5G is extremely new and if you are serious about reliable internet connectivity we STRONGLY encourage you to read this article in its entirety before making a purchase decision. Our friends at the Mobile Internet Resource Center are closely tracking the evolution of 5G technology. Keep up to date using these collections of resources which are updated as the technology & access evolves.
Table of Contents
Many customers have asked us about if they should be looking at 5G ready devices and possibly waiting or purchasing now depending on our recommendations. As of March 2021 this article provides additional information on this topic and the opinion of our Founder, Erik McCauley. Note that 5G is a rapidly changing technology and the opinions expressed in this article will likely be changing so before making a decision we recommend emailing us or firing up a chat with our team at MobileMustHave.com if you have questions. Our friends at the Mobile Internet Resource Center are closely tracking the evolution of 5G and have made the following information available.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of MobileMustHave.com. Any content provided by our bloggers or authors are of their opinion and are not supported, endorsed or guaranteed by MobileMustHave.com.
5G is finally here for Pepwave Business Class Mobile Routers
Its official, Pepwave has officially gone public with its first round of 5G enabled mobile devices and MobileMustHave.com will be one of the first to have them in stock and ready to ship. On Monday, March 15th, 2021 Peplink officially started sending newsletters announcing a new lineup of 5G enabled mobile routers including some models focused on the mobile enthusiast and RV/Boating community. Peplink's official press release is available here: https://www.peplink.com/technology/5g-with-peplink/
Now as with everything that we see from a large company with a formal marketing department, the reality of the products versus what is stated in the marketing can be somewhat "optimistic" in terms of what the technology can do today, tomorrow and beyond. Thats ok as that is marketing! Without breakthroughs in technology forward progress would be impossible but that doesn't mean that picking up the latest 5G modem is a good idea for you right now. Ok with that said let's explain a bit more about 5G, what is and isnt supported and some high level information about the Pepwave 5G Product Lineup.
What Type of 5G is supported?
The cellular companies have done quite a job confusing folks about 5G and the reality of the speeds they should expect. Before we get into that, let's talk about the two main types of 5G and which version is supported by Peplink mobile routers.
5G Ultra Wide Band or Millimeter Wave - (Not Supported By Pepwave)
5G Ultra Wide Band operates on extremely high frequencies (~30,000mhz +) and as such can support extremely fast data speeds. That said the range of Ultra Wide Band is extremely limited, typically less than 1000 ft in most realistic situations. Advertising about 5G ultra wide band by the cellular companies is largely responsible for the public being totally confused about the reality of 5G and what it can really do in every day life. Keeping things simple for this article, 5G Ultra Wide Band is only suitable for dense urban environments like Time Square, NYC or for your next rock concert or Nascar event. Think of this technology as extremely fast but with a range so limited that it can only be utilized in extremely dense environments like the ones listed above. Window glass or even rain drops will impact the performance of this highly volatile short range technology making it not suitable for RV/Mobile use. As such Pepwave devices do not support Ultra Wide Band 5G and either do other business class mobile routers like CradlePoint. This is mainly because the Ultra Wide Band Technology requires the internal antennas be so close to the modem to prevent signal loss that it's not feasible to built a modem that supports external antennas and also supports ultra wide band. That said, ultra wide band again is not suitable for 99% of mobile internet customers.
5G Nationwide or Low Band Spectrum (Supported By Pepwave)
What is commonly referred to as "Nationwide 5G" or Low Band Spectrum 5G is supported by Pepwave's new lineup of 5G mobile routers. 5G Nationwide operates in frequencies that are sub 6Ghz and much more effective at traveling longer distances allowing for a "nationwide network". While the carriers claim nationwide the actual coverage is still not in many areas but it is popping up in more and more cities and suburbs all the time. That said, the speed of Nationwide 5G is nowhere near what Ultra Wide Band is. Again keeping it simple as there are plenty of videos on the internet that will get into the technical stuff, 5G nationwide is more like a supped up version of 4G where they have widened the spectrum to allow for faster download speeds, sometimes as much as 100% faster. That said, in our testing we are finding 5G to actually be slower than 4G in 80+% of our testing. Read below for more information on that...
