Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Wildblue Communications....Ka Band Chaos

The faithful early adopters of Wildblue Communications new ka band satellite internet service are trying their best to make the best of it these days. Seems the fledgling new satellite internet provider and first company to offer the long awaited ka band satellite internet service is having more than a bumpy “rollout” of new service – it’s downright chaotic right now.

Customer equipment is failing after only 1-2 months in service, Regional Network Operations Centers are replacing equipment that is only 6 months of age, the installers for Wildblue have not been adequately prepared for the issues they have encountered in the field and the new customer base of just under 15,000 is growing impatient about the job being done by the NRTC and Wildblue to fix it all.

With outages more frequent than the chief competitor DirecWay has seen in a good while, a good number of new users of the Wildblue ka band approach are second guessing themselves right now. There are a few folks who changed to Wildblue’s new service but kept their DirecWay dish setup (just in case)…well, those folks seem to be mighty glad they did right about now. I am seeing reports from dual users that although the older DirecWay (DW 4000 & 6000) is slower, at least it’s dependable.

One of the original master distributors not related to the NRTC effort, RS & I , decided to pull out of distribution of the Wildblue products back in September and the CEO (and co-founder) of Wildblue has been replaced with a operations oriented executive from Liberty Media. So far it hasn’t seemed to help…as problems are cropping up faster than the Wildblue staff can handle them. Customers are posting dismal upload speeds on the Wildblue user forums, reporting daily outages of 5 min to 5 hours and complaining of “clueless” tech support personnel and installers who don’t follow established procedures during installations.

On a separate but equally important front, Wildblue Communications is operating at a significant loss right now with so few customers and will need an influx of operating capital very soon to continue the introduction of services as well as handle the replacement of so much field equipment. I would expect an announcement soon about Telesat or Liberty Media injecting capital or perhaps merging the company into their own…….I would be surprised to see any more money coming from the NRTC – the membership Coop's are also losing a lot of money and are not likely to be happy with how this has gone so far.

Stay tuned….this is an emerging story.


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