Shit home internet. We've all been there: dying ancient copper cables running garbage ADSL, congested HFC cable, flaky fibre-to-the-node NBN. You know what's better in a lot of ways? 4G. I love 4G. I want 4G to power my home.
I actually use 4G to light up the 'net in my home already, but until now I've been stuck with a complicated combo of battery-powered hotspot and Wi-Fi router. Accelerated's new 6350-SR router, though, is an all-in-one 4G and Wi-Fi modem/router that gives your entire home or business a strong and reliable 4G connection, either as your primary 'net or as a failover.
4G is everywhere, dual SIMs, failover capability
It's expensive, 4G data is expensive, only 802.11n
What Is It?
The $990 Accelerated 6350-SR is a combined 4G modem and Wi-Fi router. It's only a 802.11n router, which is a bit disappointing in this age of super-fast multi-band 802.11ac models. But it makes up for that with a gigabit WAN port, so you could hook up a more powerful Wi-Fi router if you really wanted to. As well as that, it has a removable and replaceable 4G module that gives you the option to upgrade to support new 4G technologies and frequencies when they're released. And, of course, it has four LAN ports so you can hook up a PC or other network device using good ol'-fashioned cables too.
Importantly, this Accelerated router supports all of Australia's current 4G network bands, including the very useful LTE B28 700MHz spectrum that Telstra uses for 4GX. And that means that through its LTE-Advanced Category 6 support, it's theoretically able to hit download speeds of 300Mbps when connected to two network towers and separate frequencies at the same time. It also lets the router itself, or users, switch over to the least congested bands in their areas, which is hugely useful when you're setting up an infrastructure router and testing for the best possible connection strength and band wherever you are.
Also importantly, the Accelerated 6350-SR has two SIM slots, both of which can connect to all bands at 4G speeds. And that means you can have a Telstra SIM next to a Vodafone SIM, with automatic failover if one gives up -- voila, even more reliable internet, even if you're in a not-so-perfect 4G coverage area. You can't set the router up for a teamed connection downloading with two SIM cards simultaneously, but in my limited experience in a mediocre connectivity area I didn't really miss that extra potential speed. It's more about having a redundant connection in case of an outage with one particular tower or network provider.
What's The Catch?
There's a big caveat with all of this: I'm lucky enough to not use a great deal of data at home, because I don't do a great deal of Netflix streaming or downloading -- most of my media is already saved, and my home internet mostly gets used for gaming and uploading files for work. For those use cases 4G is great -- I need fast upload speeds just as much as I need downloads, and 4G's latency of ~20ms is just fine for my mediocre first-person shooter skills. But, if you're pulling down hundreds of gigabytes of data per month, you'll either be better served on even a bad fixed-line connection or be comfortable with paying a lot.
In terms of 4G data plans with decent included quotas, Vaya gives you 70GB for $79 per month. 50GB on Vodafone is $60 a month. As a year-long expiry option, 20GB of Telstra 4G from Aldi will cost you $95. If you're covered by fast Optus 4G, you can get 140GB for $70 a month on a 12-month plan, or 100GB month-to-month -- this is the cheapest 4G I've seen, although you'll need to commit over the long term (no different to a fixed internet contract) if you want the full 140GB. As a point of comparison, you can get 500GB of 50Mbps NBN on Aussie Broadband for $75 a month, which should be a broadly comparable speed to 4G. MyRepublic gives you unlimited data 100Mbps for $70 a month, $75 on no contract.
And, of course, your speeds may vary. I'm in a coverage area in the inner west of Sydney that gets decent Telstra 4G through the 700MHz and 1800MHz bands, but great Vodafone 4G reception over 850MHz. The Accelerated's dual antennas get the best speed I've seen from any 4G modem in my house -- I'm topping 70Mbps download and 45Mbps upload on Telstra -- but everywhere is different. The same is true of fixed 'net, of course -- my awful 4mbps ADSL2+ is why I'm in this mess -- but network congestion is more of a potential issue with the limited 4G bandwidth that exists.
Should You Buy It?
If you're lucky enough to have good internet access in your home, you don't need a primary 4G router like the Accelerated 6350-SR. You'll already have great fixed internet, whether it's through an increasingly rare high-bandwidth ASDL2+ cable, part of Telstra's cable network that isn't clogged with users, or a high quality fibre NBN connection. (To be honest, any wired NBN connection should be better than a variable 4G one, but I've heard some horror stories about fibre to the node.) If you've got great fixed internet that's always going to be cheaper than even the most cost-effective 4G wireless plan and a high quality 4G router.
And so, a 4G router is a niche use case. You'll probably know if you need one. And the 6350-SR is also an extreme example of a 4G router -- it's a $990 product, and is aimed at small businesses that need constant connectivity to stay in operation and make money as much as it is at pro-level consumers. You could get a cheaper 4G hotspot with an Ethernet port like Netgear's Nighthawk M1, but a device like that isn't made to stay plugged in 24/7. Or you could get a cheaper Accelerated router, the most affordable of which starts at $499.
At the end of the day, if you have terrible fixed internet at home, there is a solution. It's not cheap, but it's damn effective.