Will my Data Plan Support Pepwave 5G Devices?
The short answer is "maybe". It is still very early in the testing phase of these products in the USA and none of the 5G mobile routers are yet certified on any of the National cellular carriers like Verizon, Sprint/TMobile, or AT&T. For Verizon customers and AT&T customers this likely means that for at least the next 30-60 days the devices will have trouble being activated on the Verizon network. This is often because the IMEI numbers of the modems have not yet been loaded into the Verizon database preventing modems from being activated. This may be the case for other carriers as well. For certain data plans like the TMobile 100GB 5G data plan that does not require an IMEI for activation, we have confirmed the Pepwave 5G modems will be able to take advantage of TMobile's 600mhz 5G Band 71n Spectrum.
For customers on "reseller" data plans or Grandfathered Unlimited Data Plans we suspect that the 5G modems will not work or may work but not pickup 5G even in a 5G coverage area. This is because while many of those plans are "unlimited" the carriers are using the launch of 5G as an excuse to say "well those plans do not support 5G" forcing customers to upgrade to newer plans with 5G support that may have strict data caps or throttling restrictions. This is not good news and another reason we are cautioning customers from jumping into 5G supported modems at this time.
UPDATE: As of June 2021 we are finding some resellers have 5G access on plans. Check with your reseller to determine if their plan supports 5G and note you still may have activation issues or may need to activate with a legacy 4G device IMEI then move the SIM to 5G device. Check with your data reseller.
Is 5G Nationwide Faster Than 4G?
We have been doing testing throughout the country since 5G was launched primarily on the Verizon network as to be honest they had some of the best coverage early on. Both me (Erik) and Andy who are full-time RV'rs have been actively testing the 5G nationwide network in cities including Naples, FL, Orlando, FL, Dallas, TX, and in various areas in Virginia, Tennessee, Connecticut, New York, Utah, Nevada, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Georgia, and Luisiana. We have a limited data set, probably 100 data points essentially because anytime Andy or I get a 5G signal we pull over and run a side by side comparison with 4G to see what we find.
The findings have been somewhat concerning. In all but 2 tests we have found that the 5G network was actually slower than its 4G counterpart when tested. This was extremely puzzling as we figured it would at least be the same speed if not faster. For example as of today in Naples Florida in downtown "Old Naples" we were receiving a download speed of 1.65mbps using a Verizon Iphone 12 Pro. When switching over to 4G that number jumped up to 4.6mbps download. How can this be possible you might ask. We'll we are not experts in what is going on in the cellular industry but we think part of the problem is that Verizon and other carriers appear to be programming phones to connect to 5G towers even when those towers are actually further away then closer 4G towers. The result is a huge negative impact to device battery life on an Iphone but also slower download speeds since you're connecting to a further tower. Again we are not experts but here is an article recently published by PC Magazine that goes into these findings in greater detail.
UPDATE: As of June 2021 the 5G nationwide towers are performing much better than initially tested above. About 50% now test with at or above faster speeds then their 4G counterpart however this data set is small and evolving constantly. The TMobile 5G operating on 71n band in the 600mhz spectrum has tested the most promising in all of our tests however the speed increase above 4G is nominal, likely because the 4G counterpart is also fast often seeing speeds of 100-110mbps. Our friends at the Mobile Internet Resource Center have put together the following collection of resources related to 5G and the evolution of the technology which is up to date on the latest in 5G.
We expect as more and more towers are upgraded to 5G Nationwide capabilities this will change and perhaps change quickly but as of March 2021 that is what we are seeing. The cellular carriers appear to have a long way to go.
Pepwave 5G Product Lineup. Which Models are for RV/Mobile Use?
Pepwave Max Br1 5G PRO (August 2021, "Pro" has been added to the Product Name)
Pepwave has released information on a 5G Version of the Br1 Series of Mobile Router. This modem has an MSRP of $899.00 and could be a very attractive option for the right customer interested in utilizing 5G for testing or for production use as long as the customer understand there will likely be problems and future bumps in the road as with any new technology. This modem has has undergone a complete redesign for 2021 and is expected to release in late 2nd quarter. Check the listing page link above for additional information. Information is still coming in but this modem looks very promising.
