[In Progress] Cellular Equipment Field Testing Results – Netgear Modems / USB730 (Late 2017)

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We're doing some quick testing of some new cellular modems we have in for review.

The new cellular equipment we're testing:
  • Netgear LTE Modem - Released in earlier this year, it's an unlocked cellular modem that requires a router to operate. Unlike a Jetpack/MiFi, it does not have a battery either. It's optimized for AT&T frequencies, but also covers T-Mobile and some of Verizon's bands. We are testing all three carriers on it, compared against these devices:
    • AT&T
      • Unite Explore - Our top pick AT&T mobile hotspot
      • ZTE Mobley - The popular Connected Car device that a $20/month unlimited data plan can be activated on
    • T-Mobile
      • ZTE 917 - T-Mobile's mobile hotspot device
    • Verizon
      • 7730L - Our top pick Verizon Jetpack
      • USB730 - The newly released USB modem stick
  • USB730 - Just released from Novatel and Verizon in summer 2017, this is the latest USB modem stick. We'll be comparing it against:
  • Netgear Nighthawk - Just released from Netgear in late October 2017 locked to the AT&T network, this is an impressive looking device taking advantage of their '5G Evolution' technology (not to be confused with actual 5G).  We will be comparing it to:

We are testing each with and without the following antenna:

For guides to LTE Modems & antennas:

Selecting a LTE Mobile Hotspot or Modem (MiFi / Jetpack)

Understanding & Optimizing your Cellular Data Performance

Selecting a Cellular Antenna

Understanding MIMO (Multiple Input, Multiple Output) – LTE Speed & Cell Booster Implications

Our testing procedures:

We start by taking 3 baseline readings with each of our cellular devices with no booster or antenna.

Each device is tested independently, with all other nearby devices in airplane mode to prevent any potential interference.

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Next, for each device we test each booster and/or antenna combination. We take readings with the mobile hotspot device directly on the interior antenna for boosters, and for those claiming extended interior range we also test at 6' away.

The readings taken are:

  • Signal strength db reading, on devices that support it using Field Test mode.
  • Signal bars/dots present & service type - HSPA, LTE (and specifically which band, when possible), 3G, 1XRT, Edge, etc.
  • DL = Download speed.
  • UL = Upload speed.
  • Ping time.
  • SNR or Quality - Signal to Noise Ratio, if reported by device.

For speed and ping readings, we are using the Ookla Speedtest app. When testing mobile hotspots we test on one of our iPads while connected via WiFi to the hotspot. We keep the distance between iPad and mobile hotspot consistent over the same WiFi band to rule out WiFi variables.

Each testing location takes several hours to complete and burns through a good chunk of data. It was a very time intensive process to collect the raw data displayed below.

All of the individual field testing results and observations shared below are for our members. Not only will the results show the performance of each booster/antenna, but also what to expect in different types of signal situations.

Testing Disclaimer:

Our goal in our cellular and Wi-Fi gear testing isn’t to attempt to create perfectly “fair” lab conditions, which are impossible in the real world. Instead, we try to strike a balance between real-world scenarios and the need to be able to test multiple setups head-to-head while being able to rapidly switch between them.

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By testing in a range of locations and situations patterns tend to emerge - and we always try to sanity-check our conclusions by mixing things up to make sure that the overall results make sense and are representative.

Testing Status: October 20: We have tested in 4 locations and our field testing data is shown below for members. 

The data we are collecting will be integrated into our reviews of the new products in this line up.


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