Friday 18 January 2013

Rural Wireless ISP Review – Hotlink Wireless Versus Xplornet WiMax

When we first moved out to our acreage we went with the same ISP that the previous owners had: Hotlink Wireless.

When we signed up we were assured that at some point our 3Mbit connection would be updated to 6Gbit. So, we signed up for the SOHO package that stated we would automatically receive the upgrade when made available.

Now, the communication that we received from Hotlink, the installer, and subsequent support folks was confusing at best.

Ultimately, we ended up with a low bandwidth high latency connection that just did not work for the type of Internet based work I do from home!

After asking various Hotlink folks we finally hit upon the reason for our speed/latency issue: We were on the wrong side of the tower (line of sight ~.5KM away)! South of us are a bunch of subdivisions. Thus, the South side of the tower has all of the high bandwidth equipment installed.

On the North side of the tower not so much. And, that happens to be where we were located. Bummer. :(

The Xplornet installer finished up about an hour ago and we now have a high bandwidth low latency connection to the Internet!


We will continue to monitor the speeds we get especially when the rest of the world gets home from work as it is mid-afternoon here right now.

A caveat with Xplornet:

  • Default IP out of the box with the service is on a private subnet.
    • IP:

Since we are running Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials at home we preferred to have a public IP to allow Remote Web Access to the home setup.

We called into Xplornet's support number and had a fellow explain to us that the only way to get a publically routable IP was to have a static IP assigned for an additional fee ($9.99) per month.

After affirming the static IP charge it took him about 10 minutes to provision the IP and update our newly installed radio's firmware to allow for the new setup.

Once we plugged the new IP settings into our router and Xplornet's DNS server IPs into our Forwarders tab in SBSE's DNS Server service we were up and running.

And wow! The difference is amazing.

Typing remotely via RDP no longer has a pause before the letters appear or a pause while Web browsing and having something come up after clicking on it.

When given a choice between service providers we now know that Xplornet would have been the better way to go originally.

Some factors that need to influence choice:

  • What are our speed/latency requirements?
    • Netflix and other media streaming did _not_ work well with the Hotlink connection. Even when SD movies were chosen no other machine could access the Internet while the movie was streaming or the movie would start pausing.
  • Where are the towers relative to our location?
    • No fluff response by the provider's sales person on this question. Make sure to hammer down where the tower is. Distance and line of sight may be important depending on the technology the radio uses.
    • A tower and/or high mount may be required depending on the tower location.
  • Real world bandwidth/latency test results?
    • Ask for some real world test results/referrals if possible.
  • For the installer:
    • Have a proper shielded cable installed.
      • Cable must be grounded properly on both ends.
    • Surge suppression is a must and grounded outside the house is a must.
    • Xplornet did both of the above while Hotlink did not.

We certainly took our Shaw high speed Internet connection for granted back in town (St. Albert). 50Mbit down and 5Mbit up was our rated speeds with downloads easily hitting 2.5MB/Second to 3.5MB/Second depending on what and where.

Happily Xplornet does not block 443 inbound:


Have a great weekend everyone and thanks for reading! :)

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists
Co-Author: SBS 2008 Blueprint Book

Windows Live Writer


Anonymous said...

we aslo have hotlink at present, the service is terrible, they have been promising an upgrade of the system for approximately 3 years and still no sign of it happening, we are limited to 20 gb a month, which is totally useless for our work, they are charging us extra ($2 for every gb over) which we will always going over, however they are unwilling to let us have 50 gb a month. i will be contacting Xplornet as soon as possible.

Philip Elder Cluster MVP said...

Here we are two months in and I've never looked back.

I can see where Xplornet does their shaping. But, for the most part it does not impact the work we do.

We are very happy with the service.


Anonymous said...

hotlinks customer service is terrible. had a customer rep hang up on me twice and told me I was lying when I told him how bad there internet connect was. embarrasing company

Anonymous said...

Im having a terrible time with hotlink . I've had so many runaround excuses as to why my connection is so slow, I was even told to buy a new router. There are times when my speed is 93 kps......not even usable. Then they said routers dont like power fluctuations and that I should reset my router daily. My other complaint is that when the speed test is normal at 1800 kps there is still a major delay from when I click on something to when it actually opens up. Same with typing there is a major delay when I'm typing to when it shows up on the screen. This again they blamed on my computer devices. I was using a brand new tablet with no programs installed and still having this issue.

Philip Elder Cluster MVP said...

I can say quite happily that we are still very happy with Xplornet.

Are you able to move your service?


David said...

We currently use Bell mobile internet but it's getting pricy with netflix usage. How does xplorenet compare in performance? Thanks for any advice.

Philip Elder Cluster MVP said...


I think our bill is somewhere around $90/Month for the top-end service (10Gbit - I don't remember the cap).

It's not hard to tell which traffic is getting shaped. But, we can get our Netflix streams to run pretty decently.

All in all it is a win. Just make sure your tower and radio setup are using the WiMax (antenna looks like a small pizza box).


Anonymous said...

Hello Phillip
Good to hear you are experiencing reliable fast internet with Xplornet.
Can you please help me?
We have Xplornet at the cottage, changed form Bell due to cost.
Bell was reliable but gets expensive for higher volume of data. Switched to Xplornet works great for a day or two then the Router needs to be rebooted.
any ideas?
Bob in Coboconk

Philip Elder Cluster MVP said...


How old is the router? More than likely it needs to be replaced.