Fixed Wireless/Microwave ISP performance?

MrTroy03

Limp Gawd
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Feb 12, 2008
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I live in the middle of nowhere and currently have the best DSL package available, which is a whopping 3Mbps down and "1 up". Most of the time I actually get about 0.5 -0.65 up and about 2.5-2.7 down which is pretty good as with DSL you never get the full amount. The up could be better. However sometimes it sags to less than 2Mbps, in the range of 1.5Mbps when the whole neighborhood is home it seems.

Anyway I just found out that I am 4 miles away from one of these "Fixed Wireless" aka Microwave ISP towers by Wi-Power through TransWorld. They offer 6Mbps down and 1.5 Mbps up which is basically double what I get from DSL.

I am having them come do a site-survey which is mandatory before new service, but I wanted to see if anyone else had any experience with a similar Microwave, point to point based wireless ISP?

The sales guy actually knew a little bit which impressed me. Their sales PDFs do not mention up, but he knew what the upload speed was. I also asked if they had public accessible IP addresses and he told me that I could use my own router and they give static IP addresses by default (wow!). He could not give me actual latency numbers but he claimed that the latency on this tech was comparable to "fiber" which I doubt, I would expect something closer to cable or DSL (30-40ms), but even that would be great as my latency is often 60ms or higher.

He says they do up to 15 miles out and I am 4 miles away so he expects it to work fine, but does anyone have any experience in this? Specifically on latency?

How badly is it affected by storms? I understand if snow gets on it that will hurt the signal, but since its not going into space will a basic thunderstorm and rain affect it very much?
 

GotNoRice

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Latency is going to be far more about the distance than the hardware in most cases. Almost all relevant latency in regards to anything you do on the actual internet is going to be based on latency on the ISP end, not between you and the ISP.

Biggest issues with most wireless ISPs, at least here in Northern California, are data caps. I don't know of a single one that is truly unlimited. Most either decrease your speeds to about 1.5 down, 0.5 up after the first 100 Gigabytes or so, or charge you ridiculous fees like $50 for every extra 100 Gigabytes over the cap. Of course even the AT&T DSL here has a 1TB cap per month, but that is still 5-10 times higher than the wireless ISP data caps.
 

MrTroy03

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Feb 12, 2008
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GotNoRice I did forget to mention is that this ISP has absolutely no data caps, they told me they do not cut me off, throttle me down, no hard limit and no soft limit (reduced speed after a certain amount).

I understand that latency really depends on the ISP's network, but I was looking for a general range of average latency, like 15-30 millisecond, 100millisecond. I know with Satellite it ranges from 600-800millisecond ping, so I was looking for a rough estimate for this Microwave line of sight tech.
 

GotNoRice

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Great job finding an ISP without data caps! You lucked out on that one.

GotNoRiceI understand that latency really depends on the ISP's network, but I was looking for a general range of average latency, like 15-30 millisecond, 100millisecond. I know with Satellite it ranges from 600-800millisecond ping, so I was looking for a rough estimate for this Microwave line of sight tech.

I don't think that is really possible. It really is about the distance. Satellite has the pings that it does, not due to the technology, but simply due to the distance from the ground to the satellite and back to the ground again. There is nothing about the microwave wireless technology itself that should ad significant amounts of latency. You can also bet that the line of site wireless is a more direct signal path than phone or cable wires take as they snake through the ground. It also depends heavily on - latency to what? Are you talking about pinging your gateway as assigned to you via DHCP? Pinging a common website? Pinging a website known to be local? Pinging a neighbor's IP?
 

Gasaraki_

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GotNoRice I did forget to mention is that this ISP has absolutely no data caps, they told me they do not cut me off, throttle me down, no hard limit and no soft limit (reduced speed after a certain amount).

I understand that latency really depends on the ISP's network, but I was looking for a general range of average latency, like 15-30 millisecond, 100millisecond. I know with Satellite it ranges from 600-800millisecond ping, so I was looking for a rough estimate for this Microwave line of sight tech.

I would say at least 35ms.
 

bman212121

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He could not give me actual latency numbers but he claimed that the latency on this tech was comparable to "fiber" which I doubt, I would expect something closer to cable or DSL (30-40ms), but even that would be great as my latency is often 60ms or higher.

