Should I use an external cellular gateway or Cisco HWIC?

So you have a Cisco Router and need to add cellular connectivity? Cisco offers HWICs (High-Speed WAN Interface Cards) and EHWICs (Enhanced High-Speed WAN Interface Cards) to integrate cellular into your device. The Cisco Enhanced High-Speed WAN Interface Card (eHWIC) is an updated and enhanced version of the current HWIC for the Cisco Integrated Services Router Generation 2 (ISR G2). However, this is one of the applications where "integrated" may not be the best approach. Consider the following:

1) An external cellular gateway allows for best RF placement, not restricted to the wiring closet with the router. Reception and signal quality significantly impact data throughput and bandwidth availability.  Customers can often leverage this capability to use antennas shipped with the kits vs. expensive LMR cabling and external antennas to get out of the wiring closet with the HWIC. Some cellular gateway models also offer a PoE option to eliminate the need for a power source where the cellular gateway is placed.

2) An external cellular gateway means it doesn't matter what series router you have, whether you have an available card slot, etc.

3) An external cellular gateway can permit out-of-band management to the parent router for maintenance and troubleshooting.

4) An external cellular gateway can be activated and provisioned prior to shipping so that the device comes plug-and-play ready to the customer and is up and running in no time, whereas an HWIC can only be configured on site or using a surrogate router. You can visit your local retail electronics store and get an LTE eHWIC for about $800.  But you still have the task of contacting your carrier, getting the LTE SIM and the appropriate M2M data plan, and the knowledge to install and set up properly.  It is much easier to have someone provision and then leverage wizards & embedded help tabs in the external cellular gateway to expedite the learning curve to be a power user on this component.

5) An external cellular gateway is often easier to configure and troubleshoot as needed. One of the most recent examples was the ability to update the radio module firmware over the air vs. the traditional local USB firmware update. 

6) An external cellular gateway can support router redundancy protocols, and advanced Cisco protocols such as DMNR and is certified and functions identically on the carrier network.

7) An external cellular gateway is a non-proprietary component, and therefore comes at much lower cost.

8) An external cellular gateway serves as an excellent primary/backup solution and introduces redundancy so that you won’t have a single point of failure as with the router/HWIC card combination. For example, should the Cisco router suffer a failure and the link goes down, you can continue to run a small office with just an external modem/router or a larger office on reduced services. You could do a quick patch cable reroute, and perhaps a couple settings changes, and continue to run critical services without the Cisco router. 

9) An external cellular gateway can better keep pace with the changing technology such as the coming advanced LTE. Cellular modem manufacturers have a purpose-built device with a primary focus on cellular WAN. Cellular modem manufacturers are much more flexible and poised to react to new radio module technology and carrier tech changes, in their competitive game of being the best and having the latest features. 

These are just a few of the reasons we recommend considering an external cellular gateway. An external cellular gateway provides greater flexibility, scalability, adaptability, and manageability than Cisco HWICs. The advanced features and options available combined with the minimal learning curve needed to manage it, make the external cellular gateway a better choice for your network solution. Call us about your application and our sales staff will help in selecting the cellular gateway that will work best for you.