Netgear’s Orbi range provides several mesh networking systems that are suitable for both home and business users, but they all require a fast and reliable wired internet connection. That’s not always possible, though, and there are many rural areas and outdoor locations that don’t have access to fast broadband over copper or fibre.
With that in mind, the latest addition to the Orbi range, the Orbi 4G LTE (LBR20), takes a two-pronged approach, supporting both wired networking via Ethernet and 4G LTE mobile broadband. You can use the mobile broadband connection by itself, in order to set up a wi-fi hotspot in a location that doesn’t have access to a wired network, or as a backup option in case your normal internet connection is unavailable. It could also be handy when working from home, allowing you to extend your network to a garden or other spot that’s out of reach of your normal wi-fi router.
Design & features
The Orbi 4G LTE sticks with Netgear’s familiar design, with an upright white casing and glowing blue top panel. However, it differs from the rest of the Orbi range in several ways. Unlike most mesh wi-fi systems, which typically include a primary router and one or more satellites, the Orbi 4G LTE router is sold on its own, priced at £308.33 (ex. VAT; £370 inc. VAT, or $399.99). This single unit can be used as a conventional wi-fi router and supports tri-band 802.11ac wi-fi with a maximum speed of 2.2Gbps. It includes two Gigabit Ethernet ports, one of which can be used to connect the Orbi to an existing broadband modem or router, while the second provides a wired connection for a laptop or other device.
Setup is straightforward, as you can simply scan a QR code and use the Netgear app to set up your new wi-fi network. There’s also a web browser interface for more experienced users and IT managers who may need more precise control over the network configuration. And, although it’s sold on its own, the Orbi 4G LTE can also be used to set up a mesh network when used with other Orbi models that use WiFi 5/802.11ac wi-fi (WiFi 6/802.11ax is not currently supported).
The Orbi 4G LTE is expensive for a conventional 802.11ac router, but if there’s no wired network available it includes a slot for a Nano SIM card (not included) that will allow you to use 3G or 4G LTE mobile broadband instead.
You can configure the Orbi 4G LTE to work exclusively in either wired mode or mobile broadband mode, but there’s also a ‘failover’ option that allows the router to automatically switch to mobile broadband if your wired connection fails. This means that you can use the Orbi as a conventional router in an office most of the time, while still having the 4G LTE option available as an emergency backup.
According to Netgear, the 4G LTE option provides mobile broadband speeds of up to 1.2Gbps, with the Orbi router providing wi-fi coverage for areas up to 1,500 square feet (139 square metres), so its mobile connectivity can also be used to set up an extensive wi-fi network in a location that doesn’t have access to a conventional wired network. However, the Orbi 4G LTE isn’t designed as a portable hotspot as it requires mains power.
The Orbi 4G LTE supports mobile broadband from most UK suppliers, although customers in the US should check compatibility on Netgear’s website before buying.
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