Best solution for WiFi as WAN and load balancing

Hello. I tried searching these forums and in general but can’t seem to find a clear answer on this. I’m looking to load balance three connections in an RV: Ethernet (StarLink); an Android phone tethered via usb, and wifi as WAN using the CampPro WiFi booster. I’d also like the router to have integrated WiFi vs having to get a separate AP for that.

What is the most cost-effective way to get these features? I know the Balance line of products all load balance, but it’s been hard to confirm they can also do WiFi as WAN. And I know other product lines can do WiFi as WAN but I’m not sure any of those also do load balancing (and not just failover). Adding licenses that can activate some features on top of all this is making it even more confusing for me.

Thanks in advance to anyone who can help me make the right choice here!

So ideally you want:
1x Ethernet WAN
1x WiFi WAN

Your use of terms here is confusing, all Peplinks can do basic load balancing and simple failover between connections. If you want to make use of bonding / hitless failover via SpeedFusion that is where you need to consider if extra licences are required (or in the case of Primecare which includes these licences the ongoing annual costs of that subscription), the overhead costs of hosting a FusionHub or whether SpeedFusion Cloud would meet your needs.

Generally speaking any router that has the ability to do WiFi WAN has a built in AP, however it is also generally not optimal to use the same physical radio to do both roles for performance reasons (you can though consider splitting which band you do this on, for instance using 5GHz for the WiFi WAN and having a 2.4GHz only local SSID or vice versa).

Some models such as the MBX line have two sets of radios in them, one which is used for the WiFi WAN and one which is used as the local client serving AP, but the entry pricing for those boxes typically is well beyond what people want to spend on an “RV” setup.

WiFi WAN is generally a feature of the Transit, MBX, HD and BR series. Most of those will also have some sort of built in cellular modem which you don’t seem to require, but may be worth considering as an alternative to USB tethering.

If you were to drop the USB tethering requirement and it were me I would look at the Transit Pro or BR1 Pro 5G too, and just get a data sim for the built in cell modem, both can do WiFi WAN (single radio though, so the above downsides apply) and has one Ethernet WAN, currently these are around $1k USD and are modern platforms with a decent amount of horsepower vs the older product lines.

If you really want a USB port for tethering then you probably need to look at the BR2 Pro 5G or something from the MBX line.

Find yourself a local partner to work with, they can take a look at your requirements and help guide you through the various options.

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Thanks again for the advice, Will. I’m surprised there isn’t a model that combines these features at a lower price point (sacrificing other high-end features) for smaller RV installations like mine. The MBX Mini seems to be the closest match, but you’re right that it’s not cost-effective for the problem I’m trying to solve, especially since we only use the RV once a month or so!

What do you think about the Balance 20x (Cat7) for my application? It seems to have all the basic features I want, and also seems future-proof with the FlexModule slot for future radios along with the fact that I could add a wireless AP if I found sharing the wifi radio for WiFi as WAN caused any issues. It might also tempt me to get another SIM card to use the internal cellular radio to backup my tethered phone. The price point is a lot lower than the other options, though, so I worry I might be missing something!

I’ll also try to find a partner to work with on this…it’s the first time in a long time I couldn’t sort out the features confidently enough on my own on any product. Are there any that you recommend? Thanks again.

Depends what you consider “high-end” features. Generally speaking the pricing model for Peplinks hardware is determined by the number of potential WAN interfaces, with onboard cell modems being the big premium.

I suspect a lot of folks who want these things for their RV where they see more regular use tend to mostly want a built in cell modem of some kind, an ethernet port - typically these days for a starlink, and yes WiFi WAN so they can connect to the local WiFi or something else, in those instances the Transit Pro or BR1 Pro 5G does a good job.

20X Does not support WiFi WAN, so if that is not as important to you as USB tethering and a built in cell modem then it is a good little box with reasonable performance - we use them a fair bit as they are well priced when you take into consideration the minimal upkeep of the Primecare support too.

Finding a partner to help is probably worthwhile, there’s a few on the forums that will probably be willing to engage with you.

A wildcard option might be the Surf SOHO Mk3, it does all the things you want in terms of WAN connection options, however it is an older generation product and the overall performance may be a bit lacklustre ( especially when you put PepVPN / SpeedFusion into use. If you can deal with the lower throughput / performance of the router though it will probably be the most cost effective offering at the moment I can think of.

