Smartphones, USB modems, and ExpressCards have become very popular in the past few years, and with good reason. All the aforementioned devices allow individuals to easily and rapidly access the Internet from just about anywhere their wireless carrier provides cellular coverage. Unfortunately, most of those wireless devices only allow one user to connect to the web at a given time. Here’s where CradlePoint and one of its mobile routers come in.
I recently had the opportunity to try out the CradlePoint CTR500 3G/4G Mobile Broadband Router, which allows users to easily create a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot for up to 32 devices by plugging one of several 3G or 4G USB modems, ExpressCards, and even select smartphones.
The CradlePoint CTR500 Mobile Router is available for $199.99. It’s sold online at www.cradlepointstore.com along several other wireless and mobile electronics retailers. Users can also purchase various additional accessories such as a travel case, car power adapter, and external antenna.
The CradlePoint CTR500 Mobile Broadband Travel Router features a USB port, Wireless On/Off switch, Ethernet port, power slot, reset button, data/signal toggle button, ExpressCard slot, ExpressCard lock switch, and external antenna port. On top of the device there are five LEDs to indicate power, USB modem activity, ExpressCard modem activity, WLAN, Ethernet WAN, in addition to a LED signal strength indicator.
Once the device is plugged to a power outlet and turned on, the Wi-Fi connection can extend up to 150 feet in range. However, users can extend the range by purchasing an optional +5bd External Antenna, which sells for $19.99. The CradlePoint CTR500 supports the 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi standards. It’s compatible with 3G and 4G wireless devices.
The device is just 4.7″ x 2.8″ x 0.8″ in size. It’s just a bit bulkier than most modern smartphones, which makes it absolutely easy to carry in a briefcase, backpack, purse, and even shirt or pant pockets. Additionally, it’s very light weight.
Users are required to have a USB modem or ExpressCard with an active data subscription, or a smartphone with a tethering plan. An Internet browser is also needed to managed security and interface. Most current browsers will get the job done.
As advertised, the CradlePoint CTR500 is pretty simple to use. It doesn’t require any software and/or applications. All you have to do is plug it to a power source and connect a to a USB modem, ExpressCard, smartphone, or a combination of the three. The first time the device is used, or after a reset, users must set up a password and rename the network if they choose to do so, something which is highly recommended.
As default, the network will be called CRT500-xxx. Users must find it, and connect to it. Once they open their browser, a generic CradlePoint page will be loaded asking for a password. Users must enter the default password, which is the last six digits of the MAC address on the bottom of the router, and that’s it. At this point, individuals can easily rename and encrypt their network by visiting http://192.168.0.1.
As long as you have an unlimited data subscription and a 3G or 4G wireless Internet device, you can create a Wi-Fi hotspot pretty much anywhere. You can choose to encrypt your connection with WEP or WPA/WPA2 standards. Plus the device comes with a built-in firewall for maximum protection. Additionally, the CradlePoint CTR500 is failover/failback redundant. That means that if by any reason your primary connection is lost, the device will automatically find a different way to connect to the network, provided that the resources are available (such as a secondary internet connection). Once the primary connection is restored, the router will re-connect to it.
One more advantage of the CradlePoint CTR500 is its versatility. It currently supports several different types of USB modems, ExpressCards, and smartphones on various different networks. Also, unlike the popular Mi-Fi or the Overdrive Mobile Hotspot, users will not have to sign a new two-year contract with their carrier to use the CradlePoint CTR500 — or limit the Wi-Fi connection to just around eight devices.
Lastly, one of the best things about the CradlePoint CTR500 is that user don’t have to install any software or applications at all. Just a simple setup is required the first time of use, and that’s it. Other devices will not need to do anything other connect to the network and enter a password [if password-protected].
Unfortunately, just as with any other product, the CradlePoint CTR500 has it disadvantages. First and foremost, the device is advertised as a mobile router that works pretty much anywhere “from off-site meetings to concerts to races to picture day at the soccer field.” However, the router needs to be plugged-in to a power source. Therefore, users are limited to work at places with power outlets. It’s important to take into account that the company sells a car power adapter for $24.99. This let individuals use the CradlePoint CTR500 while on-the-go.
With that said, I find the price of the CradlePoint CTR500 to be a bit high. At $200, the device is more expensive than many mobile hotspot devices such as the Mi-Fi or smartphones such as the Palm Pre Plus, which actually offers a free Wi-Fi hotspot application. Speaking of smartphones, users will be required to purchase a tethering plan from their carriers when using their mobile phone.
There’s also not a way to track data consumption. Although advertised as unlimited, most data and tethering plans offered by wireless carriers actually do have a limit, after which users must pay for every single megabyte used. CradlePoint CTR500 owners must be careful and track their data allowance when allowing several devices to connect to their network.
I found the CradlePoint CTR500 to be an easy-to-use mobile router. It’s ultra convenient and hassle-free. As long as there’s a power source and a 3G/4G wireless Internet device, one can be connected to a reliable and secure network in seconds. The device is ultra-portable and versatile. Users can purchase different accessories to accommodate their needs.
Considering that up to 32 devices can connect wirelessly to the Wi-Fi network created by the CradlePoint CTR500, I’d say the device is aimed mainly toward businesses. Do bear in mind that CradlePoint, the company behind the CTR500 mobile broadband router, offers other similar devices for home, business, and enterprise.
For more information about the CradlePoint CTR500, visit www.cradlepoint.com.