PacketStream is an American proxy provider established in 2018. It offers access to low-cost residential IPs for a wide range of customers.
To companies, PackStream is another residential proxy service. It’s business as usual here: you pay money and receive a slew of IP addresses to sate your web scraping, social media automation, sneaker copping, or other needs.
But you see, PacketStream isn’t merely a service – it’s a marketplace. And here’s the interesting part: on the provider’s website, you can not only buy proxies, but also sell your own traffic; in other words, your device effectively becomes a proxy itself.
It’s the first time I’ve seen a proxy provider be so upfront about its business model. Usually, residential proxies are made by burying SDKs in some free apps, or using even less charitable methods. Not here.
This straightforward business model has allowed PacketStream to collect a respectable number of residential IPs in short notice. It’s also dumped the prices to impressive lows – $1 per gigabyte, no matter the amount. But at the same time, the provider is extremely reliant on the so-called ‘packeters’, or bandwidth sellers – their whims can make or break the whole network.
When I first reviewed it a year ago, PacketStream was still very raw. It had only email support, no SOCKS5 protocol, and no city targeting. In 2021, the situation remains pretty much the same.
Is that a bad thing? Depends on your expectations. If you don’t need the features, or simply want to see what residential IPs are all about, PacketStream presents a very tempting deal – as long the proxies are good.
They were last year. What about 2021? Let’s find out.
- Low price
- Many locations
- Good performance
- Lacking customer support
- No SOCKS5
- No city targeting
- Proxy types: Residential (rotating)
- Protocols: HTTP, HTTPS
- Locations: Global
- Targeting: Country
- Authentication: User:pass
- Sub-users: Not available
- Dashboard: Yes
- Support: Email
- Pricing: From $50/50GB ($1/GB)
- Payment options: PayPal, Stripe
- Trial: Yes
PacketStream Residential Proxies
PacketStream offers around 7 million residential proxies. The number is very fluid, as it depends on people who participate in the provider’s bandwidth-selling program.
Enough if you don’t need SOCKS5 or IP whitelisting.
PacketStream residential proxies are not heavy on features, but the essentials are all there.
The proxies cover most countries in the world. You can see the locations listed in the dashboard, but there’s no way to know how many IPs each has, so you’ll have to rely on the provider. No other targeting options are available, such as city or ASN.
You’ll have two protocols to choose from: HTTP and HTTPS. The choice is explicitly available. Unfortunately, SOCKS proxies are not supported here, so this rules out torrents or streaming sites.
The residential proxies are peer-to-peer, so they inevitably rotate. You can choose rotation every request or to keep the same IP for as long as it remains available. The PacketStream app is available only for desktop OSes, so in theory the sessions should remain alive for quite a while.
There is no option to whitelist IPs, so you’ll have to make to with user:pass authentication. Sub-users are also unavailable, though PacketStream does have an API for resellers.
PacketStream advertises that you can use the proxies anyhow you like, but in reality the terms of service prohibit some use cases, specifically advertisement spam.
Probably the cheapest residential proxies out there.
Compared to some other larger providers, PacketStream sells proxies for peanuts. The pricing model is very simple: 1GB of traffic costs $1. That’s it.
You pay for the traffic as you go, so first, you have to add some credit to your account. Then, your use of bandwidth will simply eat into this money until there’s no more left. If you want, you can hook up your credit card to auto-recharge your balance. Otherwise, top-up amounts are $50, $100, $250, $500, or $1000.
There is only one gotcha: Even though a gig costs merely $1, you can buy no fewer than 50GBs at a time.
You can get a free trial by filling in a form.
Small proxy pool, good performance.
We tested PacketStream’s rotating residential proxies for this year’s Proxy Market Research. This involved making more than 2 million connection requests over a period of three weeks. Our target was a Cloudflare server in the US. Results with individual websites might differ, depending on your web scraper’s configuration and other factors.
