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Peplink Balance 20X External Antenna Guide

Updated:

Looking to get the best possible data rates from your Peplink Balance 20X?

You’ll want to purchase and connect external MIMO antennas to the device’s SMA ports.

In this guide, we'll:

  • Recommend the best external antennas to use.
  • Show where the SMA ports are located.
  • Explain how to aim the antennas for best results.

In this guide

Using a MIMO antenna outside your building, pointed at the nearest tower, can help you get the fastest 4G LTE data rates possible.

The default Peplink Balance 20X has two cellular SMA ports on the back to allow for a 2x2 MIMO antenna array to be connected to the device. With a 5G FlexModule Mini connected, four additional cellular SMA ports become available and they can be used for their very own 4x4 MIMO antenna array.

Note: We offer our very own bundles of the Peplink Balance 20X, as either a 4x4 MIMO Panel bundle or 4x4 MIMO Log Periodic bundle when bundled with the 5G Flexmodule Mini or either a 2x2 MIMO Panel bundle or 2x2 MIMO Log Periodic bundle when bundled without.

We recommend two different MIMO antenna options for the Peplink Balance 20X, dependant on the presence of the 5G FlexModule Mini:

Best with the 5G Flexmodule Mini

This 4x4 MIMO panel antenna kit will provide meaningful signal improvement, even if you're surrounded by trees, hills, or tall buildings.

For users with the Peplink Balance 20X and 5G Flexmodule Mini, the best external antenna choice is our 4x4 MIMO Panel External Antenna kit. This antenna doesn’t require line-of-sight to the tower and and utilizes all four of the 5G FlexModule Mini's cellular antenna ports to provide it with better cell service.

Best Without 5G Flex Module Mini

This 2x2 MIMO panel antenna kit will provide meaningful signal improvement, even if you're surrounded by trees, hills, or tall buildings.

However, for users with the stand-alone Peplink Balance 20X, we recommend using a 2x2 MIMO Panel Antenna kit instead. This antenna doesn’t require line-of-sight to the tower and utilizes both of the Peplink Balance 20X's cellular antenna ports to provide it with better cell service.

Why External Antennas Are Critical for Improving Data Rates

There's one big misconception about external antennas.

Most people think that external antennas primarily help you increase your data rates by increasing the signal strength.

But that's not the case.

An increase in signal strength is actually probably the third most important way that external antennas help.

Here are the three main ways that external antennas help you increase your data rates:

1.They Improve Signal Quality

In 4G LTE networks, signal quality is measured as SINR (Signal to Interference plus Noise Ratio) or sometimes as RSRQ (Reference Signal Received Quality).

Improving signal quality has a huge impact on your data rates.

Higher data rates allow your hotspot to communicate using "higher order modulation schemes." That means they can use the same wireless spectrum to send more data per second.

However, there's one big caveat:

In order to improve your signal quality, you need to both aim and shield your outdoor antenna properly. We talk more about this in the next section.

2.They Allow You To Connect On More Bands

Routers like the Peplink Balance support a feature called "carrier aggregation."

Carrier aggregation allows the Peplink router to connect on multiple cellular bands simultaneously.

The more bands you're connected to, the greater the bandwidth, and the higher your data rates.

However, many of the higher frequency bands aren't able to penetrate into buildings. Using external antennas allows you to access higher frequency bands, which are often less congested and offer higher speeds than lower frequency bands.

3.They Increase Your Signal Strength

As you might expect, using outdoor directional antennas can help increase the signal strength.

This helps increase data rates, but only up to a point.

If your signal strength (called "RSRP" in LTE networks) is stronger than about -100 dBm, stronger signal won't speed up your connection any further.

The standalone Peplink Balance 20X and the 5G FlexModule Mini have many available ports and some of these ports can be used for external cellular antennas. More specifically,

On the Peplink Balance 20X,

  • The two RP-SMA ports grouped on the back edge labeled Wi-Fi Antenna A and B are used for WiFi antennas.

  • The single SMA port on the back edge labeled GPS is used for a GPS antenna.

  • The two SMA ports grouped on the front edge, labeled Cellular Main and Cellular Diversity / Aux are for cellular antennas. If you do not have the 5G FlexModule Mini, these ports are will be used for by the 2x2 MIMO External Antenna kit.

  • The single SIM slot (not pictured) located on the bottom of the device can contain up to one SIM card for the embedded LTE Modem (CAT-7).

Location of the various ports on the Peplink Balance 20X

Location of the various ports on the Peplink Balance 20X.

On the Peplink 5G FlexModule Mini,

  • The four SMA ports labeled Cellular A, Cellular B, Cellular C, and Cellular D are used for cellular antennas. If you have the 5G FlexModule Mini, these ports will be used by the 4x4 MIMO External Antenna kit.

