Bookmark Key Points: Industry-wide price increases and component shortages are impacting many companies, and Peplink has had to adjust its product lines and raise prices…
Bookmark Key Points: Industry-wide price increases and component shortages are impacting many companies, and Peplink has had to adjust its product lines and raise prices…
Cellular router manufacturer Peplink is responsible for many "Top Pick" products here at the Mobile Internet Resource Center, and various Pepwave routers have become essential components in the connectivity arsenals of many nomads, particularly for advanced users.
But Peplink's product lineup has been going through some significant changes - with new products announced, and some old favorites being phased out.
Across the board prices are shifting up - in some cases dramatically.
Our last major Peplink news story was back in May when we shared the details of the MAX BR1 Pro 5G cellular router, AP One AX Lite access point, and Puma 421 Antenna.
We've got the latest on all of these new products - including a hands-on first look at the MAX BR1 Pro 5G.
But first - here's an important update on the current nomad-popular MAX Transit lineup, which is going through some significant changes, and not all for the better.
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The news has been filled this year with stories of automotive and other assembly lines sitting idle because of a lack of key components - often because of various computer chips being in short supply.
These semiconductor supply chain issues are not just impacting the auto industry - even giant manufacturers like Apple and Samsung are struggling to meet the booming demand for new products.
When the giants are struggling to get parts - smaller manufacturers like Peplink end up suffering at the back of the line.
Peplink recently let us know that they are literally running out of the Wi-Fi chips that are central to the current MAX Transit router lineup.
This includes the MAX Transit Duo, MAX Transit Cat-18, and MAX Transit 5G PrimeCare models - all options that are very popular with our MIA members as they strike a great balance between consumer pricing and professional features.
This is the result of major supply chain issues with the chip manufacturers - and it appears to be out of Peplink's control. We've heard similar stories of parts shortages and price increases from many other manufacturers too.
The timing of this shortage is definitely not ideal, as Peplink is not yet ready with its next generation of the Transit lineup - which we anticipate will come sometime in 2022.
So to bridge the gap, Peplink is rolling out some new models of the Transit and phasing out the original MAX Transit lineup. These new transition models will have a pretty substantial price increase.
The first step in this transition is phasing out the MAX Transit lineup - or what we'll refer to henceforth as the 'original' models.
This includes these models popular with our audience:
Peplink has already stopped producing the original MAX Transit lineup, so what is in current vendor supply distribution chains is all that is left.
We also learned that Peplink put out a new official price list for retailers, raising the official MSRP of the remaining original MAX Transit Duo (Cat-12) and MAX Transit 5G stock left in channel inventory from $999 to $1,199. However, it seems like most retailers are still honoring the old prices while they clear inventory.
We suspect that this price increase is part of the transition to the MAX Transit Core and MAX Transit Pro E (described below). As the last of the current inventory is cleared out, Peplink wants to make sure that the outgoing models are priced in line with the upcoming new and more expensive models.
Interestingly, there has been no MSRP price increase on the MAX Transit Cat-18 - it remains at $749, while supplies last.
Next, Pepwave is releasing two new models of the Transit - the first they are calling the Core. It will be available initially only as a dual Cat-12 model, similar to the MAX Transit Duo.
But because of the Wi-Fi chip supply issues, the Core will have NO integrated Wi-Fi capability at all.
What this means in practical terms is that on its own, the new Transit Core will not be able to host its own local area Wi-Fi network or utilize Wi-Fi as WAN to connect to an outside Wi-Fi source. These features can only be enabled with the use of additional hardware such as an access point for hosting a local network, or Wi-Fi CPE device connected the the Ethernet WAN port for connecting to a remote network.
In other words, this is a major downgrade for the way many RVers and boaters utilize the MAX Transit router.
The main external physical change over the original MAX Transit is the elimination of the Wi-Fi antenna jacks and the addition of two additional Ethernet LAN ports. The capability to power the MAX Transit over USB-C is also being eliminated.
One of these Ethernet LAN ports can provide POE power output (assuming that the router has a high-voltage DC input supply) - so it could more easily use a Peplink Access Point (see our AP One gear center entry for info) to host an indoor Wi-Fi network to make up for its lack of integrated Wi-Fi.
The MAX Transit Core has four cellular antenna ports, two for each Cat-12 modem.
Routing performance should be identical to the current MAX Transit line at 400 Mbps - the CPU and other internals are not changing.
The other big change is the price - the MAX Transit Core lists for $1,199, a 20% increase over the original $999 pricing for the MAX Transit Duo / MAX Transit 5G.
In other words - this is a 20% price increase, and a loss of Wi-Fi, that is only countered with the addition of two Ethernet ports and Power over Ethernet (POE).
The MAX Transit Core will begin shipping in late November or early December, and we've been told it will become a long-term offering in Peplink's lineup - eventually available with other modem options.
