Mobile router manufacturer Cradlepoint has an excellent reputation for building quality hardware that appeals to mobile users with demanding needs, and Cradlepoint has been the leader in bringing gigabit LTE technology to cellular-integrated routers.
Cradlepoint inarguably makes great hardware, and the COR IBR900 has been a top pick (our review) since it came out.
But Cradlepoint doesn't want to sell hardware anymore.
Rather than selling hardware, Cradlepoint is "evolving" to offer "products as a service" - and new clarifications in Cradlepoint's support policies make it clear that maintaining an ongoing paid subscription to Cradlepoint's NetCloud service should now be considered mandatory for all Cradlepoint customers.
In particular - beginning next month, Cradlepoint will only provide software updates to customers who have an active subscription to Cradlepoint's NetCloud remote management system. Even the most critical security updates will be reserved for subscribers only.
Cradlepoint warns that a "new automated license verification" system is going in place, and:
"Any endpoints that are not licensed by an active subscription or are running software that is outside of the EOL policy will eventually experience a downgrade in functionality that may result in a network impact."
We've been told that "at the end of this month" Cradlepoint will be removing all firmware upgrade ability outside of NetCloud subscription, and all firmware updates will only be possible via the NetCloud Manager.
If you have any existing Cradlepoint hardware that is not currently covered by NetCloud - be sure to get it updated to the latest firmware by the end of June 2019!
NOTE: If you already have the latest firmware, Cradlepoint has actually removed the "Update Firmware" button from the local control panel user interface since future updates will be exclusively via NetCloud.
If you currently own or were considering purchasing any Cradlepoint hardware, this policy change is an important consideration to keep in mind.
For the video version of this story, with instructions on how to get your firmware up to date before the end of June:
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Cradlepoint’s Consumer Hostile History
Cradlepoint was an early pioneer in creating small routers that could directly tether to USB cellular modems to get online and create a mobile hotspot, and Cradlepoint used to target individual mobile professionals and even the RV market specifically.
But back in 2014 Cradlepoint ended support for the last of its mainstream consumer focused products to focus on the enterprise market - and in the process rolled out a policy of requiring a paid support contract to maintain access to firmware updates and ongoing support.
That did not go over well, and in 2015 Cradlepoint backed down from that requirement - issuing a statement to resellers saying:
"Over the past few months, we’ve spent a great deal of time listening. ... We have also heard you loud and clear about your customers’ concerns regarding firmware updates, and want to make sure you have everything you need to continue to win in the marketplace and keep your customers loyal and happy."
Now that four years have passed, Cradlepoint is once again moving to require an ongoing service contract to receive any firmware updates and support.
Cradlepoint is very clearly focused on serving the needs of enterprise-scale fleet deployments, and individuals customers without an IT department need not apply.
This is an understandable, but unfortunate, shift - particularly considering Cradlepoint's past consumer-friendly history.
NetCloud Normally Not Needed
NetCloud Manager is Cradlepoint's subscription cloud service that allows IT managers to remotely manage fleets of mobile routers from a centralized web-based console.
You can track a fleet of police vehicles on a map, manage data plan usage for ambulances, offer paid internet options to hundreds of passengers on a train, or administer widely dispersed remote offices - all from one dashboard.
But if you have a single Cradlepoint router installed into an RV or a boat - 99% of what NetCloud offers is completely superfluous. Up until now - NetCloud was pretty easy to ignore.
But now it will be required for firmware updates.
What Happens When NetCloud Expires?
Cradlepoint has published an FAQ explaining the new enforcement rules:
Once an endpoint is “Unlicensed”, it will lose access to NetCloud Manager and will continue with essential routing capabilities and its last basic configuration; however, your network may be impacted. More specifically:
- It will no longer be able to be managed in NetCloud Manager
- It will no longer be able to upgrade NetCloud OS
- It will no longer support NetCloud Perimeter
- It will no longer use API and SDK applications.
- It will no longer be able to act as a hub in Auto VPN, and will no longer be able to connect as a spoke
- Configuration changes will be disabled
- NetCloud software running on the device will be limited
- Full device functionality will be restored when proper licensing is applied.
Most of this will be of little concern to most users. But the lack of software updates and the ability to make configuration changes impacts everyone.
Fortunately - we are being told that configuration changes to your Cradlepoint router via the local web interface WILL still be allowed. Only remote management via NetCloud will be blocked.
This means that your existing Cradlepoint routers will continue to function as expected - but you will now be left behind by future software and security updates unless you pay up.
How Much Does NetCloud Cost?
Every Cradlepoint router comes with one year of NetCloud coverage - but additional years can be pricey.
The price varies by product - but the COR and AER models that are most popular with individual mobile users will cost:
- $180 for 1 year
- $540 for 3 years
- $900 for 5 years
This is per router - so if you happen to have a Cradlepoint in multiple vehicles this will add up painfully fast.
You can however save some money by buying extras years of coverage up front. For example - the IBR900-1200M router with a Cat-18 LTE modem currently sells at 5G Store for $999 with one year of NetCloud, $1,248 with 3 years, and $1,508 with 5 years.
Holding back security updates just makes the entire internet less of a safe space for everyone, and most individual customers do not need the various enterprise-focused features that the NetCloud subscription enables.
Hopefully Cradlepoint might reconsider this move - like it did last time it tried this back in 2015.
But it seems that Cradlepoint is fully focused on moving towards selling "services" instead of hardware, so a change of heart seems unlikely.
Meanwhile - we checked in with Cradlepoint's prime competitor in the high-end cellular router space, Peplink.
Peplink confirmed to us that they have no plans to ever charge for software updates for Pepwave router products in the future.
Other Cradlepoint Stories:
- Cradlepoint 1200M Modem Certified for Verizon Posted on: June 19, 2019
- Cradlepoint Changing Support Policy, Requiring Service Contract for Firmware Security Updates Posted on: June 7, 2019
- High End Update: Cradlepoint Goes Gigabit LTE & Peplink Pioneers Roof-Mounted Cellular With Indoor SIM Cards Posted on: January 28, 2019
- 2017 Mobile Internet Year in Review & Looking Forward Into 2018 Posted on: December 30, 2017
- Cradlepoint Announces New Flagship COR IBR900 Mobile Router Posted on: January 23, 2017
- 2016 RV Mobile Internet Year in Review & Looking Forward Into 2017 Posted on: January 6, 2017
- Cradlepoint Embraces LTE-Advanced, Multi-Carrier Radios Posted on: June 1, 2016
- MaxxFi Mobile Broadband: Exxagerated... But Interesting Posted on: May 10, 2015
- Cradlepoint Reverses Consumer Hostile Firmware Policy Posted on: April 25, 2015
- Cradlepoint Orphans Consumer-Friendly Mobile Routers Posted on: July 10, 2014