Howard gave me the Rogers LTE Rocket hub to put through it's paces and post up a review. How could I say no?
1> it's LTE
2> it's LTE data that isn't counting towards my 6 gig package
3> refer to #2
So with the Rocket Hub in hand I happily trotted down Free LTE MAD SEEG lane to test some speeds, download some stuff* and generally pillage and plunder the Rogers LTE network.
* Downloads were of a 100% Legal nature, no file sharing or other nefarious activities went on
Ready sports fans? Alright, let's do this!
The Rocket Hub packs in:
*Dual band HSPA 1900 / 850
*LTE on 2600 band
*up to 100Mpbs Download and up to 50 Mbps upload
*802.11 b/g/n wifi
*4 RJ45 ports (no RJ11 for voice telephony)
Now, what I found odd was the fact that this modem operates solely on the 2600Mhz frequency range. It's not running in the 1700 / 2100 / 700 LTE blocks. I don't understand why this device would have this sole band to be honest.
Connectivity and Usability
Seeing as this is more of a portable router solution instead of a phone i'm not really going to dive into reception and sound quality etc etc, because frankly that makes no sense. Instead I want to discuss how it operated an Internet experience since the very packaging itself Rogers states "Creating World-Leading Internet Experiences"
The unit itself is pretty straight forward. You have the ZTE Modem, with it's black plastic and tribal inspried inks on the front of the unit. It comes with a base stand to prop it up which connects in a strange way. I found myself always grabbing the Rocket Hub in an awkward way knocking the base lose all the time. It includes a basic user manual and some RJ45 cable as well as a plug.
Once you pop it open and set it all up it's a pretty standard looking router with some indicators that give you a brief overview of what's happening with the unit itself.
The indicators mean, from left to right:
*Mobile network (Blue = LTE, Green = HSPA, OFF = Not registered)
*Mobile network status (Always on = Established, Blinking = Establishing, OFF = Not Established)
*Mobile network signal strength (Always on = very good or good, Blinking = weak, OFF = No Seeg)
*Error (unlit, it's a triangle with an !)
*Wifi (Always on = Wifi connection established, Blinking = Wifi Data transmission)
*Power (Green = Device ready, Red = initializing, OFF = off)
pretty basic indicators to give you information at a glance but not very good at providing detailed info.
The login screens are also pretty basic and give you the ability to change the SSID's, passwords and you can even force the Hotspot to be LTE only, HSPA only or Auto
There's also a link on the login page to view your data usage as well so you can track as you go.
Speeds, Speeds, Speeds!
So, how fast did the LTE hotspot from Rogers go?
Under the right conditions it went ridiculously inhumanly fast but let's be honest here, Ideal conditions are not always easy to attain especially with a wireless product.
Let me share a few speed tests so you can see what i'm talking about:
These were taken at the McDonalds on Hayes Blvd in Oakville. It's basically line of sight and we were using Howards laptop via Wifi to the Rocket Hub
I then mentioned to Howard that we should go direct into the Rocket Hub via RJ45 and eliminate the wifi bottle necks.
The Rocket Hub is capable of 100Mbps, remember that!
Realistically though, in real world tests like my house and at the office I got much more normal and tame speeds. At home I averaged 12Mbps on LTE and at the office (7 and leslie area) I averaged about 15Mbps on the download. The upload was everywhere, as fast at 20Mbps and as slow as 0.06Mpbs. It wasn't very stable.
So we know the Rocket Hub is capable of ridiculous speeds in a speed test but I'm more concerned with how it actually acts as a router / Wifi machine. Oddly, my experiences are mixed. I would start to download a file that was approx 2.5 gig and it would start off like a rocket 1.5 even 2.0MBps. I'd then go have dinner, check out Book Face, read some tweets and my RSS feeds etc etc and would realize that the speed had slowed down dramatically. I'm talking like 600KB/s speeds if I was lucky. A Lot of the time it was barely keeping up at 250KB/s according to my SabNZbd readout.
Many times it completely stopped flowing data altogether, to the point where my PC's network connectivity shows the circle spinning in the bottom right as it tried to negotiate a connection. Perhaps it's where I live (Stoufville and Woodbine area) which is more rural, but is that not the point of these Rocket Hubs?
If I had to rely on this as my sole internet connection, I would be disappointed.
I even thought, "ok, maybe LTE isn't that great on 2600Mhz, force it to HSPA since that's already established."
With that I set the Rocket Hub to HSPA only and got a bit better stability, but still the speeds would come crashing down. It was to the point where I honestly thought Rogers may be throttling the connection but I can't prove that to be honest.
Rocket Hub Pricing
The pricing seems a bit high as well to be honest. The high scale has 20Gigs at $100 a month with $10.00 per additional gig overage rate to access the LTE 100MBps speeds.
All in all, this product has no use for me personally. I get half decent internet at home (at a "blistering" 5.5MBps, thanks BELL) and find that most phones are adequate to use as a hotspot in a pinch on the road. If this product is destined for the rural / cottage areas then it's of my opinion that the network needs to be pushed out more to encompass those area and the consistency of the speed needs to be worked on. It's great if you start with a Bang but imagine if Usain Bolt sprinted for 10 steps then just casually walked the rest of the way?
I would prefer a solid 1.0Mpbs download vs a burst of a hundred billion and a gradual slowdown to 250KB/s. To me that just makes no sense.
The pricing matrix also needs work. I understand that this is a wireless product but $100.00 a Mo for 20 gigs. That's high, even for being a portable solution.