Peplink understands however how important integrated Wi-Fi is to many of their customers, so they are taking their last remaining current generation Wi-Fi chips and will introduce a new "limited availability" model called the MAX Transit Pro E.
The Pro E will only be available in the US market (not globally) and is pretty much a replacement of the current MAX Transit Duo with Cat-12 modems.
The Pro E is basically the MAX Transit Core (including the extra 2x Ethernet and POE), but with the same Wi-Fi capabilities currently found in the original MAX Transit line.
This model will cost $1,299 - a 30% increase over the original MAX Transit Duo with Cat-12 modems priced at $999.
Because this model is still dependent on the Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) chips that are seemingly unavailable going into the future - Peplink tells us this model is slated to be discontinued once they run out, or once they are ready to transition the MAX Transit to a future next-generation Wi-Fi platform.
There will be a big hole in the market once the last of the original MAX Transit Cat-18 and MAX Transit 5G models sell out.
With no Cat-18 or 5G MAX Transit Core or Pro E options, there will no longer be any MAX Transit model that supports T-Mobile's long-range Band 71.
This makes the current MAX Transit Cat-18 (at $749) an especially great deal, especially for T-Mobile customers. It is roughly half the price of the new MAX BR1 Pro 5G - and though it is not a 5G model, it is very capable of taking advantage of current LTE cellular networks.
For those seeking a single modem option to tide them over until 5G is more evolved, the Transit Cat-18 is a great value that is about to dry up.
As we pondered in our May 2021 update when the MAX BR1 Pro 5G was first announced - we anticipate that Peplink is moving towards Wi-Fi 6 and upgrading the router performance across its product line, likely to include the MAX Transit.
Timing and details on this evolution are uncertain, but we expect to see some sort of next-generation MAX Transit sometime in the first half of 2022.
Given the price increases we're seeing with the current lineup and the MAX BR1 Pro 5G - we anticipate a substantial price increase may be coming along with these potential new models too.
If obtaining a MAX Transit was in your plans for 2021 or early 2022, it may be prudent to purchase one sooner rather than later while there is still inventory of the original models available at the price points you were budgeting.
Keep in mind - the replacement models coming out later this month are 20-30% more expensive.
And even some original models have already been increased to a new $1,199 MSRP, but many vendors are still offering the original prices - for now. It's unknown for how long inventory will last, or vendors will be able to offer these models at the original prices.
Unless you really need those extra Ethernet ports or POE capability, the new Transit Pro E is just a MAX Transit Duo with a 30% jump in price. And the Core takes away the key feature of WI-Fi (WAN or LAN) for a 20% increase.
The MAX Transit Cat-18 also represents a great value at $749 for a single modem option with long-range band 71 T-Mobile support, and once the inventory of this modem variation is gone - there will not be a comparable model in the MAX Transit lineup until the next generation.
So if the MAX Transit has been on your potential near-term gear shopping list - get the original models while you still can! Supplies are running out, and there is likely only a month or two of supply left in distribution channels.
Or - wait until the next generation is here sometime in 2022. But there are no details yet available on just what those options might look like, and at what price points.
For more on deciding which Pepwave Transit model is right for you, refer to our full Gear Center Entry (members, be sure to be signed in to see the member exclusive deep dive analysis of each option, testing results - and of course, for accessing your special discounts from select vendors):
The new MAX BR1 Pro 5G we reported on back in May is now shipping, and we have one in hand for testing and evaluation.
The completely new Pepwave MAX BR1 Pro 5G brings much faster router performance, a 5G modem, and Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) to one of Peplink's most popular product lines.
The new MAX BR1 Pro 5G is the first major update to the MAX BR1 in years - and it appears to be a complete redesign built on top of a significantly more advanced underlying architecture.
The big new features:
Here is our hands-on first look:
The big catch with the MAX BR1 Pro 5G is that it costs a lot more than the previous BR1 models - launching with a $1,499 suggested price.
For reference, the MAX BR1 MK2 (with an entry-level Cat-6 LTE modem) is priced at $599. But keep in mind - these new and old BR1 models share very little in common other than the product line name.
Still No USB Port?!?
The MAX BR1 Pro 5G addresses most of our wish-list improvements for the BR1, but Peplink has still NOT added a USB port to enable tethering to a second cellular device.
It boggles our mind that Peplink continues to leave USB off the BR1 line considering this is included on many other Pepwave product lines.
In summer 2020, Peplink announced a new lineup of Pepwave antennas designed to pair with its router models. They initially released the Puma 401 that summer, and the rest of the lineup (Stingray and Hummingbird) was seemingly delayed.
This past summer however saw the remaining new antenna lines released, and a new and improved Puma 421.
And, then came a shift in the model names.
Over the summer Peplink announced that the Puma was going extinct.
The Pepwave Puma line of antennas, that is.
But in this case, it was NOT the result of a parts shortage nor a change to the actual product.
