Last month at CES ViaSat spent a lot of time hyping
their new "Exede
" 12 Mbps satellite broadband service, which the company plans to sell through WildBlue, Dish, and other rural-focused carriers. Delivered courtesy of their new ViaSat-1 satellite, ViaSat's service will cost $50 for 7 GB of monthly usage (up & down combined), $80 for 15 GB of usage, and $130 for 25 GB of monthly usage.
Despite caps and latency, ViaSat has heavily marketed this services as having "feels like fiber" performance, in part courtesy of new web acceleration technology the company has yet to offer specifics on. ViaSat hopes the faster speeds mean Exede will improve satellite broadband's less-than-stellar reputation (see our user reviews
Early indications on that front aren't good.
According to ViaSat, the service was supposed to launch this week. However, users in our forums
note that many of the users trying to sign up for the service are unable to do so, given that satellite beam capacity mean only a portion of the country is being allowed to sign up for service -- and even then only in waves.
"We are rolling out service nationwide right now," says ViaSat's service qualification tool. "We plan to be fully launched with exede5 and exede12 services by March 1, 2012. Please note Exede service will not be available in certain limited areas of the US, even after that date."
Over at the Wild Blue forums
a representative confirms that ViaSat-1's footprint won't cover the entire United States, so many customers on old, expensive tiers may not see faster speeds this decade. The rep also confirms that new customers are getting priority, so if you're an existing customer in a launched market you still may have to wait until April or later. Some existing users claim they've been told Exede is for new customers only
. Existing users waiting to sign up complain
they may actually see their usage caps become lower than existing service.
All in all it's rather par for the course for satellite broadband, which due to the inherent physical limitations and captive, un-competitive market continues to be the Rodney Dangerfield of broadband connectivity
. It's faster and available to more people, but it's unlikely to get much respect.