This is an interesting bit. So it sounds like if you are running microwave signals through free space (air) they are actually about 50% faster than light through a fiber optic cable because the light is traveling through a medium (glass) and reflecting along the way. That said it sounds like the biggest hurdle for microwave links is the equipment on each end to convert this signal into useable data. The equipment required for fiber has significantly less latency than what is needed for RF, so that tips the scales back in favor of fiber. The 2nd link I provided suggests that consumer gear could put a big hurdle in the way if everything is done in software instead of fixed hardware.

https://www.extremetech.com/computi...ed-of-light-smashes-speed-and-latency-records

http://wirelesswan.blogspot.com/2014/01/suddenly-microwave-latency-is-all-rage.html


I've always thought that RF travels slower because sound travels slowly, but the way sound travels is different than RF. (Learn something new every day)

https://www.quora.com/Why-is-the-speed-of-sound-so-much-slower-than-the-speed-of-light


So all of that means is that the person who said that their latency is about the same as fiber could have truth in it. It's going to be highly dependent upon the equipment they use as to the end result.
 

techieg33k

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Apr 11, 2017
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GotNoRice I did forget to mention is that this ISP has absolutely no data caps, they told me they do not cut me off, throttle me down, no hard limit and no soft limit (reduced speed after a certain amount).

I understand that latency really depends on the ISP's network, but I was looking for a general range of average latency, like 15-30 millisecond, 100millisecond. I know with Satellite it ranges from 600-800millisecond ping, so I was looking for a rough estimate for this Microwave line of sight tech.

DISCLAIMER: I work for and use the services of a WISP that provides service in parts of Nebraska and Wyoming.

I would hope for sub-100ms, BUT there are a lot of factors that can make that better or worse so please read below so you can better understand. I'd say out customers usually see 60ms avg to Google DNS (8.8.8.8) with a 20-30ms swing from Min to Max pings (of course if you have a 6mb link and are streaming a video and using all 6mb then your pings can shoot through the roof as the link is saturated, but with DSL you probably already know that).

The Frequency and brand equipment used on both ends of the link and all infastructure can and do make a noticeable difference though. Distance does too, but it isn't as extreme as with a home router since they are designed for long-range links (around a 10ms swing from directly under the tower vs someone out 7 miles with the equipment my company uses). The method in which they connect the towers back to their NOC and how many hops it has to make to get back to the NOC, along with the uplink to the Internet as a whole is where the latency can swing a TON (we use carrier-grade licensed 11Ghz and 18Ghz links (when we can) which are sub-1ms avg (max of 2ms swing) added per "hop" and then where have to we use unlicensed 5Ghz links they are sub 2ms avg (max of 10ms swing) (previous generations of this tech could be as high as 30ms avg per hop and have 30ms swings!)

NOTE: I also Assumed you know this, but PLEASE get a quality router (I'd expect to pay $100-$300 depending on features needed and range you want to cover inside your house) and as you, hopefully, already know try to wired everything via Ethernet or else use 5Ghz (assuming they use 5Ghz, as many do, ask them what they use for uplink to your house so you can avoid "stepping on" them which can cause you headaches with random cut outs; if they use 2.4Ghz uplink to your house you will also want to avoid your wireless using that Freq) to connect your devices to keep the latency from inside your network to a min.

WISP NOTE: Some WISP (Wireless ISP) do data caps, but more and more are backing off of that as a way to compete against each other and also a way to offer value-add to a product that generally can not match the max total speed of fiber/cable. Also I tend to find a lot of WISP sell a certain speed, but will not guarantee that speed (much like cable/dsl providers do). I tend to see the low cost for high throughput WISP doing the non-guaranteed solutions.
 

MrTroy03

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Feb 12, 2008
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421
techieg33k Thank you for your input! It is more valuable since you are familiar with the tech.

I am an IT professional but have zero experience with this kind of internet technology, which is why I ask. I have good networking equipment in house and the ISP assured me I could use my own router. I go to a hardwired router then use hardwired access points inside my house, but inside my house is not what I am worried with.

