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  #1  
Old 11-21-2007, 08:08 AM
Brad R Brad R is offline
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Arrow Satellite FAQ: Slow Connection

(Note: this is a work in progress. It is entirely unofficial -- I do not work for Xplornet or a dealer; I am an Xplornet customer who is somewhat knowledgeable about computers. Please post corrections or suggestions to this thread, and I'll edit the post to include them. Also, while writing this I realized that several subjects -- FAP, routers, etc. -- are large enough to demand their own FAQ posts, and I'll be posting those as I get around to writing them. - Brad)

One of the most frequently asked questions is, "why is my satellite connection so **** slow?" Your speed might be normal, or you might have an equipment problem. This page is intended to help you find out.

1. Are you new to satellite?

If you are coming to satellite Internet from some other high-speed Internet service, you may be surprised at how slow it is. First, on the Kazam plan, the maximum speed you will get is 512 Kbps. A more realistic number is 480 Kbps in ideal conditions. (That's K-bits-per-second. Divide by 8 to get K-bytes-per-second, KB/s. If your software is reporting 60 KB/s, you're actually getting decent Kazam speed. We'll always use Kbps here.)

During "prime time", roughly 5 pm to 11 pm, your speed will typically be half of your "normal" speed. On Kazam, that would be about 240 Kbps. This is just due to congestion from lots of users, and there's nothing you can do about it. Don't bother complaining to Xplornet, because they've covered this in their contract. All you can do is upgrade your plan, or shift your heaviest Internet use to a different time of the day.

Also, you will notice slow "ping" time. This is the time it takes your request to get up to the satellite, back down to Xplornet's gateway, out to the Internet, and for the response to get back through Xplornet up to the satellite and down to you. The best response time you can ever possibly see is on the order of 650 milliseconds, just because of the laws of physics (speed of radio signals). More commonly you'll see ping times from 1000 to 1600 milliseconds. If you're into online gaming, this could be a problem.

When viewing web pages, you'll notice a delay of a few seconds after you click a link, before the new web page starts loading. It typically takes several dozen "internal" requests to load an entire web page with all its images, so it can take many seconds for an entire web page to load. (The worst offenders are web pages with hundreds of tiny images.) There are some things you can do to improve this somewhat; we'll cover this in another FAQ (pending).

2. Is it raining/snowing?

Satellite internet services are sensitive to the weather: precipitation (rain or snow) will weaken the radio waves. At first this will cause your connection to slow down. In a heavier rain, you'll lose the satellite connection completely (the "receive" light on your modem will go out). So if your connection slows down, take a look out the window to see if it's raining. There's nothing you can do; you just have to wait for the rain to stop.

However, your connection should continue to work through a light rain. If you find that drizzle is enough to drop you off the Internet, you may have a problem with your modem or your dish. You'll need to call Xplornet customer service and report this. You'll probably also need to call them back on a clear day, so they can get a reading of your signal strength without any rain in the way. (If they tell you a "deviation" number on a clear day, write this number down for future reference.)

Also, a heavy rain at Xplornet's ground station can affect your Internet service. There's nothing you can do but wait for the storm to pass.

3. You might be FAPped.

If you've been viewing a lot of big web pages, or downloading large files -- like MP3s or videos -- then you might have "been FAPped," that is, triggered the "Fair Access Policy." See the FAQ about the Fair Access Policy (pending) for details. During prime time, downloading as little as 10 to 12 MB during one hour can trigger the FAP. And when you are under FAP restriction, your speed will be throttled back to about 40% of its normal value. On the Kazam plan, this should be faster than 56Kbps dialup, but not a lot faster.

A FAP restriction will automatically be removed after one hour....provided, of course, that you have reduced your Internet usage during that hour. So stop your heavy Internet use for an hour, and see if your speed returns to normal. (It's usually safe to do email, but you might want to stop web browsing completely during this hour.)

