The 4G coverage in the UK has massively improved over the last couple of years, and for many people working from home or residing in more rural areas, 4G now presents a viable alternative to using a fixed-line Internet service, such as from the likes of BT or Virgin.
With a UK average speed of 35mbps, users now have plenty of bandwidth when it comes to communicating with their loved ones over a video call, watching high definition videos, running an online business and general day to day browsing.
In fact, you will often find it is easier to set up your own 4G based wireless network in your home or office than it is to arrange for a broadband or fibre package to be installed at your address.
All you need are three things:
- An activated data SIM card
- A 4G (LTE) router
- An external 4G antenna
Data SIM Card
When using a 4G service with a 4G router you will need to use a data SIM card, which is not the same as a SIM card that you typically put in your mobile phone, in fact, an easier method of identifying a data SIM is that it will not come with any free minutes or texts.
Some network providers may also call a data SIM a Mobile Internet or Mobile Broadband SIM.
Although you can technically use a standard mobile phone SIM in a 4G router, it is only a matter of time before the network realises that and will either respond by cutting the service off or throttling your connection speed.
Our recommendation when it comes to choosing a data SIM contract is to choose a network provider who has the best coverage in the area, and not necessarily the fastest speed, as there is no point in having a faster service if the coverage is unreliable, plus unless you are streaming higher than 4K resolution video, in reality, you do not need anything higher than 25mbps.
We also recommend that you choose a package with a fixed amount of data rather than an unlimited one, mainly because unlimited data contracts will not get priority when the network becomes busy, it really is a case of the more you pay, the better the service when it comes to 4G contracts.
4G (LTE) Router
When considering purchasing and using a 4G router, the LTE category of router will usually determine the maximum throughput that the router can support, for example, a Cat5 LTE router can support up to 150mbps down and 50mbps up, whereas a Cat6 LTE router can support up to 300mbps down and 50mpbs up.
Of course, this is not the only determining factor, often more expensive routers come with other technologies built-in, such as aggregation which can improve your connection speed.
We recently had an example where a customer could achieve a download speed of 30mbps using a Cat4 LTE router, but when the same data SIM card was placed in a Cat6 router, the download speed increased to a 90mbps, clearly in this case aggregation made all the difference.
Another consideration, when choosing a 4G router, is the LTE module itself, not to get too technical but you will tend to find that cheaper 4G router will skimp on the specs to achieve a certain price range which does explain why you may experience poorer performance and may need to reboot the unit if the connection drops on cheaper 4G routers.
Solwise exclusively sells the Teltonika range of 4G routers which are designated as machine-to-machine class which means they are designed to operate independently and not require user interaction once they are set up, often used in remote locations such as wind farms.
In addition, all Teltonika routers have a function called Ping reboot which will actively check that the Internet connection is still active and, if the connection ever drops, automatically reboots the LTE module and re-establishes a connection, a function seldomly found in lower-end 4G routers aimed at the retail market.
For about 99% of requirements, our recommendation would be to look at the RUT240 model, a Cat4 router, which comes with all the functionality of a higher-end model except for lower spec Wi-Fi capabilities.
Alternatively, if you want a top of range Cat6 4G dual wireless router, then look at the RUTX11 model although this could be overkill if you are unable to achieve the maximum connection speed from a network provider.
Either way, both models are a great choice for setting up a 4G wireless network in your home or office.
External 4G Antenna
Due to the nature of radio waves, it is entirely possible that you can connect to a 4G network with decent signal strength outside of a building, only for it to degrade dramatically once you move inside.
Unfortunately, radio waves do not penetrate through objects very well, and the higher the frequency the less so, but luckily there is an easy fix; position an external antenna outside high as possible and in the general position of the local mast, and then run cables back to the router.
Now, there are some considerations when doing this, the main one being signal loss over the length of the cable, which you cannot really avoid, all of the antennas that we sell have a specified cable length, usually two or five metres which we strongly recommend you do not extend as doing so will reduce the effectiveness of the antenna in question.
The antennas power is measured as gain in units of decibels which dictates how thin the beam angle of the antenna is when used to connect to an existing signal, which does mean that you can be in scenario where your antenna gain is too high and completely misses the signal from the 4G mast.
It is not an exact science, but as a general rule the further you are away from the 4G mast, the higher the gain you want on the antenna, which is why you will typically find marine designed antennas have higher gain as they could be positioned several miles away from the nearest mast. Of course, if the 4G signal is weak to start with, then an antenna would not magically make it better.
A common misconception is that using an external antenna will improve the connection speed to 4G mast, this is not always the case as connection speed is usually determined by a two main factors, the network service itself, and how congested the mast is. A 4G router will usually attempt to move to another mast if congestion is detected but this is not guaranteed.
A further consideration is the type of external antenna to use, of which there are two; omni-directional and directional. As the name implies, omni-directional means that the antenna can pick up signals from roughly a 360 degree angle, but this assumes that it positioned high another that it can actually see the 4G mast in question with rough line of sight and is not obscured by too many nearby objects.
In contrast a directional antenna requires clear line of sight to a 4G mast to work, which means no trees, buildings or any other stationary objects, which is very hard to achieve in an urban environment and thus better suited for rural placement.
You also must consider that if a 4G mast becomes busy, then it is possible the router may attempt to switch to another mast meaning that the directional antenna is now positioned in the wrong direction.
Our recommendation is that, unless you can guarantee 100% clear line of sight to the 4G mast and that the service is not going to move to another nearby mast, use a directional antenna otherwise use an omni-directional one.
Solwise sell a wide range of antennas designed for all different types of applications, ranging from fixed building placement, marine application and vehicle mounting.
For fixed building placement, our first recommendation would be the Poynting XPOL-1, which is an omni-directional external 4G antenna, or the directional Poynting XPOL-2.
In addition, both antennas are cross polarised which means that the antenna is designed in such a way that it intercepts signals on both the horizontal and vertical axis.
For vehicle placement, our recommendation would be the Puck2, which is a low profile external omni-directional 4G antenna designed to be positioned on the roof of a moving vehicle.
And for marine placement, our recommendation would be the A-MIMO-0003-V2-12, which is an omnidirectional 4G antenna designed to operate in harsh sea conditions, whilst still maintaining a relatively low-profile design.
All the aforementioned antenna are 100% compatible with the Teltonika range of 4G routers, in fact a combination of the Poynting XPOL-1 and Teltonika RUT240 is usually our first recommendation for fixed placement use, and the combination of a Teltonika RUT240 and Poynting Puck2 for a vehicle setup.
With the advancement and coverage of 4G in the UK, especially in rural locations and the possibility of working from home becoming the norm, then it is no wonder why many people are now turning to 4G connectivity for running their businesses or contacting their loved ones, and with the right equipment and service why would you not consider using 4G as your primary connection to the wider world. Get in touch today for more information and to discuss your requirements.