If you follow us on LinkedIn, you may have seen us use the hashtags #notjustanotherrouter and #morethanbroadband – this is #thetrenchdifference!
So what do we mean by this?
Outpost isn’t just an alternative to a dongle, hotspot or 4G router – it’s so much more than that. When we designed Outpost, we created it to be the ultimate construction site rapid deployment system, not just for connectivity (although we certainly have that covered – read on!).
Your phone, a “dongle”, a hotspot, a 4G router – they’re all basically the same thing inside and designed to provide acceptable performance for a minimum build cost.
Outpost is different. Really different.
Under the hood are components you’d be more likely to find in a server than a router. That was a deliberate design decision to provide a maximum scope for performance.
At the heart of this is an aggregated 4G/LTE connection that features 4 high-performance multi-carrier connections – as standard. Off-the-shelf hardware provides a single 4G connection, sometimes paired with a second SIM for failover but they remain single-connection systems:
- In a single SIM solution, like a dongle or mobile phone hotspot, you have one connection over a single mobile provider. If you have poor signal strength, a high number of mobile users in the area or any other issue with that network, you’re stuffed – sorry!
- In a dual SIM router, you can insert a second SIM card. This is a system designed primarily for 2 reasons. Firstly, it allows for a degree of fault-tolerance: if the primary mobile network fails, it can reset the connection and bring it back up using another mobile provider – better than nothing but not ideal. Secondly, if you run out of data on one SIM, it can reset on another with additional allowance. In order for the second SIM to do anything, it needs a really good reason not to use the first SIM so in most cases, it probably sits there doing nothing but you’re still paying for it!
Outpost’s aggregated connection is different in a number of ways:
- Not only does it have 4 SIM cards, it has 4 connections using those SIM cards at all times. Each connection is dynamically analysed and the performance of that connection is added to an aggregate. You may have heard the term bonding – we choose not to say that, as some forms of bonding technology implies the connections all perform equally. This is most certainly not the case with mobile networks! The major factors of each connection are analysed automatically in the background, dynamically added to the aggregate and we typically see a “sum of parts” speed when all connections are combined.
- As we use multiple networks, we suffer far less with congestion issues than other solutions. In general, congestion occurs when large numbers of users on a particular network connect to the same mobile mast. As there is only so much “speed” to go around and performance drops. As our 4 connections can reach 4 different masts, when we encounter congestion, we can move data over another network and even dynamically reconnect to another mast.
- Connections come in on our own, private network. Please get in touch for a full explanation, but in effect, you aren’t sharing your Internet connection with every other EE, O2 or other network user.
In a broadly unscientific test, we decided to run a quick comparison between Outpost and a couple of other popular solutions.
From our experience on sites we’ve “come to the rescue” on, we selected the following systems to benchmark against a fresh Generation 6 Outpost:
- The Huawei E5577C mobile hotspot – a low-cost, compact device often given as part of a data plan in mobile shops.
- The Draytek 2760n – we picked this up from a client site when we upgraded their connection to an Outpost. They didn’t want it back! This is a regular broadband router that allows you to plug a USB dongle into it for a 3G/4G connection, in this case a Huawei E33772.
- A Teltonika RUT950 – a popular off-the-shelf industrial router from the Lithuanian vendor, often rebadged and repackaged as a construction solution. Relatively low-cost, we purchased one from Amazon.
Our methodology was as follows:
- Each device should be as close to out-of-the-box as possible – simply run through the setup wizards where applicable. Outpost was similarly unoptimised – it was a basic deployment.
- To make sure we were testing the 4G, not the Wi-Fi, we cabled the test machine to the device if possible. As the Huawei E5577C if a Wi-Fi only device, that had to be tested as Wi-Fi.
- We used Vodafone as our mobile carrier on all devices – the 4G signal is decent in our area. On Outpost, we used Vodafone on all the connections, therefore we aren’t benefiting from spreading the connection over multiple networks where normally we would do.
- We tested all devices at the same time of day – between 10 and 11am – and in the same location (our Head Office in an industrial estate).
- Only one device was powered on at any one time to avoid congestion.
- The speed test website was setup using our own infrastucture rather than a public system to avoid congestion and improve consistency.
- We performed 3 passes of each test and took an average. Each subtest had a 5 second gap between.
- We performed a TCP download and upload and measured the latency and jitter of each connection.
- The test device was a Dell Windows 10 laptop with a Core i5, 8GB RAM, SSD and used Chrome.
The results? Well, we weren’t surprised:
Download (higher is better):
- Huawei E5577C 12.29mbps
- Draytek 2760n + E3372 6.75mbps
- Teltonika RUT950 7.48mbps
- Outpost 40.76mbps
Upload (higher is better):
- Huawei E5577C 12.71mbps
- Draytek 2760n + E3372 2.28mbps
- Teltonika RUT950 3.09mbps
- Outpost 20.83mbps
Latency (lower is better):
- Huawei E5577C 88.59msec
- Draytek 2760n + E3372 155.20msec
- Teltonika RUT950 158.43msec
- Outpost 55.70msec
Jitter (lower is better):
- Huawei E5577C 138.18msec
- Draytek 2760n + E3372 221.00msec
- Teltonika RUT950 254.20msec
- Outpost 27.86msec
We had issues with all 3 other devices and it’s worth mentioning. We connected the E5577C to a laptop USB port to charge and it immediately blue-screened Windows!
The Draytek stalled significantly throughout the tests and the RUT950 required multiple factory resets just to get a working connection.
It’s no surprise Outpost came out on top in our own benchmark – significantly so in each test – but it was important for us to put some real-world numbers out there to combat the number of times we see 300mbps or “fibre equivalent” claims by these other units. We tested these under real-world conditions, outside of a city centre.
We expected the Huawei to come in better than the other single-link devices as it supported LTE Cat6 (also known as 4G+ or LTE-A), which supports up to 300mbps of downstream speeds (in an ideal situation) whereas the other two are LTE Cat4 (usually referred to as “just” 4G), which supports 150mbps downstream. While none of those speeds are attainable in almost any real-world test, LTE-A devices contain other enhancements and typically run on newer revision silicon that brings other enhancements, even when an LTE-A connection is not available.
Outpost, on the other hand, with it’s modular design uses 4 LTE-A connections (and can support 600mbps Cat12, 1.2Gbps Cat18 and emerging 5G standards, where beneficial).
While we are going to add more devices in a future benchmark and extend the number of tests, if you need the highest-performing connectivity solution for your site, there is only one option.