Mobile Broadband – Choosing a Portable Router

My main criteria for this was to have something as small as possible for portability reasons, have an AP function so that I could have some way of having laptops or other devices without copper network ports get network connectivity and lastly, have support for some type of wireless broadband function so that I would setup a network on the fly for external testing of a network where I am at or to avoid paying exorbitant daily hotel charges. On the wireless broadband function, I hoped to find something that wouldn’t have the cellular radio built-in to allow me to be able to change the carrier being used at will or when I wanted to be able to test from multiple carriers when troubleshooting a possible routing problem. In other words, I want maximum functionality on the head of a pin .

The two best options I found were the Cradlepoint CTR35 (http://www.cradlepoint.com/products/mobile-broadband-routers/ctr35-wireless-n-portable-router) and the Trendnet TEW-654TR (http://www.trendnet.com/products/proddetail.asp?prod=175_TEW-654TR&cat=66). Initially I will be looking at the Cradlepoint CTR35 because it has the support for the USB broadband devices where the Trendnet device doesn’t. Cradlepoint is well-known for their work in the cellular modem arena and also has the longest list of “compatible” modems which makes it equally attractive in possibly avoiding your having to buy yet another broadband device to work with it. The Trendnet device had the option of being able to be powered from the USB device of the laptop that you might be using. The Cradlepoint didn’t have that feature due to the fact it needed to power the USB broadband device and seems on the surface to have a strong Wifi transmitter in it. I hope to be able to look at the Trendnet device at a later date but since I am buying everything I am testing, the budget doesn’t have room for it at this point.

Another challenge I will have is to find a good carry case for the CTR35, the different USB broadband devices, a patch cable or two plus a compact laptop type power strip that will support two or three three prong AC plugs. This may seem a bit overkill but I want to try to avoid having one or more of the devices from being damaged or destroyed when it is traveling with me. I am also thinking about a very small AC inverter that could plug into the cigarette lighter outlet in a car in case I needed to set this up and convention power wasn’t available. I am looking for two different cases – one is more like a pouch type case to handle just the CTR35, power supply and the two USB broadband adapters. The other case will probably be a Pelican, model number to be determined. May look to it to carry everything I just mentioned plus some cabling and adapters.

CTR35When I get the Cradlepoint device in hand, I plan on testing it in several different configurations. I will try using the Broadband device as the WAN interface and the AP as LAN. Until I look at the configuration options, not sure if I will be able to leave the RJ45 port as LAN or if it needs to be disabled. Will be interesting to see if I can leave the RJ45 setup as WAN in conjunction with the USB port so that I can use either of them without having to do any reconfiguration. Besides a strong password for the WPA2 passphrase, I will probably setup mac address filtering as a further inhibitor of unauthorized access. I know that isn’t a good security measure that but it is a further step from keeping someone trying to hack into it. If someone wants to get in, they will, I understand that but I don’t have to make it easy.

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