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Thanks again. For some reason I thought the 20x could do WiFi as WAN…it looks like a popular feature request! I’ll take another look at the Surf, as I do want that feature for use when we’re at a campground, etc. Do you have a recommendation on a WiFi booster for that? I currently have the Alpha CampPro3 but it’s been hard to get to work with anything that has a captive portal.

Yes, a lot of people would like a slightly updated Surf SOHO I think, potentially a 20X without the built in Cell modem would meet that requirement for a lot o folks if WiFi WAN was added to the feature list.

I generally take the approach that WiFi repeaters / boosters are a waste of time and look at using something like the Transit Pro / BR1 Pro 5G with a suitable externally mounted antenna and add an extra internal AP to take care of your devices.

Captive portals can be a bit annoying, in reality with Peplink though it is straight forward enough to configure a way to make sure you can log into them easily enough - I have a setup for doing this for various hotel WiFi networks where there is an outbound policy against a known internal IP that will direct traffic out the WiFi WAN so you can load the portal and authenticate, so all I do is configure a device to use that IP so it can open the portal and once that is done put it back to DHCP or whatever.

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Agree that Peplink should allow WiFi WAN on the 20x

As for having your Peplink also do the LAN WiFi, bad idea, get a separate AP

Also, I’d try to do ethernet where possible, that includes the Starlink and even WiFi extenders.

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Thanks again Will, and thanks mystery. I do think I’m sold on separating the WAN and LAN WiFi radios if I find a solution for this. Same on using the internal radios instead of a tethered phone, but I’m worried about making sure my current SIM card (Visible) will work that way.

I’ve also been thinking along similar lines in terms of removing or hard-wiring the WiFi extender I’m currently using, which is the Alpha CampPro3. It uses a R36AH internal router and has a USB connection to an external (Tube-UAC2) antenna.

The R36AH has two ethernet ports on it, one marked WAN and one marked LAN, but I have not been able to find any documentation on how those might be connected or work - the CampPro3 seems to be only intended to be connected to wirelessly. If a simple ethernet cable removes my need for WiFi as Wan, that should give me a lot more option here as Will has outlined.

I’ll also research external WiFi antennas for the Peplink routers, since I presume I would have more control in terms of connecting to WiFi networks if I did that in the Peplink router without also dealing with a booster. The mobility series antennas from Peplink are an obvious choice, but might be overkill for me and hard to mount in my particular situation. Are there other external WiFi antennas that have the omni-directional “whip” form factor and are known to work well with Peplink routers? Thanks again!

I used a SOHO for a long time with USB wan to 8800L jetpack and WiFi wan, it was very reliable and served me very well, that is a great product at an amazing price point, but a bit slow (120MBps routing).

WiFi wan using the same radio as LAN does have some issues that are pretty minimal at this point but only if on the same band. 2.4ghz and 5ghz are actually two distinct radios so I would usually do 5 ghz for lan and 2.4ghz for wan, but if the 5 ghz wan source was significantly better which is rare I would use that.

It still got great performance sharing the radio band, main issue is if you leave the WiFi wan on and leave the area that radio goes into scanning mode looking for an available network, every time it scans once every few seconds the LAN side stops on the same band and you get packet loss on the LAN. Requested a feature to adjust scan rate as just scanning like every minute or 10 minutes would be much less disruptive. No issue if you remember to disable wifi wan when you leave or just keep it on a separate band.

I moved up to a Max BR1 5g recently which so far has been great, much faster cpu and newer wifi radio with tight integration to the built in 5g modem so everything is more responsive. Cell speeds are about the same as it doesn’t yet support C band on Verizon (but supposedly capable with firmware upgrade) although upload speeds are better do to more transmit power than the jetpack. Wifi LAN / WAN work great with the same radio over all faster. Only thing I wish it had was USB like the SOHO for some future proofing using maybe updated max adapters or jetpacks down the road, but right now its radio is very capable. If you really wanted you could pair it with Pepwave access point to get true two radio WiFi Lan / WAN.

This is close to the perfect RV device especially now that they lowered the price, although still expensive. Still very annoying that Pepwave limits WiFi wan to certain devices because its basically a software feature and should be available on any device in their lineup with a wifi radio such as the Balance 20x which would make an excellent upgrade to the SOHO.

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Thanks all. I ended up going with the Transit Max Pro that seems to be working well. The Cat 4 and 7 modems align well with my Verizon and T-mobile SIM cards and I got a separate AP so the internal WiFi radios can be dedicated to connecting to public WiFi. Thanks for all the help!