How to choose a 3G/4G wireless router

How to choose a 3G/4G wireless router

Firstly, what is 3G/4G?

Short for 3rd/4th Generation respectively, they are technologies for providing mobile broadband Internet access to laptops with wireless modems, smartphones and to other mobile devices. Potential and current applications include amended mobile web access, IP telephony, gaming services, high-definition mobile TV, video conferencing, 3D television, and cloud computing.

When it comes to wireless service and our smartphones, there’s no shortage of acronyms – GPRS, EDGE, 3G, 4G, LTE, HSUPA, HSDPA, EVDO – all just different forms of WiFi communications standards referring to the data speed and quality of the mobile broadband connection.

Today, most urban areas enjoy 3G and 4G services. The fourth Generation service brings with it improved voice quality and data transmission speeds up to around 100 Mbit/s. Most of today’s smartphones are 4G-capable and Carriers often label it as ‘high speed data’, limiting how much of it you can use before you’re forced to use a lower speed like 3G or EDGE. However, more recently there’s been a modification known as LTE, or Long Term Evolution boosting regular 4G data transfer speeds up to around 300 Mbit/s.

Basically, 4G is around 5 times faster then 3G and LTE is the fastest of all 4G networks by a longshot!

Why would a router need 3G/4G capability?

  • An Emergency broadband backup solution – the router can failover to 3G/4G if connection is lost
  • Just moved house? Get connected to the Internet before your phone line’s installed
  • Ideal for building sites/Portacabins, where temporary broadband internet access is needed on-site
  • Provide temporary internet access at exhibitions
  • Perfect for users unable to get conventional adsl or cable broadband
  • Share your 3G broadband via Ethernet or wireless
  • Share peripherals such as printers to create a complete mobile office.

Before we guide you through selecting the right 3G/4G router, we first need to mention a few things about 3G/4G USB modems:

  • The mobile network providers tend to ‘lock’ down their 3G/4G USB modems to their own mobile network, but you can also get ‘unlocked’ ones from various manufacturers so you don’t have this restriction.
  • To stay one step ahead of the people who know how to unlock the dongles, the mobile providers constantly bring out new dongles for their customers.
  • Router manufacturers have to play a constant cat and mouse, catch-up game with dongle manufacturers, trying to bring out router whose firmware drivers support the dongles.

So how do you choose a 3G/4G router?

Due to the router manufacturers having to play this constant catch-up game to support the most current 3/4G modems being issued by mobile providers to their customers, your best bet is to select a 3G/4G router that best suits all your other needs, and then buy a USB 3G/4G dongle that it supports. (If you were to choose the latest 3G/4G USB dongle beforehand, you’d probably be hard-pushed to find a 3G/4G router with a firmware update to support the dongle). If however, you do already own a 3G/4G USB modem dongle, then do contact the manufacturer of your chosen router to ensure it’s supported. Sometimes they publish a list of compatible dongles they’ve tested with their routers.

So, treat the search for your new 3G/4G router based on the other functionality you need from it. Here are some features to get you thinking about what you’d find useful:

Triple WAN connectivity

Future-proof yourself by buying a 3G/4G router with the three types of Wide Area Network connectivity: ADSL, Fibre, Cable.

Always-on Connectivity

The router can go into automatic failover mode if your WAN connection goes down, so that the router can continue to provide the Internet via your plugged-in USB 3G/4G dongle. Real peace of mind where a constant and uninterrupted connection is critical.

Simultaneous Dual Band

This is where the router can transmit WiFi signals on both the 2.4GHZ and 5GHz radio band, thus giving a good balance between achievable speed and wireless range. To find out much more about this, please see the related link above ‘Billion’s dual-band wireless routers’

Voice over IP

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) Wireless Routers allow you to make free phone calls over your existing high speed internet connection, and standard calls over the telephone network. You’ll lower your monthly phone bills and add services and features like call waiting, caller ID, conference, and answering machine. These routers tend to have an FXS port for connecting a telephone to and Quality of Service (QoS) so your calls remain uninterrupted, regardless of how busy the network may be. VoIP Wireless Routers are ideal for businesses operating from multiple locations, be they abroad or local. With a VoIP Wireless Router at each end you will no longer have to pay for calls because they are transferred over your existing broadband connection.

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