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Mobile Hotspot Efficacy for Large Groups?

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mmcpher

Occasional Visitor
Preliminary research for a nonprofit group that holds occasional meetings with between 25 and 75 people attending in-person while similar members attend virtually. The experience with different venues is that their wifi connection is often spotty, or when sufficient, very costly. The idea was that if there were a viable mobile hotspot alternative, that would allow greater flexibility in choosing a location and not be subject to high upcharges for good wifi connection. The hi-end consumer hotspots say they can accommodate up to 30 devices, so a large meeting would require multiple hotspots with multiple cellular lines. There is a Cradlepoint option that would be used in conjunction with one of the carriers, which would provide a larger number of devices to be connected, but still, as with the consumer hotspots, dependent upon the strength and stability of cellular reception. It seems like the "mobile hotspot" alternative would simply be a different struggle than the current dependence on venue wifi capabilities. It seems that Cradlepoint is used by local emergency responders and also by businesses that have "pop-up" events but would it be an improvement or economic alternative to regular wifi?
 
Look on AliExpress for the generic "LTE/5G" routers that have or can add a modem to. ~$250

Probably good idea to drill a couple of extra holes into the back to the additional antennas for the WWAN to pick up / bond additional bands and add pigtails/antennas as needed. IIRC they usually only have 2 antennas for the WWAN but modern modems have 4 antenna ports on them.

While it's not a hotspot in the traditional sense it's goin to be more robust than the little boxes you usually see. I'm not sure why they say 30/60/100 users but, it's either limited in the DHCP setup they se ton their boxes or limitation invoked somewhere else in their config. The biggest issue with a WWAN would be saturation of the connection depending on which service you end up connecting to. Time of day makes a difference as well for how much bandwidth you would get vs saturation of the cell site.

If you want to save money on the SIM/monthlies cirlcedin.com has discounted full phone plans with unlimited data for each carrier. I've got a TMO one w/ unlimited 5G + 40GB hotspot for under $40/mo. I use it as my primary connection and usually run anywhere from 700GB-1TB each month through it. 50% the cost of cable and it works anywhere I go.. Baseline for me is 200/30 when moving around but, if I pop the sim into my phone it's hit 600/100. There are times though in the home it hits 300-400 / 100 which isn't bad considering the cost.

You'll likely need to swap the IMEI / TTL values though using it in a router and more info on that can be found @ https://wirelessjoint.com/

My setup I have the modem in a USB "dock" and run it off my linux server which is my "router" and it doesn't need the TTL tweak to avoid data bucket being used. I picked up a cheap 2nd modem though as a backup and it only works in PCIE/NDIS mode and does deduct from the HS bucket which is similar to the "router" option.

I went with a SIMCOM modem as my primary and Fibocom as my backup. There's only a handful of choices out there though for brands but each have a bunch of options depending on the speed / tech requirements you might have. 4G is going to be barebones connectivity across carriers with dismal sub 50mbps speeds in most cases. 5G though is where the bandwidth is. SA/NSA seem to both work about the same as more SA sites get turned up. When I first started playing around though the SA didn't offer much for speed <50mbps but, they tweaked things and now it performs the same as NSA but lately SA hasn't been an option which means they're still working on it.
 
At the scale/scope of your needs - you should talk directly with the carriers - their business focused sales team can help you with a proper solution that meets everything.

T-Mobile does offer Cradlepoint units for their 5G solutions on business plans, and they're one of the best of class in 4G/5G wireless wan connectivity.
 
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