At present there is no way to tell you are "FAPped" other than to call Xplornet tech support and ask. And there is nothing tech support can do to remove this condition. Once you're FAPped, you're FAPped for an hour. (And you can get FAPped again next hour if you're not careful.) Don't bother complaining to Xplornet; this is covered in their contract.

----------

If it's not raining and you're not FAPped, then either you or Xplornet may be having equipment problems, and it's time to call customer support. But before you do so, there are a few more steps you should take. Customer support will always ask for these, so you should do them in advance and save yourself a second phone call. Also, a lot of times these can clear up the problem!

4. Do a virus and spyware scan.

The sad fact is, one of the most common causes of poor performance on any Internet service is a virus or spyware infection. Once these programs get into your computer, they start sending lots of data over the Internet, using up your limited bandwidth and pushing you closer to the dreaded FAP. So before you call Xplornet, you must ensure that your computer has a clean bill of health. Get an up-to-date virus scanner and spyware scanner, and run them on your computer.

We've posted a list of good, free, antivirus and antispyware programs. Download them and run them. Really, you should be using these regularly, and updating them regularly. You should also have a firewall for your computer. (If you have Windows XP, it has a built-in firewall.) Important! you should install only one antivirus program, and only one firewall. Trying to run more than one anti-virus or more than one firewall will mess up your Internet connection.

Another really good source of information and programs for protecting and disinfecting your computer is the Home PC Firewall Guide. (It's not just about firewalls, they have antivirus and antispyware too.)

(Advanced users: if you want to be really sure your PC is clean when you test your Xplornet connection, get a Linux "Live CD" and run the web browser from that. Not for the casual user.)

5. Disconnect your router.

If you're using a router for home networking, disconnect it, and plug your computer directly into the Xplornet modem. This is not because a router will slow down your connection; most routers are 10 to 100 times faster than Xplornet. But a router can drop the connection, or prevent you from establishing a connection, if it is not configured properly. (We need another FAQ just for that.)

Worse, if you have a wireless router, it is possible that a neighbor is -- accidentally or otherwise -- tapping into your Xplornet service. If your neighbor watches a lot of YouTube, you'll certainly see your service slow down. (This also applies to family members who are sharing your Internet connection, wired or wireless.)

So: turn your Xplornet modem off, disconnect your router, connect your computer directly to the modem, turn your Xplornet modem on, and when Xplornet is reconnected ("receive" light on steadily), reboot your computer. (You need to do all these steps because the modem won't issue an Internet address to your computer until it re-establishes a connection.) Then check your Internet connection speed.

6. Do a speed test.

Xplornet won't listen to complaints about connection speed unless you can provide them some hard numbers. There are two different tests you should use.

For casual testing, go to http://testmy.net and perform their "dual" speed test. This will check both your download speed and your upload speed. Remember that the upload speed is the smaller of the two numbers in your Xplornet plan; for example, the Kazam plan is 512 Kbps down but only 128 Kbps up. Write down the numbers that testmy.net reports, and the date and time. (Better still, register as a testmy.net user, and then they'll keep all your speed tests for the last year on file.) This is an easy and quick test that you can run a few times a week just to keep tabs on your performance.

For serious testing, you need to go to the Xplornet speed test site with a Java-enabled web browser. There are three sites: speedtest-east.anikast.net (Ontario, Quebec, and farther east), speedtest-central.anikast.net, and speedtest-west.anikast.net. Which one you use depends on where you live. This is a slower, but more accurate, test, and the only one customer support will take seriously. You'll have to write down the test results, date, and time.

It's best to do tests at four different times of day: first thing in the morning, midafternoon, evening, and late at night (midnight). Remember to do these tests without your router connected (if you use one).

----------
At this point you will either (a) have identified the problem yourself, or (b) have collected enough information to call customer support and demand help.
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  #2  
Old 11-23-2007, 11:55 AM
Brad R Brad R is offline
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I seem to no longer have an "edit" button, so I'll make two corrections/additions in this followup post:
Mod note:::There is a time limit to 'Edit' and post would be too long with the xtra info.
Re. #2. In winter, check to see if snow has accumulated on your dish. You can use a broom to sweep this off gently, but don't knock the dish or the arm extending out from the dish, because a slight misalignment can ruin your signal. Turn your modem off before you clean the dish, because the transmitted radio energy can be a health hazard when you're that close.

