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What Mobile Broadband Modem Should I Use if I Need a Router?

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Thursday, 06 March 2014

What Mobile Broadband Modem Should I Use if I Need a Router? 

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The 3Gstore team has always kept our customer’s best interest in mind. The way we continue to do so not only includes informative articles such as these, but patience to ensure you get the best pre-sales and post-sales support.

Recently, we’ve noticed more and more issues are coming up regarding the AT&T Beam USB aircard/modem (AKA Netgear 340U). As these issues are becoming more difficult to resolve, we decided to remove the modem from our router advisor and compatibility charts. Of course, the modem is still technically supported by our router manufacturers (i.e. Cradlepoint and Peplink/Pepwave), but we are no longer recommending our customers use it if they require a router.

The AT&T Beam is much different than any previous USB aircards/modems in that it has a LCD display AND the connection software is built into the device itself. The issues that are occurring all stem from the modem. The Beam requires much more power being drawn, which is certainly one cause. We’ve also heard that the AT&T Beam won’t connect with a RSSI of -80 or lower, but we have seen users connect successfully at -90db. There’s been other instances where the modem connects without any special configuration or firmware, while others have to manually apply the APN (access point name) or wait several minutes while the Beam appears and disappears from the router’s WAN list, hoping it will finally connect to the router - sometimes successful, sometimes not. One thing that can help is attaching a USB extension cable between the modem and the router - a 3ft cable is required at minimum, but we've seen better luck with ones 6-10ft. Due to the additional power this modem draws, the USB extension cable is essentially throwing attenuation onto the USB connection, and allowing the modem draw less power - even this is no guarantee the Beam will establish the connection.

With all this said, we wanted to provide our customers with a list modems we think work best with both our Cradlepoint and Peplink/Pepwave routers! If you’re looking to avoid any headaches with USB modems, we would recommend you first consider a router with an embedded modem. Sure, these products are more expensive, but they are also a lot more reliable and typically perform 10-15% better as compared to a router with a USB modem. You’ve also got rock solid external antenna ports (no more proprietary adapter cables or fragile antenna ports like the one on the Pantech UML290), a smaller footprint and less devices to be a point of failure, increased temperature thresholds, and most importantly - you have a better chance that the modem works right out of the box and will continue to work long into the future. For more details on the differences and advantages to using a router with an embedded modem, see our Embedded vs. Cellular routers article.

Check out our recommendations below!

AT&T

  • 4G LTE USB: USBConnect Momentum (aka AirCard 313U)
  • 3G USB: USBConnect Shockwave (aka AirCard 308)
  • Hotspot via USB: Liberate (MiFi 5792) - although this is NOT compatible with the Pepwave Surf OR the Cradlepoint routers, it is the only AT&T hotspot we have successfully tested via USB tethering to a router

Verizon

Sprint

T-Mobile

Unfortunately, there aren’t many T-Mobile Mobile Broadband modems that are supported and the ones that are compatible, are sometimes hit or miss. Plus, T-Mobile has stopped carrying USB modems and moved strictly to mobile hotspots. What we can suggest is the T-Mobile 4G Mobile Hotspot (aka ZTE MF61) to use via WiFi as WAN.

*RE: Peplink/Pepwave Routers: These 3G/4G modems are supported, BUT you will need to manually switch between 3G and 4G (the router cannot auto-switch between 3G and 4G modes with these modems). For the Verizon UML290, you'll need to follow the instructions on this page to lock it to 3G.

Some of you may be asking, what about other WiFi as WAN supported devices? We certainly have had success with these types of connections, as have a majority of our customers. However, as explained on our WiFi as WAN Utilization and Tips article, the feature does have its limitations - one major one being that it is far less stable than even a USB WAN connection. This is because the connection is completely wireless and therefore has more points of failure as compared to a direct connection - whether that be an Ethernet WAN, USB WAN, or embedded WAN.




Last Updated ( Thursday, 06 March 2014 )
 
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