Junxion Box JB-110b
At $599, the Junxion Box JB-110b cellular router is not exactly what you'd call an impulse buy, but this mobile hot spot in a box is finding a home in a variety of special business applications. What's a cellular router? Pretty much the same thing as the Wi-Fi router you'd find on the shelves of your local computer store, except the broadband connection (backhaul in industry-speak) is a cellular data service. And since you need a high-speed cellular modem to access one of these services, nearly all of which are PC Card types for notebooks, the JB-110b offers a PC Card slot to accommodate them. Of course, providing the modem and service is your responsibility just as with wired broadband. If your workgroup needs an Internet connection on the road, the Junxion Box might be a better option than hunting down hot spots.
To be honest, when we first heard about the JB-110b, the first question that sprang to mind was "What would you need that for?" The ah-ha! moment came when Junxion informed us that Google uses them in its employee shuttles to keep workers connected while moving offsite or around campus. A small company could also reduce its IT department's workload by using the Junxion Box, because instead of buying and supporting multiple cards, the IT person can support just one card and one Junxion box.
The lime-green color of the JB-110b, which is 6.25 inches deep, 10.25 inches wide, and 1.125 inches high, was probably chosen to make consumers aware of the product, but it has the advantage of making the box easy to spot; it's less likely to be stepped on or kicked while in the field. Adorning the brightly hued box are two Ethernet ports (both are configured as LAN ports, but you can use port 2 as a WAN port for a wired connection over DSL, cable, or an office network), power and status lights, a single 802.11b wireless antenna, and the top-mounted PC Card slot where you insert your cellular PC card modem. At the time of our hands-on testing, the JB-110b supported AT&T's (now Cingular) wireless service via the Novatel Wireless U520 (UMTS and GPRS) and Sony Ericsson's GC82 (EDGE and GPRS); Cingular's EDGE and GPRS networks with the same GC82; Sprint's 1xRTT network with the Novatel Wireless C201 and Sierra Wireless 550; and Verizon's service with the Audiovox 5220 (1xEV-DO and 1xRTT) and Audiovox 3220 (1xRTT). The JB-110b's software is upgradable, and Junxion plans to support newer modems and services as they become available.
Maximum speeds currently run from about 50Kbps to 70Kbps (a bit faster than dial-up) for the more widely implemented 2.5G connections, such as Sprint's current offering, to about 300Kbps to 700Kbps for smaller coverage area 3G connections, such as Cingular's UMTS. You can get faster bursts, and rates will vary wildly according to your location and signal strength. Suffice it to say, cellular broadband isn't quite cable yet, though faster services are in the works, including a 2.4Mbps service from Sprint and a scintillating 14.4Mbps enhanced version of UMTS called High Speed Downlink Packet Access, which should hit select locations one of these days. Right now, 3G services are all rather expensive, with charges starting at about $80 per month for an unlimited access plan.
The JB-110b's straightforward HTML interface makes it a snap to configure, though the amount of time it takes to adjust itself can be a bit lengthy--up to 5 minutes for a full reset. After upgrading to firmware version 1.09, we found the GUI pretty much bulletproof. Cellular broadband connections can be surprisingly fast, but they're more often quick enough only for light data transfer and surfing. We saw noticeable lags as the card established a connection before each transfer. Though we loved the JB-110b's ability to leverage cellular data connections--it performed perfectly in our informal tests--we wish Junxion had provided a bit better router functionality. The box works well in its intended role and is fast enough for any current cellular broadband connection, but in a day and age of parallel 802.11g, 802.11n, gigabit Ethernet and WPA, the JB-110b's two 10/100 ports, plain old 802.11b, and porous WEP security seem quaint and not very future proof. Still, the Junxion Box is a potentially useful product for early adopters or businesses with a real need to share a cellular connection. Our only cautionary advice is that fence-sitters might want to wait for a cheaper, consumer-targeted version or one with faster wireless and better security.
Junxion supports the JB-110b with a one-year warranty. Online support includes updated manuals, firmware, and an e-mail link. Toll-free telephone support is available 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT, Monday through Friday, holidays excepted.