Re. #4. The warning about running two firewalls refers to firewall programs that run on your computer. It is safe to run a software firewall at the same time as an external, hardware firewall (as provided by many routers). And XP firewall is a one way firewall. Meaning that if you already have scumware on your system,,It can get out without asking.
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  #3  
Old 11-23-2007, 02:30 PM
mirage mirage is offline
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Default MAN! you almost had it right on the nose!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brad R View Post
I seem to no longer have an "edit" button, so I'll make two corrections/additions in this followup post:

Re. #2. In winter, check to see if snow has accumulated on your dish. You can use a broom to sweep this off gently, but don't knock the dish or the arm extending out from the dish, because a slight misalignment can ruin your signal. Turn your modem off before you clean the dish, because the transmitted radio energy can be a health hazard when you're that close.

Re. #4. The warning about running two firewalls refers to firewall programs that run on your computer. It is safe to run a software firewall at the same time as an external, hardware firewall (as provided by many routers).
ok you know what is funny about the document you have written here...I was about two days away from posting an identical one...good research....good work and if they were any kind of honest company to work for, you would excel at a Level 1 position.

I only scanned the document quickly so perhaps I should go back to verify, but as of this moment I have found only one....ehm mistake.
DO NOT by any means touch the dish yourself be it with a broom or otherwise
the best way to remove the snow is to use a hairdryer. (yes I know most of your dishes are on the roof) If you have already done so, for god sake DO NOT tell Xplornet. They will automatically void your warrentee. say there was a huge wind or a moose was scratching its back on it or something!
(yes this has happened)

if the dish becomes out of line, Only a service tech can realign it which costs you money...however if the dish is out of line because you moved it yourself...BAD NEWS!!! the dish, the tria, the modem all these warranties are voided

i will get back to you about any other inaccuracies

thank you for posting this
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  #4  
Old 11-26-2007, 03:25 AM
Installerguy Installerguy is offline
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two things: one - the report button on the anikast sites do work
and two - also please check your tria wave guide cover for bird shit - I had a work order for a system that was down , called the customer who replied the system was running again, I did check the system out and found reminants of a HUGE lump of bird shit on the tria,
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  #5  
Old 11-26-2007, 07:13 AM
Amber Amber is offline
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Installerguy,

Any advice for removing the bird doo-doo without moving or damaging anything? I would hate to have to pay for a service call and find out that THAT was what the problem was! We're still under warranty and we might end up having someone come out here (the order was booked November 12, not followed through with, we're trying to decide if we need it or not). I don't suppose bird offerings is covered under warranty work, eh?

Amber
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  #6  
Old 12-01-2007, 07:41 AM
Brad R Brad R is offline
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Default Satellite FAQ: Slow Connection, continued

(OK, I have finally finished Part II of the FAQ about connection problems. This continues the first post in this thread. As usual, this is a work in progress, and is drawn largely from my own experience. Corrections or additions are certainly welcome! Please post them to this thread. - Brad.)

At this point I assume you've checked the weather, you're not FAPped, your PC is not infected, and you've tried disconnecting your router...and still you have abnormally slow service, or no connection at all. This narrows it down to either (a) your equipment, (b) Xplornet, or (c) the Internet at large. Now it's time to narrow the alternatives.

The Internet at Large

Let's take care of (c) first, because it's easy to check. Sometimes, when things seem slow, it's really not you or Xplornet. Perhaps your favourite web site is having technical problems. There have been times when the entire Internet slows down (such as when a rock concert is being webcast live, or when a particularly virulent worm is on the loose). There have also been times when part of the Internet gets cut off, due to problems at key gateways.