PacketStream’s proxies performed very well this time around, just like the year before.
Around 95% of the requests we made successfully went through, indicating a good infrastructure. The IPs were relatively fast, with an average response time of 1.9 seconds. The server itself was relatively stable: over 3 weeks, it sustained the usual response rate 97% of the time.
Running 500 requests per second made a noticeable but not catastrophic impact. The success rate dipped from 95% to 85%, and the response time slowed down from 1.9 to 3.3 seconds.
The IPs themselves predominantly came from landline or mobile connections (91%), as advertised. The majority of them used the IPv4 protocol (84%). The largest drawback involved the pool size: out of 1.7 M requests we made for the benchmark, only 3.6% returned a unique IP address. This makes PacketStream’s IP pool one of the smallest we tested, in line with Storm Proxies.
Overall, PacketStream is a good performer, though its proxy pool raises some serious questions. It might not impact you much if you stick to popular locations. But even then, when one proxy goes through many hands, you can expect to experience more CAPTCHAs and other anti-botting measures.
How to Use PacketStream
No talking required.
Creating an account with PacketStream is a simple affair:
- Enter your username, email, and password
- Choose whether you want to sell traffic or buy proxies
Then, you end up in the dashboard. You don’t even need to confirm your email address.
For setup, stats, and topping up.
Packetstream has a simple dashboard that tries to serve both sides of its business at once. One half is dedicated for traffic sellers, and the other half for proxy users. This doesn’t affect the user experience too much, as the dashboard is not yet overloaded with features.
Using it, you’ll be able to see your traffic stats, invoices, and buy bandwidth. There’s a button for contacting support as well, but it merely returns you to the FAQ page.
Of course, there’s also a page for setting up proxies. It includes automatically generated cURL commands based on your choices, setup guides, and code examples for programmatic access. That’s about all the documentation you will find.
Other options, such as downloading the PacketStream app or managing referrals, aren’t really relevant for proxy users.
Finally, you’ll find a form to request access to the Reseller API, if you partake in such activities. What about an API for your own proxy use? The provider says nothing about it.
All in all, the dashboard provides all that is needed to get you going. It’s light on documentation and missing quick access to customer service, but all the essentials are there.
Backconnect proxies & cURL requests. Setup guide included.
To set up proxies on PacketStream, you will have to use the dashboard to generate your IP:Port or cURL command. This involves selecting items from several drop-down lists. A nice touch is that you can change between DNS hostname (so, proxy.packetstream.io) and IP hostname (188.8.131.52) at will.
Here’s what the configuration widget looks like:
You can reach PacketStream’s customer support by email only. I contacted the provider multiple times, and a reply usually came within 12 hours.
However, not all customers are that lucky: I found out that in general tickets receive responses within 24 hours. So, while PacketStream does claim to have 24/7 support, you can hardly call it so in reality. This is better than nothing, but it might not be enough for enterprise clients.
I also managed to reach the provider by Skype but was unceremoniously shooed away after being told that it’s for sales only.
So, that was Packetstream. What can you take away from this review?
If I had to put it in one sentence, it would sound something like this: PacketStream is lean, its proxies mean, and pricing impressive enough to attract, but the provider still hasn’t put on enough fat to wrestle for more sophisticated clients.
If you’re a business, consider this provider as well. I’d still treat PacketStream as an attractive proposition, even if I have doubts about its non-technical aspects (namely documentation and customer experience). Just make sure you don’t need SOCKS5 or city targeting first.
If you’re an enterprise… I would hold off on PacketStream. For now, the provider still doesn’t seem ready despite its strong fundamentals. It might be in the near future, but today I’d go for Oxylabs or Luminati.
All things considered, I really like PacketStream and take great interest in its business model. Building a business on spare-change traffic looks risky and subject to fickle whims of the participants; but if this provider makes it work – or at least pivots in time otherwise – PacketStream might built itself a bright future.