Which Peplink Router for Starlink & LTE Hotspot?

So, I’m trying to do my background research before asking a question that has already been asked, and I can’t seem to find a scenario that matches mine.

My family is rural. We have a couple of WISP options, all are pretty lame. We currently have a GUDP (grandfathered unlimited data) through Verizon for our cellular phones. Said phones can be used as a hotspot. That was our internet until recently, when Starlink came along. Now we also have Starlink, which as many of you know, has great speeds but suffers from fairly frequent brief service interruptions, which makes Zoom and similar services unreliable. This is a problem because one user (my wife) works remotely from home and needs a stable internet connection.

I posted about this on the Starlink subreddit, Peplink was immediately suggested. I’m interested in knowing which router would best fit my needs. The Balance 20 was suggested, but in my research I don’t see that it can do Wifi-as-WAN, so I would need to use another device to push the hotspot connection to the router (which is not a dealbreaker, just not sure if there are better options).

We talked about the Speedfusion VPN and how all of our really critical stuff can go through that, I’d also be interested in finding out how we can switch between what goes through Speedfusion and what does not.

Secondary considerations are that I will eventually being wiring up cameras for a home security system, and also parental controls (3 kids, lots of devices, I’d like the ability to pretty easily regulate their access).

Thanks in advance for your help, and if there is a writeup somwhere that addresses thsi already, feel free to point me at it.

This is a little beside the point of your query, but FWIW:
Some of the older legacy unlimited plans of Verizon’s allow for connected devices, including routers. In which case one alternative to Wi-Fi as WAN would be to get a new plan for your iPhone and use the old plan (and SIM card) as the cellular component of your connectivity.
Or if you are on an account and plan that allows for (say) 10 lines per plan (a common family unlimited plan back in the day) then get another line for the account and use that for your router’s cellular WAN.

All perfectly above-board and legitimate.

W.r.t. the Balance 20: For use with StarLink you want the benefits of SpeedFusion technology in order to handle the occasional interruptions. Which suggests getting a PrimeCare model, such as the Balance 20X with a pairing of cellular and StarLink connectivity.

Cheers,

Z

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Thanks for the quick response.

  1. We like leaving the GUDP (2 lines) as our phones, so now when we go someplace we have reasonable internet for the whole family. This also enables my wife to work as we travel.

What we did before Starlink is I set up an older windows box to connect to the hotspots if it senses them in range. It then pushes that internet connection to a router via Windows Internet Connection Sharing. It is inelegant, but it works. I could continue to do that to provide WAN via ethernet to whatever Peplink router I buy. Or, I could set up a Raspberry Pi to do the same thing. Or I could get a router with Wifi-as-WAN. Or … probably other things as well.

  1. What is the recurring cost breakdown of buying Speedfusion vs Primecare? I know that Speedfusion is $40/year for the 1 TB bucket. I think the 20X comes with one year Primecare free (yes?), and this includes Speedfusion (1TB?), but what is the cost after the 1st year for the subscription?

Understood.

Still - just as a sanity check, check whether your Verizon plan allows additional lines. I know that the legacy plan they label “The new Verizon Plan Unlimited” does work. $20/line/month.

Depending on Wi-Fi-as-WAN limits your router choices (or complicates your set-up, requiring multiple devices).

PrimeCare for the 20X is $49/year. (https://estore.peplink.com/products/prm-bpl-021x-lte-1y)

1TB may seem like a lot of data, but 1TB/year is not a lot if you’re doing a lot of video conferences.

If you exceed that then you can handle it by getting a top-up (https://estore.peplink.com/search?criteria=top-up), or as an alternative you could set up a (free license) FusionHub Solo on a server farm. The latter would run to $5/month (upcloud.com or vultr.com server), with an allocation of 1TB/month of data (which you can increase/decrease dynamically).

@MartinLangmaid has a good set of tutorials w.r.t. the FusionHub strategy.

Cheers,

Z

Yeah, I know that using wifi via the hotspot is not ideal, but it’s probably what we’re going to stick with. I have checked around and adding lines to the old school unlimited data plans is a non-option. Verizon will instead “helpfully” convert you to a current unlimited data plan, with potential deprioritization of traffic. I’ll stick with adding another device in the chain for the LTE connection over that.

That said, as a side topic, can you think of a more streamlined solution for getting the LTE signal to the router than what I have laid out? Besides dedicating one of the SIMs to being a wireless modem, I mean.

How easy is it for a user to decide what goes into the SpeedFusion tunnel and what does not? She does a lot of videoconference stuff, but it is not all the time, and not all of it is high priority. A lot of stuff we do is just moving data, it doesnt need the stability of the blended connection or the security of the VPN.

Thank you again for your assistance.

Alternatively, should I be looking at the Surf SOHO or the Balance 20/Balance 20X?