Seemingly because of a trademark dispute, Peplink rebranded its relatively new lineup of Puma vehicle-mounted antennas to be "Mobility." They also used the opportunity to change their model designators.
The first character of their models refers to the number of cellular antennas, the second is the Wi-Fi antennas - and then they just simply replaced the last character to indicate if it has GPS or not.
With this change, the Puma 421 (for example) became the Mobility 42G.
Other than the name - nothing else changed with this antenna line.
We've been testing the Puma 421 / Mobility 42G - and are very impressed with it, no matter what it is called.
For more on the Mobility antenna product options and following our review and testing notes (members, be sure to be signed in to see the member exclusive deep dive analysis, testing results- and of course, for accessing your special discounts from select vendors):
Peplink is also now shipping a new line of Maritime antennas, which had previously been announced as coming to market under the Stingray brand name.
Peplink describes the benefits of the Maritime antennas this way:
Compared to other antennas, the Maritime series supports a very wide frequency range starting from 400MHz up to 6GHz. These antennas are suitable not only for long range applications when low bands are needed, but are also perfect for higher bands which are frequently used for 5G applications. In addition, the Maritime antennas support Wi-Fi bands (2.4GHz and 5GHz) and can be used as Wi-Fi WAN antennas for maritime applications. The antennas also include an active GPS antenna making them a perfect all-in-one solution.
There are two initial antennas in the Maritime line:
The Maritime 40G is basically two 20G's stacked on top of each other, designed to support the 4x4 MIMO needs of 5G radios, or dual modem routers.
On paper - these antennas are compelling, though expensive.
They appear to have good support for the full range of Sub-6GHz 4G and 5G frequency bands, and the IP68 rating and marine mount should make them a natural for harsh marine environments.
The sheer height of these antennas probably rules them out for permanent RV installations but they should still work well when pole-mounted or manually raised.
For more on the Maritime antenna product options (members, be sure to be signed in to see the member exclusive deep dive analysis and of course, for accessing your special discounts from select vendors):
Peplink has also announced a third new line of cellular antennas, the IoT line, designed for the "Internet of Things" market. These were originally announced under the Hummingbird brand name.
These antennas are likely of less interest to our mobile audience, but we've got all the details in our gear center here.
Peplink's part shortages are also affecting their line of access points, which also have seen a price increase.
For example, the Pepwave AP One AX MSRP increased from $199 to $399 - an absolutely huge jump.
Here is the current Pepwave AP One lineup with updated pricing:
For more on the AP One product line, see our gear center and recent video we filmed with our friends at MobileMustHave:
Last November we shared with our members a sneak preview of a new Peplink router - the UBR Go.
The UBR Go is very similar to our Top Pick MAX Transit Duo - with the same internals and dual Cat-12 cellular modems. But while the MAX Transit Duo has just two gigabit Ethernet ports (1x WAN, 1x LAN) - the UBR Go has 3x LAN ports and 1x WAN port. And one of the LAN ports supports 802.3at POE (Power over Ethernet) output, so it can power a camera or additional access point directly over the Ethernet.
Also unique to the UBR Go - it could be powered over USB-C.
But after nearly a year of "it's coming soon" updates, we have now confirmed that the UBR Go has been canceled before ever shipping in volume due to parts shortages.
The parts that were destined for the UBR Go seem to have been redirected towards building the MAX Transit Core and Pro E.
There are however a few other new Peplink 5G products of interest to certain segments of our audience:
With all of these new releases, we're left pondering just what would be the ideal Pepwave router for our audience of RVers and cruisers.
Here are the core features we'd like to see in an ideal Peplink cellular router:
Some Peplink products meet some of these needs, but at the moment all the potential options come with compromises in terms of features or they are at much higher price points that make them more enterprise-appropriate than prosumer.
Here are a few of the more interesting contenders:
Hopefully over time the capabilities of these higher-end models will percolate down to be more mainstream accessible.
It is great to see Peplink updating some of its product lines to embrace modern cellular and Wi-Fi technologies - but it's also very unfortunate that other lines will see reduced features, price increases, and delays.
The evolution of the Pepwave MAX BR1 is particularly compelling - and we suspect this may be the beginning of Peplink refreshing its entire product line with faster CPUs and Wi-Fi 6 radios.
But we are entering into an awkward transition period - with old favorites now in short supply.
If you are in the market for a cellular integrated router in 2021 or early 2022, here are the best Pepwave options:
All of the old MAX Transit models are increasingly in short supply - and once these old models run out, the MAX Transit Core and MAX Transit Pro E will be more expensive alternatives with little actual advantage.
On the other hand - if you are OK waiting for a Pepwave MAX Transit style cellular router of this caliber until well into 2022 - we expect that there is a truly next-generation MAX Transit line in the works that will incorporate the more advanced technology seen in the MAX BR1 Pro 5G.
But any future MAX Transit models with Wi-Fi 6 and a faster CPU will likely come in at a new even higher price level - so grabbing something today could indeed still be a smart move.
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