Data Speeds to Expect With Cellular Internet When Traveling

wide open road with no cars through the country.

We have an article on what causes slow cellular internet speeds and one on the differences between a hotspot and a Peplink router. These resources help to get to the root of the issue- cellular data speeds are completely variable, and the important thing is to maximize your speeds where you can.

In theory, 5G or 4G LTE speeds (depending on your router) are available using cellular Wi-Fi. This translates to a very fast connection that would allow for multiple people to stream, surf, and game on the same connection. Of course, for someone traveling, you won’t always be in the best cellular area. Sometimes, you may barely have a 3G connection- or nothing at all.

The key to maintaining good cellular internet speeds as you travel is an understanding of what makes speeds improve and what makes speeds decrease, as well as an understanding of what type of cellular data plan you have.

Cellular data plans with speed capping

If you have a data plan, you don’t necessarily have access to the best of 4G LTE. Many plans, especially recently, have been blocking higher speeds and instead allow a constant 5Mbps by 5Mbps, 10Mbps by 10Mpbs, or something similar. While this is not terrible, it can make regular use for a family a real pain.

Make sure before you sign a contract with a restricted speed plan that you understand what you can do with that restricted speed. For example, a 10Mbps connection is needed for two different users to stream HD video at the same time. For standard definition, this drops to around 6Mbps. Understanding your current needs and how you can best adapt your usage to the restrictions of the plan will help prevent any stress later on. Expedition Communications Cellular does not cap data speeds for our high gigabyte cellular data plan that offers 500 gigabytes, though we do for some of our lighter-use plans.

Location and equipment

For cellular data, it is all about location. If you want to maximize your data speeds, you need to make sure you are in a strong part of the network. The closer to a cell tower that is not highly contended, the better your data speeds will be. This will also change depending on the quality of your equipment. A powerful cellular router can produce a much stronger signal than a battery powered hotspot, especially when coupled with an external antenna. If you need the absolute fastest speeds, a good deal of thought should go into your equipment setup and the locations you choose to visit. Even still, your optimized equipment can only do so much- if you are very far from a cell tower, you will still not have a connection.

So what will my data speeds be?

There is no guaranteed speeds when it comes to cellular Wi-Fi. Any company that claims they can guarantee speeds is lying to you. Signal strength will continue changing as you move, as the tower becomes more and less inundated with users, and as you upgrade or downgrade your equipment. Simply put, it’s completely variable. If you need the fastest speeds possible, get a powerful enterprise-grade router such as our Peplink device and an external antenna. Stay within the cellular network and manage your devices and usage. If possible, get multiple SIM cards on different networks. While you will not have guaranteed speeds, you can have the absolute best of speeds available as you travel from place to place. Expedition Communications Cellular offers plans from 20 gigabytes to 500 gigabytes, matched with our enterprise-grade routers by Peplink.

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