5G Modems and Routers

Outdoor or indoor 5G router? Which is better for you?

There are lots of 5G routers coming to the market in the near future. From fixed outdoor units to mobile devices, the spectrum of devices is large. For mobile needs the only way to go is a battery powered mobile 5G router like the Netgear MR5200, but for your home you have more options. But the biggest question is whether to go for an indoor or out door unit?

Should you go for an indoor or outdoor unit? That depends on your needs. The clear advantage for outdoor units is the improved reception of 5G outside. On average 5G utilizes higher frequencies than 4G/LTE networks. Higher frequencies allow for more capacity and bandwidth. The downside is that the signal is weaker, range is reduced and penetration through walls and windows is poor.

The two most common 5G bands are the sub-6GHz band and millimeter wave (mmWave). For sub-6GHz you can get indoor modems like Huawei CPE Pro 2 or Nokia FastMile 5G Gateway which can function well based on your location in the city or suburbs. Further out in the suburb or in the country side an outdoor unit like the Zyxel NR7101 or Huawei CPE Win is a must, even for 3.5GHz frequency band. In areas of strong 4G signal where the unit switches to that instead of 5G, a CPE with Band Locking such as the ZTE MC801A allows a more reliable connection.

Millimeter wave is really only expected to be deployed in urban environments to add capacity. The short range and high capacity make it ideal for densely populated locations with metro stations or other similar public spaces. If you do have millimeter wave available in your apartment or house and you want to use it for Fixed Wireless Access (FWA), then an outdoor unit like the Linksys 5G Outdoor Router is a must.

Installing an outdoor unit is more laborsome than an indoor unit. It required ethernet cabling to be pulled to the installation location. Power can be carried with the same cable as data. In some cases installation can be done using thin ethernet cable or pass through pieces through the window, but for best results the unit should be placed on the root. In addition with an outdoor unit you need to have an indoor WiFi unit to share the 5G network to your laptops, smart TVs and other devices.

With an indoor 5G router you can just place the unit somewhere on a desk or shelf and get everything (5G modem + WiFi router) in a simple package. This is easier, but an outdoor unit can be worth it to provide a better signal. This is especially true if your long term plan is to use 5G for your home internet connection in areas where fiber is not available or is prohibitively expensive.