The salesperson wasn't sure if I would get consistent speeds. I actually found a second WISP that is putting in a tower that should be ready in my area by the end of May, and they offer better prices and up to 10Mbps. They told me that the 10Mbps is up to but most of the time I will get less than that. They told me I could use "Soho" which would provide consistent 10Mbps down / 3 Up. But the price goes from $65 to like $130 a month for that. I am not sure what Soho means, to me SOHO is a model of SonicWall firewall lol.

The original ISP I am speaking with didn't seem to understand this question. They are doing a site survey on Friday morning to see what speeds my property can do, and I intend to ask him if it is consistently 6Mpbs or if it is lower most of the time and I will sometimes get 6. If I pay for 6 and get 2 or 3 or 4 most of the time I will not be happy and it will not be worth the price as this company is offering 6 down 1.5 up for $79.95 a month.

So would you think that $80 for 6 down would likely to be on the guaranteed side? (Obviously you are just guessing, I know).
 

techieg33k

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Apr 11, 2017
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Well MrTroy03 by SoHo I'd assume they are talking about a Busniness-like plan (ie Small Office Home Office). We use to do that back in the day when dial-up was still king, but long ago dropped that and just said everyone deserves to get quality connections (we do 6M/6M for $75 and 12M/12M for $110 just to give you an idea).

I would hope for that price it is guaranteed, but the tech and/or sales person should both know that IMO. Honestly though some "sales people" never remember all the answers to the range of questions (that happens with our front office staff) so you might also just call in and try to get to the Tech Support and then ask them, since they SHOULD know; while you are talking to them ask if they have an idea of the avg latency, but don't worry if they don't want to answer as that can really be a loaded question since as an ISP people take your "generally this or that" answer as the holy bible and try to hold you to it.

Another thought on the other WISP that is coming into the area. If 10M is the max it can burst up to, what is the min you should always have. We use to do plans where they were priced based on the min and then we would let it burst based on our total system load and have thought about going back to that (heck if someone wants to draw down 20M at 3am we wouldn't care if they normally paid for 12M since around 3am we use less than 1/5 of our total system). We've been there, so if they can guarantee a min speed then just base the price they quote on that.

Just for reference there are 3 other WISP our coverage-area overlap with and all 3 of them tend to be a bit cheaper and offer more speed, BUT no guarantee at all.

Final note. If for any reason it comes up a tree needs trimmed or cut for it to work please do it if you want the service. An install through a tree will cause severe issues at random times (drop outs, ping spikes, high ping times, decreased total throughput, etc.) since a perfect WISP install is direct line of site (I don't care how much stuff is marketed as "near line of site" it almost always will be impacted if it is not full line of site).

Side note: Funny they MUST do a site survey. We actually HATE to do them and our installers just use a in-house terrain app to verify no hills, then we look via Google Earth for any obvious trees/buildings and otherwise just go out to do the install and if it fails then oh well.

P.S. I've been at this job for 13+ years and started as an installers/service technician. Now days I still do that some, but I mostly design, build, install, and support private carrier-grade microwave systems and our own infrastructure (switches, microwaves, APs, etc.) - then when I'm not busy doing that I build/climb towers (ours and ones we sell) and support some 911 and medical dispatch consoles.
 

MrTroy03

Limp Gawd
Joined
Feb 12, 2008
Messages
421
So, techieg33k the original ISP I was talking about came today. They could not get a sufficient quality signal at my property despite being just 3.8 miles from the tower. It wouldn't have mattered anyway because the installer told me what the sales person couldn't or wouldn't. The installer said that their 6Mbps plan was sustained 2.5Mbps to 3.5Mbps with boosts up to 6Mbps. At my property he could only pull 3.3 Mbps but the quality was so poor he wouldn't even offer that service level as it wouldn't stay up.

I told him that, had the salesperson told me it was sustained 3Mbps I wouldn't have even bothered to have him drive over an hour to get to my house because I wasn't interested in sustained speeds of less than 6Mbps when I have 3Mbps DSL for $25 a month.

Now I am waiting until the end of May to see if that other ISP that offers up to 10Mbps can offer me anything better at my address.

