Cellular WAN versus ISP

I am researching the reliability of traditional ISP versus cellular carriers; I can’t seem to locate any real reliability numbers on the internet. Any help would be appreciated!

Thanks Peplink Communitiy!

For what purpose?

You are unlikely to. Most reliability data comes from ISP derived availability stats of monitored customer connections (think MPLS and private circuits) or independent test measurement companies like samknows.
In either case what you sound like you need is fixed cellular installs (like homes and businesses) rather than cellular installs in moving things.

That is a challenging data set to find.



This is the article I used as a reference to start our work on adding a few nines on the WAN sla:


Thank you Venn and Martin for the feedback. Much appreciated.

The nature of my request is to evaluate hard-wire WAN connections reliability (ie Cable/DSL), as compared to cellular/mobile networks. My use case is stationary.

Ultimately, I want to arrive at a conclusion if a traditional hardwire connection (ignoring the actual ISPs backhaul) is better/worst than the current mobile network infrastructure.

Hi. You’ve asked an important question. However, the differences in this area are hugely variable throughout the world. Where are you? If you are in the USA I may comment, for example; if not, I would quickly defer to those with local knowledge.

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I am focused in continental USA so the analysis will be around the main carriers like AT&T/Verizon.

Thank you Rick!

I have found that the infrastructure of AT&T wireless with CGNAT with fixed yagi antennas to be rock solid from a IP network point of view.

The only issues I have seen are caused by caching and traffic shaping systems in their CGNAT core for the phone/consumer traffic. Occasionally the traffic to port 80 and 443 will hang up for a length of time until some internal process notices and restarts the process. Pings, and all VPN traffic are unaffected. This is most likely the “ScreenSaver” technology that they use to traffic shape streaming services to 2Mbits. Turning off Screensaver on a sim keeps the traffic from being throttled, but not from going via the infrastructure that can still fail and block the traffic.

I used SpeedFusion to bypass this infrastructure, and had no issues.

Oh, and AT&T intercepts all DNS traffic (port 53) and sends it to their own caches…

I’m going to suggest that the only data that matters is yours. Get a verizon and at&t sim and do testing from the locations you want to serve.

Thanks Paul!

I am sure Verizon/ATT will operate “fine”, especially during initial installation. But my concern/focus is the reliability over time. If I am able to “say” that cable/DSL lines are more reliable operationally, I would rather pursue the investment of landing hardwired WANs (ie Cox, Comcast, CenturyLink, etc) now.

OK. Good question. The answer is “it depends.” :wink: The best answer is “whatever works for you” – which is probably not what you want to hear. I’ll illustrate with two examples.

  1. The WANs at this site are Spectrum and AT&T 4G. The router is a Balance 210. The Spectrum-furnished modem is on WAN1 and there is a BR1 Mini LTEA on WAN2 with an AT&T SIM. Spectrum is less than reliable. Even through the site is on a generator and a good UPS every time the power goes out (like early this morning during a mild snow event) Spectrum also died as much of their infrastructure has no power back-up. AT&T drops occasionally, once every few days or so, for a minute or two. (The two nearest AT&T cel sites have gensets installed.) Latency and jitter are always better on Spectrum than AT&T. So, who wins? Both have advantages and our customer really needs both.

  2. This is a Balance 20X with Comcast on WAN1 using a TP-Link modem; WAN2 is the internal cat 4 modem using a T-Mobile SIM. There’s a good UPS but no generator there. This location is in the SE USA in “hurricane alley.” Comcast is very reliable – until it isn’t. Their infrastructure is shaky and shabbily constructed. T-Mobile is very reliable but they have no generators and their battery back-ups don’t last too long. We don’t know much about their back-haul at this location but we suspect it’s very vulnerable. Latency and jitter is always better with Comcast than TMO. (Actually, TMO is horrible.) Within the near future we are going to change the SIM to Verizon because VZW installs generators at almost every site (they’re usually inside inside the shelter) and they tend to use microwave for back-haul – more reliable during hurricanes and thereafter.

Generally, terrestrial circuits perform quite well during “good times” but are easily disrupted. Cellular tends to perform less well on a variety of metrics but may survive when the others have been damaged or destroyed. But, one must be careful about comparing DSL to fiber, for example. And all cel carriers are certainly not “created equal.” (… and then we have satellite … :grinning:)

So, the best solution is to talk to others in your area and learn of their experiences. Regardless, we are really big fans of having multiple WANs which use different technologies. And, Peplink products support this objective very, very well.

If you want to send me a PM I’ll be pleased to help you look at this further.



Yes, the wireline carriers are solid… until the moment they aren’t… and then the failure mode dictates what happens. Cable networks are trees, so the customer part of it has no redundancy. DSL systems are individual wires back to the DSLAM, they are also usually lower on the pole… so the power lines catch the trees and the thick copper bundle can often hold the branches up. I never lost DSL from a wire issue in 20 years, But I did loose it to flaky modems, and faulty DSLAM cards. Getting each debugged took days to convince the technician that it wasn’t “my” equipment… and no I won’t reboot it again.

At my second site the cable DOCSIS system is quite touchy and has at least one short term outage a month. Wire? faulty splitter? who knows. I tried to set up failover with a Juniper SRX. but I finally gave up and put in a Peplink. For April the cable link has thrown errors 12 times this month. DSL: zero. but last summer the DSL was useless until they finally found the problem in their IP core… the DSL<->DSLAM part was perfect… The fault was somewhere else and came and went every day, after “new modems”, factory resets… etc.

No matter how stable each provider is, you need two, and SpeedFusion for the critical must not fail traffic. LTE is a fine backup, or co-equal provider.

You know when you have it right when you call the site and ask them if they know that DSL is down… Have to use their cell phone and they didn’t notice a thing. Couldn’t reach them by land line, no dial tone.

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I completely agree with your conclusions.

I did find the below-quoted comment interesting, however. Several years ago (actually, before becoming a Peplink Partner, I think) I installed a Balance router in our home. DSL was WAN #2. It failed multiple times each day. The field techs and I were on a first name basis and one of them told me they “got a deal” on the old Verizon wire-line infrastructure, they weren’t going to put a nickle in upgrading it and all significant maintenance had been deferred. And, that’s a great example of my point that “it depends.” Your DSL is nailed-up solid and mine was junk.

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Now, this was my pair #1… but I also had a contracted T1 line at that location from 2000-2002…(pre DSL) so pairs #2 and #3 were probably hand picked by the data team. It is quite possible that during one of the outage events (where they replaced the DMARC) they may have moved the service to a cleaner pair.

I dumped them when they told me flat out that the fiber DSLAM 1000’ from my site was not going my way, and that 3mbits was all I would ever get from them. They were also a buy and not invest. The state gave them money to look like they were putting in better service, and had my location listed as 10Mbits to the town and state board.
If you call them for actual service they wouldn’t admit to more than 1.5mbits.