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iPSTAR – works like a cranky wife

image DSC05060.JPGiPSTAR. iPSTAR is an satellite system used by home and business for broadband internet reception. I had heard from friends that it was s**t. Also, some misinformation I received was this: that you need a phone line to get hooked up. The explanation was that the phone line was necessary for the outgoing data flow, ie. the downloaded data comes via satellite and the outgoing data goes out via a phone line. False. I don’t know how many iPSTAR people I double check with before going with the service. Fact: you do not need a phone line to hook up to iPSTAR.

Phone service is not currently available in the vicinity of the coolthaihouse prototype and won’t be for some period of time. ADSL is from all accounts better on virtually every count, even according to the iPSTAR technicians. One obvious negative is that installation is only available in a very limited area of Pattaya. ADSL wins out hands down as far as speed transitioning between windows, reliability and price (only about 600 per month). As far as raw download speeds during optimal performance I haven’t used ADSL so I can’t do a direct comparison.

image DSC05059.JPGTo hook up iPSTAR required an upfront equipment deposit/rental fee of 8000 baht. This is a non-refundable fee which covers the technician coming out and installing the equipment. If the service is canceled, a technician will come out and disconnect the service free, no further payment is necessary but there is no refund of the 8000 baht. The service fee starts at 3000 per month depending on bandwidth. The lowest price plan allows for 750 mb per month of data to be downloaded.

There is about a 10 day wait from the time the upfront fee is paid until the equipment is hooked up. In the installation at the coolthaihouse prototype, the initial modem didn’t work. After that a new modem arrived, a couple of days later – but it soon also stopped working also. The third modem worked OK and I have been using it for a few months now.

image dsc20231.jpgWhen the system is working well, it can download data at about 2 mb per minute. As far as the upload speed, this is normally about 10 kb per second, which is considerably slower (than the download speed). Sometimes the upload connection speed will slow down considerably, down to about .20 kb per second. That means a small photo of 80 kb will take 400 seconds to upload (more than 6 minutes). At times when it is this slow, normally the best bet is to do something else. I have called the support number – all I could get out of them is that they could see my connection and I was ‘hooked up OK’. When I explain about the .20 kb per second upload speed the service tech repeated ‘you are hooked up OK’. We made the rounds in both Thai and English so that it could be clearly established that there was no language problem, just probably not the best service in the world.

As far as reliability, it isn’t that good. About once a day the connection will be lost, which requires shutting the modem down and waiting for about 20 minutes and trying again (I was told this is the best way to correct the problem when the unit loses the signal). The system does seem to be able to operate in different kinds of weather, but is not good when the weather is in the process of changing to overcast.

The agent in Pattaya is the computer center across from the Foodland supermarket. They seem to be helpful, but complicated problems gets related to the Bangkok service center. If the system is totally ‘down’, they will send out a service technician – normally in this case the modem is fried. The wait for a service technician is not too bad, one will normally come on the same or next day.

Is it better than a phone line? Yes, even if I had a phone line I would still have the iPSTAR. First off, you can download and upload several times faster than a phone line when everything is working. I recently downloaded an OS upgrade for a Mac computer which was 88 MB and downloaded in about 35 minutes. If I only had a phone line, I would not have even attempted a download of this size. As far as the time it takes to paint a screen, this seems to be only marginally quicker than a phone line, but I am just going from recollection (of the speed when I was using the land line).

image dsc20233.jpgWhen the service technicians came out to do a site survey, which occurs before the equipment is ordered, they showed me the type of LAN card I would need. Pretty much any LAN card will do, as long as it has a RJ-45 Ethernet network connection. I went to the computer center across from the Foodland to get the LAN card (the iPSTAR distributor). The technician who came to explain about the various LAN cards obviously didn’t know much about iPSTAR. He tried to tell me that the LAN card was only for networking multiple computers together and wouldn’t work for a satellite connection. It was the type of thing I would have expected if I had gone to another place to buy the card. Having gone to the iPSTAR distributor I expected they would know. Anyway, I curtly stated that ‘he didn’t know about iPSTAR and I needed to talk with someone who did’. To which he huffed off and someone else came to help me and finally got me straightened out with a LAN card, which I had them install.

During satellite installation the iPSTAR satellite is attached to the roof and coaxial cable is run up in the attic and down to the location where you specify you want the modem. By the way, the installation technicians seemed to be very professional and thorough workers. I later thought about moving the modem and went into the computer center to find out about if I could get some coax extension cable. They got me on the phone with someone about iPSTAR who said it couldn’t be done, to move the modem would require coming out and rewiring it from the satellite dish. Anyway, I’ve put off that project, but I would certainly imagine that the modem could be moved and hooked up with some coaxial extension cables (no matter what the tech said).

After installation the technicians will stay and made sure that you can establish a connection on your computer. It takes a bit of playing around to get things right, so it is well worth having them stick around until everything is working.

In conclusion, my thoughts on iPSTAR are this: the service would go out of business overseas. It is expensive and isn’t reliable. However, here, if you are out of the ADSL service area and want a broadband connection, I don’t think there is any other choice. It takes a bit of TCL and getting used to, but in the end it is OK. Kind of like a cranky wife.

2 Comments

  1. I thought the coax cable would be the same high quality shield type as used with a UBC satellite dish? That should be readily available in Pattay and pretty cheap. Beware if you DIY to make sure you havent shorted out the new cable as this also carries dc power to operate the LNB uint in the dish, this would likely fry your modem. Its a risk as you may get a warranty problem but TIT

    I am in Sukhumvit and I can tell you that all the BS about ADSL comes to nought if you cant get a land line. There are almost no spares in the area. I will have to send No1 wife out to do it the Thai way (under the table, with no white face in sight)

    Even now as I pen this posie, the service is very slow and erratic (ADSL 512???), a small cafe with a dedicated line for each pc, why should this be? Well ADSL is a large con her as you dont know how many other people are sharing your bandwidth down the road (using True Corp and TOT) ISSP apparently will give a guaranteed speed at 1500 baht per month

    visit ADSLthailand.com

  2. There are different solutions to your problem of wanting to move your internet connection, First and probably the most easy option would be to install a “Wireless Router” this would plug into your modem using the ethernet connection, you then install a wireless network card in your pc or laptop and then you can use any where in the house with no wires. The second solution is to connect a “Switch” to your modem via the ethernet port then from this switch you can “Hard wire” to various points around the house and just plug in your computer as you would plug in a phone line, this solution needs more installation but you would get a more “Stable” connection. Hope this is of help.

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