  • The two SIM Slots located beneath the unscrewable cover, can contain up to two different SIM cards for the embedded 5G Modem (CAT-20). Note: The 5G FlexModule Mini can only use one SIM card at a time. If another SIM card is placed into the 5G FlexModule Mini, it is treated as "redundant" back-up SIM card.

Location of the SMA ports on the Peplink 5G FlexModule Mini

Location of the SMA ports on the Peplink 5G FlexModule Mini

Now, before installing adapters for external antennas, it's always a good idea to run a couple of speed tests indoors from a device connected to your Peplink's WiFi. The results will fluctuate a little, but this is the baseline you're trying to improve.

Once you've tested your baseline internet speeds, you're ready to install external antennas.

In the next section of this guide, we'll show you how to connect adapters for external antennas to your Peplink.

Step-by-Step Guide to Installing Adapters for External Antennas

Step 1: Disconnect the stock antennas connected to the devices' cellular antenna ports:

  • Without a Peplink 5G FlexModule Mini: Disconnect the stock paddle antennas for the Balance 20X's "Cellular Main" and "Cellular Div / Aux" ports.

  • With the Peplink 5G FlexModule Mini: Disconnect the stock antennas connected to the 5G FlexModule Mini's "Cellular A", "Cellular B", "Cellular C", and "Cellular D" ports.

    Note: Keep all the ports not used by a 2x2 or 4x4 MIMO External Antenna kit connected to their stock antennas.

Step 2: Connect the cables to the newly available cellular SMA ports for use with your external MIMO antennas:

  • Peplink Balance 20X: Connect the cables from your 2x2 MIMO Antenna kit to the Balance 20X's ports labeled "Cellular Main" and "Cellular Div / Aux" ports, the order does not matter.

  • Peplink 5G FlexModule Mini: Connect the cables adapters from your 4x4 MIMO Antenna kit to the 5G FlexModule Mini's ports in the order shown below:

4x4 MIMO port order for use with the Peplink 5G FlexModule Mini

4x4 MIMO port order for use with the Peplink 5G FlexModule Mini

Note: For our 4x4 MIMO Antenna Kit, the cable jackets of the Quad-RS240 cable are labeled 1 through 4 to match the cable connectors on each end of the cable.

Congrats! Your Peplink Max Balance 20X is now connected to your powerful MIMO External Antennas.

Positioning and Aiming MIMO Antennas

Correctly positioning and aiming MIMO antennas is crucial to getting the best performance to your Peplink, or indeed any other router.

We've actually compiled a detailed 4x4 MIMO instruction manual to accompany our own 4x4 MIMO Antenna Kits, where we go into depth on the best ways to aim the antennas.

The goal is to find the best location and direction for the antenna(s) to maximize data rates to the hotspot. It can take a little patience, but can have a huge impact – it’s worth a bit of extra effort!

Once you've got your external MIMO antennas connected, you're ready to go outside with your "test-rig".

With each location and direction you try, run a couple speed tests, and make a note of the results. Here are all the locations and directions where we recommend testing your MIMO antenna:

Where to test your signal

Where to test your signal

Pro tip: Don’t just go to the highest point of the roof! While signal is generally stronger the higher you go, there’s also often more interference. We’ve found it’s often better to mount the antenna(s) on the side of the building where the structure can shield the antennas from interference.

Once you've found the position which gets you the highest data rates to the Peplink router, that's where you'll want to install the MIMO antenna. Go ahead and mount the antenna, run cables inside, connect everything up, and enjoy superior data rates!

Advanced Optimization

If you've gone through the trouble of installing and accurately aiming a MIMO Antenna Kit, you're likely already getting excellent data rates from your Peplink Balance 20X.

That said, there's always more that can be done!

Band locking is a great way to optimize data rates through an LTE router or hotspot. The idea is that you test every different frequency band being received by your device, and lock it onto the band that results in the best data rates.

The Peplink Balance 20X is one of few lines of routers that allow manual band locking in their web interface - here's a step by step guide of how to do it.

The reason this works so well, is because different frequency bands transmit with different bandwidths.

Generally speaking, higher frequency bands (like 1900 MHz and 2100 MHz) offer more bandwidth but travel less far and penetrate building materials less well than lower frequency bands (like 700 MHz and 800 MHz).

As a result of travelling less far, higher frequency bands tend to be less “congested” - they have fewer users connected to them, and data rates are often faster.

This isn’t always the case though, sometimes a lower frequency band may have better data rates, depending on your location.

This can be quite time consuming, but often results in significant improvements to data rates.

We'll keep the steps below as simple and concise as possible! If you need a little more guidance, you can find a video about this here.

