[Edit: see bottom of post for updates!]

Comcast has been pretty reliable and consistent at the "Blast!" plan: always1 around 50Mbs down and somewhere between 5 and 10Mbs up.

Comcast typical speeds

Outages maybe once a year. Also reliable and consistent were unannounced price increases: $20 jumps every year or so when the deal expires, then an enjoyable phone call to threaten to cancel if they didn't do something and a sweet new deal.

Well I've wanted to be done with deals and getting jerked around for years, and it looks like maybe Vivint will be a winner.

Sales Pitch

Last Friday a nice man came to my door promising:

  • $60/month with no price increases
  • $240 setup fee (amortized into the $60 payment)
  • 50–80Mbs symmetrical, with a bump soon to 105Mbs (when the neighborhood radios get an upgrade)
  • 3 business day trial

No price increases, 50Mbs+ symmetrical? Sold.

My contract

Installation

A couple of guys came by this afternoon in the timeframe they said they'd be there. One of them explained to me the restrictions:

  • radio mounted on roof, line of sight to neighborhood radio (next door to me)
  • they have to drill a hole through an exterior wall
  • they add an ethernet outlet at said drill site
  • had to use their router

I asked if they could use the ethernet jack I had installed outside already and they said they couldn't because they couldn't guarantee the service at that point.

I thought of a couple of ways I could probably work with this setup and agreed. I had three business days plus a weekend to figure it out.

A Surprise

After about an hour the techs announced they were done. They tested it on their laptop: 50Mbs down, 45Mbs up. I said, "Let me try with my laptop over wifi." and the tech quickly said, "Well, it will be slower over wifi. We tested our speed over a wired connection and only guarantee it over a wired connection. A wired connection will always be faster than wifi."

I can understand Vivint's need to control the setup to guarantee their performance. You get folks who don't know what they're doing messing with settings and running wires all over. I've done that, even.

All the same, I know my home wifi pretty well, and it's not terrible. I can move data around a lot faster than 100Mbs, so I knew my wifi was likely not going to be the bottleneck. Perhaps their router's wifi was not so good?

After we changed the wifi password on the supplied Vivint-branded router, I went to speedtest.net (which is what they used to test) and got this result (after several runs):

Speed test over Vivint Wifi Router

While the upload speeds are a 3x improvement, the download speed is about half as good as Xfinity, and would mean accessing the Internet from my home network would be about 85% slower. "So...", I said, "your router is the bottleneck?" A sheepish shrug from the tech. Well, whatever, I have 3 days to try this out. "Ok, I'll play with it. Thanks."

Now, please tell me who would move their computer into their living room (or any exterior wall) just so they can get their 50Mbs on a wired connection, a speed that they probably already have via wifi? And 20Mbs over wifi? Really?

I don't want to attribute deception or malice to Vivint, but selling "Unlimited 50–100Mbs" and installing a wifi router capable of only 20Mbs is a pretty big disparity.

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Technical Solution

I took this as a technical challenge. After they left, I removed my Apple Airport Express from it's cubby in the kitchen and plugged it into the incoming ethernet line from the Vivint radio and re-ran the speed tests (this image was taken several hours afterward, but was close to what I had when I tested earlier):

Vivint over Airport Express

Are you kidding me? This is amazing (in comparison…)!

Update (23 August 2015): I've run this several times a day since installation and it's been consistently this fast, sometimes a bit faster on the download even.

All in All

So, day one, I'm pretty happy (but don't tell the techs their router is collecting dust already).

Vivint router

Update 1 (27 August 2015, 8:00a): Vivint Wireless has be down since 4:15a this morning. Left a voice message with support at about 5:45a. If outages are regular, I'll stick with Comcast. I hate getting jerked around on the price, but at least for me they've been extremely stable.

Update 2 (27 August 2015, 5:10p): My Vivint Wireless was down for 11 hours, 15 minutes (between 4:14a and 3:36p) today. It's back up and running at its usual speed. Stay tuned.

Update 3 (2 September 2015, 4:34p): I have some packet loss every few minutes (from 2–6%, occasionally higher) but speed and general connectivity are fine.

Update 4 (22 January 2016, 1:57p): I've been pretty happy with things. Zero packet loss since September (I had an embarrassing wiring problem) and consistent speeds, with a rare slowdown some evenings. We've had one significant outage on October 31 that lasted half an hour, but other than that it's been solid. I'm happy.

Update 5 (8 April 2016, 1:43p): No problems to report, download speeds are consistently over 40Mbps and upload speeds are consistently over 80 Mbps. Occasional peak time slowdowns, but nothing that interrupts 3 simultaneous movie streams. Still happy.

Update 6 (2 October 2017, 6:37a): I still recommend Vivint Wireless if you can get it in your area. It's been stable and no price changes yet. I'm still getting between 70 and 90Mbps symmetrical.


  1. Always, since I stopped leasing the awful piece of garbage Ubee cable modem and bought my own Motorola SB6141. Just swapping out my cable modem gave me a 30Mbs download boost and $7 off my monthly bill.)