Review by Elodean
Good "simple setup, functional speeds"
- Location: South Weymouth,Norfolk,MA
- Cost: $35 per month (month by month)
- Install: about 3 days
Bad "latency, inconsistent performance"
Overall "a viable alternative to cable/dsl, or if you have no other option"
|Pre Sales Information:|
Value for money:
I was never a fan of wireless broadband because of the rather unreliable nature of radio signals. Any fixed radio-based wireless networking setup will either work or it won't work. Even if it works, the signal typically depends on all sorts of factors, including weather. Still, back in November 2011, I decided to give Clear a try to see if their wireless offering was usable.
First of all, I see a lot of complaints about Clear. Apparently, if you can get good signal, people are generally happy; if you don't have ideal signal, then people are unhappy, and the infamous Clear customer service doesn't help either. I actually suggested Clear to a friend, who signed up but couldn't get a signal. He had a hell of a time trying to cancel service. (He even tried to go to a Clear brick-and-mortar establishment in New York and they said they couldn't cancel him at the store.) In the end, it took months and a lot of arguing to cancel his service.
I was one of the lucky ones; it worked for me right out of the box, so I didn't have to deal with support. I got a G-Series modem, and was able to position it in a good place near a window with a relatively open view towards the nearest tower to get 5 bars (~25dB CINR). Latency was better than what I was expecting, but still not on par with wired services. Basic network access worked well. However, weather events such as snow and rain definitely affect the connection. I agree with many other reviews that if you don't get 5 bars, then even basic network access becomes unpleasant.
Based on the Clear coverage maps and my past year of use, my signal is apparently "borderline" good (which is why it's so jumpy). In my particular case, sustained download speeds can swing wildly across the range, so streaming media such as video and voice would often stutter. These days, sites that don't let the user set the video quality will automatically adjust the quality based on the current bandwidth. For a bursty connection, the result can be very frustrating, as the video tries to change to high definition, then pause before dropping to lower quality because the jumpy speeds can't maintain the video buffer.
I was originally on their $50 uncapped service, but dropped to their $35 1.5Mbit offering because I figured that if they could only really sustain about 2Mbit consistently, then I'd rather pay for a lower tier of service. But apparently, the practical speeds dropped as well, with speeds often hovering between 100kbit and 700kbit. As some people have pointed out, hacking in an external antenna should greatly improve signal, and I'm definitely starting to consider that option. Hey, if your connection is lousy and the warranty expired, you've really got nothing to lose.
In the end, Clear is pretty good - for wireless. Their service is bound to the same limitations as all radio-based technologies. While the price is decent (since it includes all fees and taxes here), the connection quality makes the service inferior to other ISP offerings in the equivalent pricing tier (typically the $29.99 DSL or cable plans, when you add in taxes and fees). A good signal makes all the difference. Sadly, their signal map is only a rough estimate; the only way to get a good idea of the practical connection quality is to try their service yourself. If you don't get ideal signal, I'd say Clear would be fine for occasional network use. If you often deal with streaming, gaming, video/voice conferencing, remote desktop, development/productivity, then you need a strong signal, or look for a wired solution.
member for 2.8 years, 32 visits, last login: 1.2 years ago
lodged 1.3 years ago
South Weymouth, MA
Re: re: Clearwire Review I don't think an external antenna would help me much here; I'm already 25dB CINR and -65dB RSSI, which I consider pretty good. But I do plan on hacking in an external antenna just for fun - after I sign up for another service first, so I have a fallback in case I mess up the modem while cracking it open and drilling holes.
I think the problem for me is that I'm at the edge of Clear's coverage area (not just the edge of a tower's coverage area, but Clear's entire Boston coverage area). Based on their maps, my location has strong service (dark green), but I only have access to 1 tower, and I'm betting that this tower gets congested. Also, when the connection goes down (maybe for maintenance), the modem can't switch over to another tower, so I get occasional and annoying bouts of downtime, frequently at night and weekends.
Another point is that Clear resells its service to FreedomPop. If you use Clear for a backup connection, you're probably better off dropping them and just getting FreedomPop, which will get you free wireless service up to about a gig a month, based on their current service descriptions. (However, I'm not sure if you'll need a different modem for FreedomPop.)