So, before you go farther, visit a couple of different web sites to see how well they're loading. If only a few web sites are having a problem, it's probably them, not you. (I always use google.ca as my first check, because they're always working.)
__________

So, how do you decide if it's your Xplornet equipment, or something at Xplornet's Network Operations Centre (NOC)? Here are some of the problems you might be having. The problem is, it's hard to figure out which of these problems you are having, just by talking to tech support. Some of these need to be checked on-site by a technician with the right test equipment. But one thing tech support can test remotely is your "deviation."

What is deviation?

"Deviation" is an indication of how strong your satellite signal is. Strictly speaking, the satellite doesn't care about signal strength; it cares about signal-to-noise ratio (SNR, measured in decibels). There is a "target" value, or optimum value, for SNR. The "deviation" tells how much you are falling short from this optimum.

For example, my system, when installed, had a "target SNR" of 15.62. My acutal SNR at time of installation was 14.2, so my deviation (from the target value) was -1.42. Deviation will always be negative, and the closer it is to zero, the better. I've been told that your installer is not allowed to sign off on your dish installation until he gets a deviation better than -3 (that is, between -3 and 0.) Anything better than -3 is considered "acceptable." A deviation of -1.4 is considered good (depending on how much transmitter power is needed to get that deviation).

Your deviation will be affected by weather (rain or snow), and snow or ice on the dish. When the deviation drops to -4, the modem will start using error-correction techniques that reduce your speed to about half its normal value. When it drops to -7, your satellite connection is pretty much dead.

Your deviation can also be reduced by a misaligned dish, a problem with the tria, or a problem with your modem. That's why it's important to check it. If on a clear day, you get a deviation report worse than -3, this suggests that you have a problem with your equipment.

Xplornet level 1 techs may be reluctant to tell you your deviation. But if they do mention it, write it down! And keep a record of all your deviation reports. This can help you to spot equipment slowly going bad.

1. Your dish could be misaligned.

The dish needs to be pointed to an accuracy of about half a degree. If it was poorly mounted, or mounted to a flimsy support (such as a post), or you've knocked it with a broom, it could have shifted enough to lose the connection. If your service fails after a severe windstorm, this might be the cause.

You have to hope your installer did a good job mounting the dish. (Mounting to the wall of your house is probably best.) Unfortunately, there are plenty of examples on this forum of careless, unqualified, and unscrupulous installers. There have also been cases of installers charging for unnecessary dish realignments. Xplornet says

Quote:
Dealers are expected to warranty their installation workmanship for a period of 3 months. If an issue arises that is due to improper installation procedures, the installer is responsible to rectify at their own expense.

...For warranty that includes labor, the travel distance is limited to 50 Km radius from the dealership's location. If a customer's location is beyond a 50 km radius, the dealer can charge the customer an extended mileage fee.
If you're past the three-month period, check every other possibility first. And if you're a new customer, check your deviation (on a clear day) before the 90 days is up -- if it's abnormally low, get it fixed under warranty!

2. Your tria could be defective.

The "tria" is the assembly mounted on the arm sticking out from the dish, that contains the transmitter, receiver, waveguide, and antenna horn. The bottom of this is where the two cables attach. Xplornet has been notorious for defective trias. (My dealer brought two for my initial installation. When the first one didn't test ok, he tossed it back in the truck and installed the second one.)

It's been reported that one entire manufacturing run of trias was improperly sealed and subject to water leakage. And one customer reported 8 out of 10 trias failing in the first year, because of water leakage.

Defective trias should be covered under Xplornet's one-year equipment warranty:

Quote:
For satellite equipment that is owned by the customer (KA Band only), it includes a one-year warranty on parts and labor from the date of activation. Excluding cables, dish alignment, computer problems, and any damages cause to the hardware other than equipment failure.
3. Your modem could be defective.

Xplornet modems also fail. It's been reported that about 1 in 100 of the modems are defective. (My modem failed about three months after installation, and was replaced by Xplornet.) Modems are also covered by the one-year warranty.

