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Wednesday, 20 August 2008

CradlePoint CTR500/MBR1000 1.3.1 Firmware Provides Load Balancing

Cradlepoint CTR500 Load Balancing

CradlePoint has just released Firmware Version 1.3.1 that enables Load Balancing across multiple cellular connections, and supports even more EVDO and HSDPA devices for the CTR500 and MBR1000 routers.

The EVDO community has waited a LONG time for a "consumer cellular router" that supported Load Balancing, and we are very excited to finally have something to sell for those who have wanted a router with this feature!

Here's another screengrab showing how Cradlepoint admin pages show details for two devices that are both active on a test CTR500 router:

CTR500 admin showing V740 and 597U active at same time

The official release notes provide this explanation about the Load Balancing feature:

If two or three modems are attached, the router will use multiple connections to transfer data.  If only one data connection is being used by an application (for example, a network performance test or a single video download), then only one modem will be used.  But if multiple connections are being accessed (for example, a Bittorrent with multiple seeds, different simultaneous video downloads, or a simultaneous web update and email download), the traffic will be balanced among the modems.
Load balancing works well with multiple modems that have approximately the same performance.  The controlling algorithm assigns new connections to modems in a round-robin fashion.  If a modem is attached that is significantly slower than other attached modems, the overall performance will be limited by the slowest modem.

That last part means that if one device is faster than another (like say a Verizon V740 Rev-A ExpressCard running on a true Rev-A network, and an ATT 881U USB modem running on EDGE network), then performance may not be as expected since the router does not evaluate the speed of any live connection, and simply uses "round robin" methods to decide when to switch connections while balancing loads.

As exciting as it is to finally have load balancing, there were some other features added with this firmware release. Similar to the recent CTR350/PHS300 release, web admin now displays signal bars and RSSI information with many supported devices (but not all). Screengrab above shows the signal bars, and the following screengrab shows an example of RSSI information:

Cradlepoint Admin showing RSSI info

And of course, no firmware update would be complete without adding support for more devices. Here is a list of ALL the NEW "U.S. Carrier" devices supported by Firmware 1.3:
(complete list of supported devices is at 3G Router Compatibility Chart)

Sprint Verizon AT&T nTelosCricket

BB 8330


HP iPAQ 910
GT Ultra Express
(see PDF for notes)


Its interesting to note that two new, smaller U.S. networks - nTelos and Cricket - now have devices supported. There were also some "generic" devices supported for use on SIM-based networks with this new firmware release. These devices were tested using the AT&T network in the United States and may or may not work with other UMTS/GSM carriers internationally:

Huawei E220
Novatel MC950D
Sierra Wireless 880U
Sierra Wireless 885U
Sierra Wireless 880E

There were also many "International Carrier" devices as well as some "generic" devices supported for use on SIM-based networks supported with this new firmware release:

Generic GSM*

Novatel MC950D
Novatel X950D

Sierra Wireless 595U
Sierra Wireless 597E

Huawei E220
Novatel MC950D
Sierra Wireless 880U
Sierra Wireless 885U
Sierra Wireless 880E

*These devices were tested using the AT&T network in the United States and may or may not work with other UMTS/GSM carriers internationally.

Canadians! -- Don't forget that 3GStore now ships to Canada!

New features added in this release:

  • Failback to Ethernet.  This can be selected under Advanced -> Failover/Load Balance ->
    Ethernet WAN Failure Detection.  If selected, the router will attempt to use the Ethernet WAN port if it is available.  If failover is active and modem(s) connections are established, and the Ethernet connection comes back up, the modem(s) will be disconnected and the Ethernet  connection re-established.
  • RNDIS modems added to failover.
  • Automatic Configuration Saving. When uploading new firmware versions, the router attempts  to save off any configuration changes the user has made and then adds those settings to the new firmware's configuration. For safety, it is recommended that you save a copy of your modified configuration to a host PC just in case this does not work correctly for your specific configuration.
  • GPS. Added GPS support for a number of additional USB modems. GPS now works with
    Google Earth Plus, Microsoft Streets and Maps, and Delorme Street Atlas Plus. At customer request, GPS may be enabled on the WAN interface (previously, it was only enabled on the LAN/WLAN ports). If enabled, someone who knows the IP address of the router and the configured GPS port can track the movement of the router.
  • Added PIN support for SIM cards under Advanced -> Modem Settings. The user can store a PIN for his modem along with the password. If the router detects that the attached modem's SIM card requires a PIN, it will use the entered PIN. If the router detects that an attached modem requires a PIN entry and no PIN is entered, a bounce page will be provided to allow the user to enter a PIN without having to go through the Admin pages.

Additional UI/usability changes:

  • Disabled Advanced -> Traffic Shaping -> Automatic Uplink Speed measurement as a default setting. If Enabled, Uplink Rate Estimation should not cause a modem to lose its connection, which used to happen in some cases.
  • Added APN (Access Point Name) entry under Basic -> WAN. This can be used if your cellular provider requires an APN that isn't associated with one of the profiles on the SIM or modem.
  • Added Cellular Signal Strength bars (4 bars maximum) to Status -> Device Info page to quickly show the signal strength.
  • At customer request, added direct RSSI reading to Status -> Modem Info page. This page will now show Signal Strength as a % and as dBm (negative values). 100% = -74 dBm
  • Status -> Wireless (Wi-Fi) page has been modified to allow easier management of associated wireless clients.

For those ordering the CTR500 or MBR1000 from, starting 08/22/2008, we will automatically include a CD that has the latest firmware.

For known issues and much more information, check out the official Full Firmware 1.3.1 Release Notes (PDF). 

Related Links

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 20 August 2008 )
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