Mobile Internet Resource Center has a detailed product review of the BR1 5G Pro here.
Pepwave Max Transit 5G
Pepwave has released information on a 5G version of the Max Transit Series of Mobile Router. This modem has an MSRP of $999.00 and could be a very attractive option for the right customer interested in utilizing 5G for testing or for production use as long as the customer understand there will likely be problems and future bumps in the road as with any new technology. This modem has essentially the same specs as the very popular Transit CAT 18 from our Speed Demon bundle but has the 5G modem upgrade. Why choose the transit over the BR1 5G? The specs are quite close but as of June 2021 the Transit would be idea for those with installation size limitations and for those who want to take advantage of Peplink's embedded Wireless Access Point Controller for secondary wireless access points which the BR1 series does not support.
Mobile Internet Resource Center has a detailed product review of the Transit 5G here.
Pepwave MBX 5G
Pepwave has released information about the HD4 MBX modem which everyone is talking about as a great router for mobile internet based specs and above press release. While MobileMustHave.com will have these modems in stock, most models are priced typically in excess of $10,000 dollars so they are not a fit for 99% of mobile internet customers. The MBX 5G features a quad cellular technology with 3 WAN ports making it a truly unstoppable mobile powerhouse with 4 separate 5G modems, 2 USB ports and 3 Wired WAN ports. That means up to 9 simultaneous WAN connections and support for Speedfusion bonding. If it's in your budget, it's going to be one of the most, if not the most powerful mobile router of 2021. That said, you will need 16, yes 16! cellular antennas on your roof so be prepared for at least 4 4x4 MIMO dome units on your roof with this mobile powerhouse.
Pepwave 310 5G
Pepwave has released information about the Balance 310 5G. This unit features a 5G and CAT 12 4G modem giving it dual modem capabilities. This until may be an ideal solution for remote branch offices that are looking for cellular backup or for rural home use with work remote/redundancy needs.
Pepwave has released information about the HD4 MBX modem which everyone is talking about as a great router for mobile internet based on the above press release. While MobileMustHave.com will have these modems in stock, most models are priced typically in excess of $10,000 dollars so they are not a fit for 99% of mobile internet customers.
Should I Wait and Buy a 5G Modem or Buy a 4G Modem?
That is a tricky question but we will do our best to answer it. If you are looking to have a reliable, rock solid internet connection with the fewest number of issues, then no, we do not think 5G modems are for you as of August 2021. We think the technology needs a minimum of 90 days before I would consider that for customers who are not beta testers or folks who love playing with technology. This isn't just because of the current state of 5G, this is also because ANY new modem that is released typically has the most number of problems in the first 90 days. This is because the manufacturers have to work out the bugs on the devices and often through no fault of Pepwave, they also need to work with the cellular carriers to work out issues with device compatibility. If you are looking for a fast, reliable internet solution as of March 2021, then we would suggest sticking with our Speed Demon or Ultimate Road Warrior bundles at this time.
Update as of June 2021. The Pepwave firmware shipping in most devices now supports 5G/4G network selection which is a huge improvement from the original firmware. A manual firmware update is required and firmware is listed on Peplink's website. Band locking is still not supported. We have spoken to Peplink who have assured us this is in development and will be part of future firmware releases.
That said, if you already are a Pepwave customer and have an existing modem that is functioning for your every day use and you want to join the growing number of customers testing and migrating to 5G then this might be a viable option for you. Just prepare yourself that there will be issues and thats ok, there will also be benefits just like with any emerging technology. The future of 5G is very promising and if you are prepared to deal with being part of a pioneering group of folks to be "first" then a 5G modem might be right for you.
Our friends at the Mobile Internet Resource Center are closely tracking the evolution of 5G technology. Keep up to date using these collections of resources which are updated as the technology & access evolves.
If you feel you are not getting anywhere or there is another issue you can always reach out to our team directly by initiating a ticket here on the support portal or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for being the best part of MobileMustHave.com!