  • Use a computer to connect to your Peplink's LAN network via ethernet, and open a web browser.
  • Enter "192.168.50.1" into the URL bar to log into the Peplink web interface.
  • Login to the interface with your username and password - default username is "admin" and the password is "admin".
  • You will be required to change the password on the first logon.

Step 2: Navigate to the cellular settings

  • On the main dashboard, you will see a number of fields under "WAN Connection Status".
  • Find the cellular option with a SIM card detected, and click on "Details". There's a fair amount of useful and interesting information to be found in this section of the web interface. For now, we're only interested in the band locking feature.
  • Scroll down past "Cellular Status" and "WAN Connection Settings", until you see "Cellular Settings".
Navigating to cellular settings on the Peplink web portal

Navigating to cellular settings on the Peplink web portal

  • Expand the dropdown under the active SIM card slot, and change "Band Selection" mode to "Manual".
Activating manual band selection on the Peplink web portal

Activating manual band selection on the Peplink web portal

From the list of bands that appears, select only the band(s) to which you'd like to lock the Peplink router. Note: Since most carriers are currently in the processes of decommissioning their 3G networks, we recommend unselecting all bands listed as "WCDMA / ...".

  • In the example below we've selected all of the bands that are available, you will likely only want to select a subset of the available LTE bands.
Manual band selection on the Peplink web portal

Manual band selection on the Peplink web portal

Once you've selected the bands you'd like to use, reboot the router for the changes to take effect.

Now, lets test each available band in your area, to determine which will result in the best data rates.

Step 5: Test and select the best tower and frequency band.

Perform the following set of steps to find which cell tower is the best to optimize your system towards:

  1. Look up your nearby towers. This can be time consuming and accuracy is often questionable - we've listed our suggestions in an article on the Best Ways to Locate Nearby Cell Towers.
  2. Aim your external MIMO antenna(s) at each nearby tower and band lock the Peplink Balance 20X to each band that the tower transmits.
  3. Run 3 to 4 speed tests on each band to find the fastest bands. Speedtest.net is a great tool for this.
  4. Repeat this for every tower in your area, and make notes of the speed test results you get from each band and tower combination.

Once you've identified the best tower and band combination, lock your Peplink to that band, and make sure your outdoor antenna is secured so that it doesn't move in the wind.

Supported 4G LTE bands

  • AT&T: B2, B4, B5, B12, B14, B66
  • Verizon: B2, B4, B5, B13, B48, B66
  • T-Mobile: B2, B4, B5, B12, B25, B41, B66, B71
  • Other: B7, B26, B42, B43

Cellular Modem

  • MIMO Support: 2x2 with external antennas
  • Carrier Aggregation: 2x Download, 2x Upload.
  • LTE Performance Category: Cat 7
  • Max Theoretical Speeds: 300 Mbps Download, 150 Mbps Upload

Wi-Fi

  • Wi-fi Version: Wifi 5
  • Wifi Standards: 802.11ac
  • Bands: Simultaneous Dual-Band (2.4GHz / 5GHz)

Ports

  • Cellular Antenna Ports: 2x SMA Female
  • WiFi Antenna Port: 2x RP-SMA Female
  • GPS Antenna Port: 1x SMA Female
  • SIM Port: 2x SIM (1x Redundant SIM slot)
  • Other Ports: 4x LAN, 1x WAN, 1x FlexModule Mini Slot

Other

  • Power: 10V-30V DC power (no internal battery)
  • Outdoor Rated?: No

Supported 4G LTE bands

  • AT&T: B2, B4, B5, B12, B14, B17, B29, B30, B66
  • Verizon: B2, B4, B5, B13, B46, B48, B66
  • T-Mobile: B2, B4, B5, B12, B25, B41, B66, B71
  • Other: B1, B3, B7, B8, B17, B18, B19, B20, B26, B28, B29, B30, B32, B34, B38, B39, B40, B42, B43, B46

Supported 5G bands

  • AT&T: n5, n77
  • Verizon: n2, n5, n66, n77
  • T-Mobile: n41, n71
  • Other: n1, n3, n28, n78, n79

Cellular Modem

  • MIMO Support: 4x4 with external antennas
  • Carrier Aggregation: 5x Download, 3x Upload.
  • LTE Performance Category: Cat 20
  • Max Theoretical Speeds:
    • 5G: 4 Gbps Download, 700 Mbps Upload
    • LTE: 2 Gbps Download, 150 Mbps Upload

Ports

  • Cellular Antenna Ports: 4x SMA-Female
  • SIM Slots: 2x SIM (1x Redundant SIM Slot)

Other Helpful Resources

A helpful video by Mobile Internet Resource Center

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