The 2nd ISP offers a 10 down /3 up plan for $65 a month NOT guaranteed. I don't know what the baseline consistent is. They also offer the SOHO consistent at $130 for consistent 10 down / 3 up. Depending on what the minimum consistent speed is I may consider it. Perhaps if it is a minimum of 6 and up to 10 that would be a better price anyway.
 

techieg33k

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Apr 11, 2017
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Wow that is crazy. I can throw 12M 9 miles easy, but my sites are built with 4x 90deg antennas and maybe they are using a 360deg omni which would cause that. Ether way glad he was up front and I'd say the Sales Person should have been up front, but did you press for what the min was?

With the 2nd ISP I'd certainly give them a call and find out so then you know. Otherwise guess you'll need to wait until Elon Musk puts those 4,500 low-earth orbit sats up by 2024 to get Internet. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/nov/17/elon-musk-satellites-internet-spacex

P.S. What state are you in anyways?
 

MrTroy03

Limp Gawd
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Feb 12, 2008
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421
techieg33k I am in Indiana.

I couldn't believe they wanted $80 for consistent 3Mpbs with bursts up to 6. The sales person should have told me that as I wouldn't have even bothered as I have 3Mbps DSL right now for $25 a month. There had to have been something in the way between my house and the tower to get that from 3.8 miles away. They said they go up to 15 miles (obviously lower speeds further out), but he said the quality of signal I was getting to my site he wouldn't even offer service even if I wanted it as it would drop a lot, so they had to have something in the way along the line.

Let's hope the 2nd ISP can offer me something decent at the end of May.
 

techieg33k

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Apr 11, 2017
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Yeah MrTroy03 I'd assume there was an obstruction or something causing the signal to "skip" (like looking over a body of water or just barely seeing over a metal roof). Could also be they didn't really have an antenna pointed your way. For example we use to build 4x 90deg or 3x 120deg antennas, but sometimes when we were building we would look at the area around our site 9 miles out and we may opt to only use 3x 90deg or 2x 120deg antennas or a mix and match of those because there is nothing there that we can cover and so the cost for have coverage where there is nothing currently isn't equal to the hope we have someone live in that "dead zone" someday. Now days we tend to just build 360-deg unless it's a hill with no chances of a house as turning away 1 customer because we didn't spend the extra hour and $1000ish that day sucks.

Once again I'm glad the tech (at least seemed to) was honest and let you know. I'd probably call and let them know they wasted your time since they failed to give all the facts up front. It might be the Sales Person just didn't even think it would matter and if you say something you'll save the next guy a headache...or else they didn't care.
 

Dawizman

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888
I am a partner & manager in a WISP up here inn the great white north. Your results will vary greatly. Some companies are going to be terrible, and some are going to be great. I use our service at home, on the same access points as any other customer. I'm 4 hops out from our core, and enjoy speeds of 50Mbps, and average latency back to our edge gateway of 10ms.

Depending on location relative to our towers, and amount of trees in the way though, latency could easily triple, and speeds be cut down to 5Mbps.

We strive to keep our network on the cutting edge, and provide the best experience to our customers. Other companies seem to just exist, and do the bare minimum to get customers on the hook for a contract.
 

techieg33k

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Apr 11, 2017
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Dawizman that's the way with almost all employees (including the owner) just enjoying the same service a customer gets. A few of us (myself included) have special PTP links that bypass a lot of different sections of our system so if there are any core system outages we can still access the network to diagnose without the drive in to the office.

What brand of equipment do you use for AP/CPE and then BH?
 

Dawizman

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888
Dawizman that's the way with almost all employees (including the owner) just enjoying the same service a customer gets. A few of us (myself included) have special PTP links that bypass a lot of different sections of our system so if there are any core system outages we can still access the network to diagnose without the drive in to the office.

What brand of equipment do you use for AP/CPE and then BH?

I didn't feel the need to put up a point to point link for myself. I've got a decent connection as it is, and there is redundancy from my tower to our core. If there are serious issues, I can always VPN back to my office via a cellular connection. I am the one responsible for keeping things running.

We are mostly Ubiquiti across the board. M2, M365 and 5AC for AP & CPE, and Airfiber X & 24, as well as some Dragonwave for backhaul.
 
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