Depending on the phone. A peplink router with a USB port can use android devices as modems - plug the phone into the port and off you go. If you are iPhone users then you’re out of luck for that option.

There is (still :slight_smile: ) the option of getting another line, with Verizon or Visible or AT&T etc. and pick a router with a cellular modem). Otherwise it seems likely that you are stuck with the Wi-Fi-as-WAN as a core requirement.

You can employ “Outbound Policies” for that - directing traffic depending on various criteria. E.g., make two local networks/VLANs, one for blended (priority) traffic, the other for the less stable (and less expensive) connections. Easy.

For the Surf SOHO or the Balance 20X you would need that additional SIM card to employ the on-board cellular connection. For the Balance 20 you would go the USB modem route.

I have no personal experience with the current version of the SOHO so I cannot speak re. that option. W.r.t. the 20 v. 20X there is no doubt in my mind: Get the 20X. With the USB port of the 20x you can get two wired WAN connections (or cellular WAN via the USB port) and additionally the cellular option with the built-in modem. The Balance 20 is a bit…wimpy (and dated).

Just a few cents’ worth from a user of some of these device.

Cheers,

Z

Oh! We have Android, so that actually works out. Dumb question: I assume the USB port will charge the phone while it is connected, yes?

Also, are you sure about the SOHO? It supposedly accepts Wifi-as-WAN, and has a wired WAN connection, too. Is the SOHO significantly slower than the Balance 20, or in some way inferior that would matter to me, given my situation?

Maybe a better question is, is there an overview of the differences between the SOHO and the Balance 20X somewhere?

I would expect so, but being an iPhone person I have never actually confirmed that…

You are quite right - a quick check of the manual documents it (p.50). I must have overlooked the entry in the product presentation table (2.4/5GHz (3x3 MIMO) Professional-Grade Router Surf SOHO- Peplink).

As I mentioned before, I have no experience with the current SOHO version so I cannot speak substantively to a comparison.

There is a comparison table for the Balance models at Balance Series Comparison Table - Peplink Put that side-by-side with the disclosures of the SOHO product page and you should have the information you need.

I really like the 20X for this market segment, particularly if the alternative is the 20. You get a bright and shiny newly released object with a cellular modem, Wi-Fi, PrimeCare and far greater capacity plus a modular future-proofing for the cost of an extra $100 (but it is easy to make free with other people’s money, of course). The primary benefit of the 20 is probably that you get two ethernet WAN ports, but that sounds irrelevant for your use case (and an additional ethernet connection can be achieved by using an ethernet dongle on the USB port of either).

I must admit to having reached the end of my competency - I’d suggest a call to your local Peplink-monger for a walk-through :slight_smile: .

Cheers,

Z

I may have been one of the people on the Starlink Reddit forum that recommended Peplink and SpeedFusion Cloud (SFC), as they’ve really worked for us.

For router selection, I’d find a good Peplink distributor to speak eith. Personally, I really like the 5G Store, which has been very helpful to me. I use a Balance 30 LTE, which I selected before I had Starlink and we needed built-in cellular. Now, the cellular sits idle and I use the two WAN inputs. My guess is that the B20X would work for you, but again, a distributor is your best path for solid info, in my view.

For configuring SFC, you can have it become active only for certain clients, or only when certain services are active. Configuring it for all traffic from certain clients ate up a lot of data unnecessarily, so I switched the configuration to be active only for Teams and Zoom calls. Works like a charm! I had my first call interruption in weeks yesterday, for perhaps 7-8 seconds, because I think the WISP backup was having issues when Starlink had one of its little hiccups. Other then that, it’s been weeks since I had a problem, and my connection is now more reliable and high quality on calls than that of three colleagues in suburbia who run Verizon Fios on stock routers. In fact, I had to work with one of them yesterday to reset their router, just so we could continue some client calls. I purchased the lowest level $20 SFC plan back in March, and still have about 300Gb left on that, using Teams or Zoom for hours each day, M-F. And probsbly 100 Gb of that was used in the first day or two, when I was running all my traffic through it.

Hope that helps!

I just chatted with someone at the 5G Store. They came up with one helpful bit of information- the SOHO is limited to 150Mbps throughput, while the Balance 20X is at 800 or 900. Right now that means not much, Starlink is rarely that fast so far. HOWEVER, down the road they are hoping to exceed 300. So again, the future-proof option is the Balance 20X.

I think simplicity and economy are making me lean towards the SOHO for now, though.

I wonder, has anyone used a SOHO in conjunction with a Balance 20X? It would be an expensive way to get wifi to the 20X to use as a WAN connection, but it would also provide some hardware redundancy, in that if one of the two routers took a dump, you could use the other one to run the network with a minimum of configuration and fuss (as opposed to having to order a new router and wait).

Would that work?