me a whopping 300-500kb/sec down, about 50k up. I could walk up the block and get 4-5Mb down. The problem turned out to be trees. I paid for another modem, the Clear Hub Express, which has vastly better WiMax and WiFi radios, due in no small part to better internal antennas. It is also the only product left in their offerings which has an external antenna port. With this, I was able to get useful-but-not-fast reception at my desk of 800k-.6Mb down and 1-3Mb down if I put it in my walk-up attic.
I decided to shop for antennas and bought a directional flat panel unit with 18dBi gain from RFWel.com. This gave me much better but still highly variable results. Depending on rain and wind, I could go from 12Mb down to complete dropouts, although I consistently got 2-6Mb down during calm, dry weather. For reasons other than WiMax reception, I cut down an eastern red cedar (juniper) tree in the path to their tower and my reception got much better, but rain and wind would still kill reception. It was only after most of the leaves were down a few days ago that reception became consistently good. (RSSI -72dB, CINR 25) I started thinking of putting my antenna on my roof and/or getting an omnidirectional antenna before the leaves come out again. (Side note: RFWEL has good app notes on antennas. A directional antenna is not necessarily better. Do some homework before you spend your money. Also be aware that roof-mounted antennas require hardware, good cable and lightning protection. Those items can cost more than your antenna. Google "antenna lightning protection NEC 2011" for info.)
Thinking I'd at least have high speeds for the next few months, I decided to use my bandwidth and download some music and videos last night. What a disappointment. Whether it was normal Friday night heavy traffic or the rain messing with their microwave backhaul, I was throttled at 1.5-3.5Mb down with only occasional peaks up to 6-10Mb. On top of that, BitTorrent is at a slow crawl of 400kb/sec down, Not sure whether they're intentionally throttling that or their slow ping times (65-90msec) are causing a problem. Either way, torrents are treated as third-class citizens by Clear. At least Uverse delivered full bandwidth for torrents (mine are fully legal public TV shows and open-source software, not pirated movies) and were basically content-agnostic.
This morning and again just a minute ago, for whatever reason, by Speedtest showed 6+Mb down speed. Their system is inadequate to fulfill their claims.
Because Clear operates in the 2.5-2.7GHz band, their service is only reliable closer to their towers or when people like me do homework and are willing to spend a couple hundred bucks to try to make it work. That frequency band will naturally give poor coverage under trees or in between buildings. A proper use of that band would be to have a larger number of lower-power towers at, say, 1/4 mile distances - In other words, neighborhood towers.
Clear is once again majority-owned by Sprint, who invested in them to obtain more 4G spectrum for their multi-band smart phones and tablets. Clear sells internet service direct and through a few other companies, including Sprint-branded products. Because it's currently a money-loser with valuable spectrum being propped up to stay alive until it's bought by an owner with deep pockets, their WiMax modem business is just another revenue stream to slow their bleeding. You can Google Softbank Sprint if you want to watch that story. It looks like a sale is imminent, but it ain't over until it's over. I won't repeat it here. I just hope that Softbank improves this service. If their service works acceptably during the transition, I might tough it out. Otherwise, I may have to do business with the dirtbags at AT&T or Comcast.
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