WildBlue Performance - Live Plots
WildBlue Performance - Live Plots


WildBlue is a two-way satellite broadband internet service; an alternative to cable, cellular, DSL, or dial-up. Performance is considerably less than cable but significantly greater than dial-up. Bandwidth is approximately the same as DSL or Clearwire, but latency is much greater. Various performance packages are available; the Pro package gives 1.5 Mbit/s download and 250 kbit/s upload speeds.

The major disadvantage of WildBlue is that performance is not stellar. In particular, since every request and response involves a round-trip to a satellite some 35,000 km (about 22,000 miles) above the earth, those four trips add half a second of latency (simply due to the speed of light). The result is that interactive internet use, including most web browsing and telnet, requires patience.

Another concern is that because the satellite(s) are a shared resource, the total amount of data one can download and upload per month is metered and hard-limited.

The major advantage of WildBlue is that it is available over a wide geographical area, including locations that are not currently served by cable, DSL, or even dial-up. For these locations WildBlue is a tremendous gift.

Another feature is that because the WildBlue dish is powered only from the modem/router and communicates directly through a geosynchronous satellite, WildBlue-based internet access is totally immune from all forms of local or regional outage; including wind storms, fallen trees, power failures, Telco office shutdowns, earthquakes, backhoe operators, etc. The WildBlue modem requires only about 25 W of power so solar, generator, or UPS backup for the modem is simple.

Anyway, below are a set of live measurements I've been making: on bandwidth, and on capacity. The plots were last updated:

Monitoring WildBlue Performance

Receive (KB/s, download):

Transmit (KB/s, upload):


The goals of this experiment are 1) to see if our WildBlue internet subscription is working correctly and 2) to get a feel for performance, reliability, and consistency. In particular, to see if there are significant variations by time-of-day, or to detect degradations due to weather.


Monitoring WildBlue Usage

In addition to limiting transmit/receive bandwidth (speed), a WildBlue subscription also limits the total number of bytes (volume) -- averaged over a 30-day interval. There are separate limits for download and upload. It would be nice, then, if near real-time bandwidth and link usage data (packets and total bytes) were available from WildBlue.net or from inside the satellite modem itself; sort of like an electric watt (power) or the spinning kilowatthour (energy) utility meter on the side of the house.

This satellite internet link is a limited shared resource and the only way to conserve it, maximize its usage, and avoid accidental overuse is to be able to closely monitor and track its usage. It seems possible, for example, that a 1.5 Mbit/sec download left unchecked would consume an entire month's quota (17 GB) in just over a single day!

The WildBlue partnerpage.google.com/wildblue.net gadget gives only a rounded percent value averaged over 30 days and is not updated in realtime. By the time you find out there's a problem, it might be too late. Precise usage data on demand would be more helpful for monitoring or proactive throttling. If anyone has suggestions on implementing active WildBlue modem monitoring, or router monitoring (I have a SNMP-capable switch on order), please let me know.

Another solution is the usage_gadget_xml.jsp query which returns upload/download used/limit XML-formatted data in MB units. Although not updated in realtime, these usage numbers sometimes increment within 15 minutes, which is responsive enough that this could be the basis of active usage monitoring. The graphs below are updated about once an hour:

Download (megabytes, 30-day average):

Upload (megabytes, 30-day average):


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