This is more difficult to diagnose. One possible clue: if your modem takes a very long time to establish a connection -- say, if the one blink, two blinks, three blinks takes more than a few minutes -- AND, once you are connected, your reported deviation is ok, then you might have a bad modem. (A good deviation number suggests that the dish and tria are ok. But even with a good dish and tria, your modem can fail to connect.) However, at this point you'd best be talking to level 2 tech support.

4. Your cable could be defective.

The cable connecting the modem to the tria is probably the most reliable part of the system, but it could also fail or be physically damaged.

Probably the most common problem is if the installer neglected to weatherproof the outside connectors, where the cable attaches to the tria. If you know what a cable TV connector looks like, and you can see the bare metal of that connector on your tria, then it has not been weatherproofed. Most weatherproofing that I have seen looks like a soft black or grey putty that has been molded around the connector. (We need a photo of this.)
__________

If you have a good deviation and your modem normally connects quickly (in a minute or two), that's strong evidence that your equipment is ok. (Not conclusive evidence, because some problems are intermittent.) So don't lose sight of the fact that equipment breaks at Xplornet's end, too.

5. Xplornet could be having problems at their end.

Equipment fails at the Xplornet Network Operations Center (NOC, the ground station where your satellite signals "land"). On a recent customer support call, I was told that the "slave card" for my beam -- I think that's the equivalent of the modem at the NOC's end -- had reset twice in the last week. Each reset caused a disruption of service of about 30 minutes on that beam. I've also lived through one server failure at the NOC, which disrupted all Xplornet customers using that NOC for several hours. The only way to learn of this is to call customer support.

Xplornet also takes equipment off-line from time to time for maintenance. Customers are supposed to receive advance notice of these scheduled outages (but I haven't received one yet). Usually, these outages are scheduled for the early morning hours on a weekend, so as to cause the least disruption. If you suddenly lose your Internet service at 4 a.m. on Sunday, this is one possible explanation. Again, only a call to customer support will tell for sure.

(Some would say that you should check this first, since it only involves a phone call to customer support. But other problems are more likely, and if it takes you half an hour of your time to reach a level 1 tech, that's a bad bargain in my book.)
__________

The more you can diagnose yourself, the better off you will be. You'll be able to understand more of what level 1 and level 2 support are telling you. And just maybe you'll be able to tell when an unscrupulous installer is blowing smoke.
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  #7  
Old 12-10-2007, 10:19 PM
Installerguy Installerguy is offline
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here is a picture of a gen 2 tria water-proofed as xplornet requires- they require a wrap of butal? tape under a wrap of electrical tape held in place with a tie strap (zip, zap strap) and they would perfer that us installers colour code the cables
Attached Images
File Type: jpg tria.JPG (67.0 KB, 13 views)
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  #8  
Old 12-10-2007, 11:16 PM
xplornetsuck xplornetsuck is offline
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Madsurfer post moved to new thread.
http://www.xplornetsucks.com/forums/...read.php?t=132

But as per user Installerguy post . The original Tria could develop a moisture leak, resulting in corrosion in the Tria and failure of service.
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  #9  
Old 12-11-2007, 04:11 PM
Amber Amber is offline
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Default And here's ours:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Installerguy View Post
here is a picture of a gen 2 tria water-proofed as xplornet requires- they require a wrap of butal? tape under a wrap of electrical tape held in place with a tie strap (zip, zap strap) and they would perfer that us installers colour code the cables
Like I said...I don't see any sign of water proofing here, do you?
Attached Images
File Type: jpg our tria as installed e-mail size file.jpg (78.8 KB, 15 views)
File Type: jpg tria Jan 2007 e-mail size.jpg (91.7 KB, 14 views)
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  #10  
Old 12-13-2007, 10:42 PM
Installerguy Installerguy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Amber View Post
Like I said...I don't see any sign of water proofing here, do you?
is this your system? and have you asked your installer why he has given you a fail point on your system?and have you smacked him up the side of the head?
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