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Cellular Data to your Cisco Router

Daniel Petri


What do you do when your primary T1, cable, or DSL connection goes down to the Internet or your private network? Do you have a backup solution? While my company uses a combination of ISDN, DSL, Wireless Internet, and Internet T1’s, I have recently been interested in the new higher-speed cellular data options. However, as my primary application is Citrix, the backup solution must be low latency and be reliable. To the end of finding such a solution, I tried out some of the cellular data options available today.

The Kyocera KR1 – Wireless cellular data wi-fi router

Recently, a friend of mine loaned me a Kyocera KR1 wireless cellular data / wi-fi router and Sprint cellular 3G data card.
My initial reaction was probably just like yours “Kyocera makes routers?”. I tried connecting to the Internet with it using the Sprint 3G PCMCIA card and my laptop. It worked well except it would disconnect after some time of non-use and not reconnect until I rebooted it. After checking for timeouts and auto reconnect settings, I gave up. It seems like a good unit but I didn’t take the time to make it work. (but then, if you have to *make* it work, then perhaps it isn’t that good of a unit after all).

Junxion Box – Wireless cellular data router

Next, I borrowed a Junxion Box cellular data router. This is a very similar unit but from a different company. As far as I can tell, this unit is the only product made by Junxion box.

I quickly found out that my cellular data card (the Pantech PX-500) was not supported by the current version of firmware on the Junxion box. I tried to upgrade the firmware multiple times but it would fail the validity check at the end.
After a botched firmware upgrade, the unit would not respond anymore, even after a reboot. I contacted customer support. They said that to get it working again, I would have to send it back to the factory and getting a replacement.
After doing that, I got my new unit and it actually worked pretty well.
I could surf the new at a reasonable speed and really only noticed that I was not on my cable modem when I would go to download something like an application or video. I was impressed with it for me personal use and for anyone who needed completely mobile Internet access. I figured I could use it at one of my company locations as a backup route and run encrypted traffic through it back to my primary data center. I look forward to more alternatives like this in the future. Perhaps with WiMax, there will soon be higher speed and lower latency long range wireless alternatives.

Cisco Router cellular wireless and satellite backup alternatives

I was curious what Cisco offers in this area so I did some research.
If you are looking for backup alternatives to land lines want want to use a module that inserts inside a Cisco routers, I see two options for you:
Option 1 – the Cisco VSAT Network Module (NM)

This is a module that goes inside a Cisco router’s network module (NM) slot and connects directly to a satellite terminal. It provides TCP acceleration, up to 1.5Mb Up and 10Mb down. Additionally, it supports routing protocols like OSPF and EIGRP.
Option 2 – the Cisco 3G Wireless WAN High-speed WAN Interface Cards (HWIC)

These WIC cards are inserted in your router and provide a direct cellular data link to the Internet. From there, you can run a VPN back to your headquarters or deliver Internet traffic.
Depending on which cellular carrier you have, you would select either the EV-DO (Evolution-Data Optimized) card (for Sprint’s network) or the HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access) card (for Verizon’s network). Here are the specific part numbers:

  • HWIC-3G-CDMA-V (Verizon)
  • HWIC-3G-CDMA-S (Sprint)

These networks are only getting faster and faster but, still, may not be fast enough or have low enough latency to handle traffic like VoIP, voice, and thin-client (like Citrix).
For more information on the Cisco Wireless WAN cards, see this link.
Today, there are some interesting options but nothing that I would use for my primary network connection. In fact, for certain applications, these options are not even viable as a backup network. I am intrigued by the cellular data (wireless WAN) options that are becoming more and more available. I do believe that once a higher speed and lower latency wireless option becomes available, many companies will move to it.
Have you used any of these wireless WAN (cellular data) options? What do you think about Cisco’s options? Voice your opinion in our Cisco Router discussion forums.
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