Why does my mobile phone perform better than my router?
The short answer: The reason for this is that some routers (even popular brands) have antiquated technology and hence lower performing features because the technological advancement for mobile phones far outpace the technology used in most routers
For those who wants more detail:
We occasionally receive questions from customers, who have purchased an LTE router, and are concerned to find the internet download speed of their LTE mobile phone outperforming the newly installed router. Although this situation is not desired, it can be understood in some cases.
Reasons for poor performance of the router is often related to less ideal implementation and configuration. Please the following FAQ articles for information about this:
- I Connected My Router to An External Antenna, Now My Performance Is Worse? (click here)
- Which Antenna Do I Use with My LTE Router? Omni Vs Directional Antenna? (click here)
- How To Orientate a Directional LTE Antenna During Installation? (click here)
Implementation quirks on the router and its antennas are not the only reasons for better performance of a mobile phone, but one also needs to take note of the router hardware specifications and features. The reason for this is that some routers (even popular brands) have antiquated technology and hence lower performing features because the technological advancement for mobile phones far outpace the technology used in most routers. Some of the latest routers have technology and features that were used in mobile phones two to four years ago. One cannot blame the router provider as it boils down to the economies of scale. Some recent router releases are however quite impressive, but this is not representative of the ‘normal’ router available currently.
Mobile Phone performance versus Home Routers
Generally mobile phones are often seen to outperform Home Routers. There are several reasons for this, the following key elements being:
- UE LTE Category Class (CAT) – LTE UE Category or User Equipment categories or classes are used to define the performance specifications of LTE devices and enables LTE base stations to be able to communicate effectively with them knowing their performance levels.
- Carrier Aggregation Bands – Carrier aggregation is a technique used in wireless communication to increase the data rate per user, whereby multiple frequency blocks (called component carriers) are assigned to the same user.
- MiMo Antenna configuration – Spatial multiplexing requires MIMO antenna configuration. In spatial multiplexing, a high-rate signal is split into multiple lower-rate streams and each stream is transmitted from a different transmit antenna in the same frequency channel.
In general, Mobile Phones benefit from large economies of scale. Home Routers cannot benefit from the same economies of scale, and they tend to use older LTE Category class chipsets which do not have the same level of performance as the newer generations. This equates roughly to CAT 4/6 versus CAT 18/20/21. The Outdoor CPE example in the table utilising CAT 12 is a more expensive, higher performance device and it too will outperform the average Home Router running Cat4/6.
Below is a table comparing a range of mobile phones and their relative UE category classes. Home Routers are included in the table for comparison.
Even when using an antiquated technology router with less advanced hardware features (which is capable of lower throughput), the other benefits can be substantial. Implementing this router with excellent antennas (like Poynting antennas) offers different advantages such as connection stability due to the enhanced relative signal levels and offers some cushioning against network congestion – this is due to the higher Carrier to Interference Ratio (C/I) that enables the cellular base station to allocate more resources to the ‘better’ signal. I.e. the router with external antenna will be advantaged when the capacity of the base station becomes congested as the network starts to limit or block UEs with poorer C/I. Note that routers, CPEs or mobile phone are collectively referred to as the User Equipment (UE).
To understand the effect of C/I on the network and the UE, please see: Webinar 4: Taking Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) from bits to Bytes.
In summary, it is important to check the specifications of the UE beyond its LTE capability. If your mobile phone is CAT-18 capable, and you are prepared to pay for a similar grade router, then this will be ideal. However, the performance of a CAT-4 router cannot be compared to the abovementioned CAT-18 mobile phone but implementing an external Poynting antenna can enhance the situation for the user.