The lowly router is a necessary evil. It’s a device we can’t live without, but often feels like an arcane relic from an era when boxy tube monitors and dial-up modems ruled. The router is the gateway to high-speed internet in our homes and offices, and it enables us to wirelessly connect countless gadgets — smartphones, laptops, TVs, speakers, game consoles, the list goes on — to the internet. It’s only going to get more important as more and more appliances rely on Wi-Fi connectivity for modern conveniences.

As important as they are, routers are equally notorious for being unattractive, difficult to set up, unreliable, and generally unpleasant to use. Most people use the router provided to them by their internet service provider (ISP), which may have terrible wireless range and a ridiculously complex setup process and am afraid to say the latter is true for the CIR 20 Wireless Router.
Vodafone Uganda is attempting to flip that paradigm on its head with the CIR 20 Wireless Router. The router is a UGX 299,000 model manufactured by CeLa Link corporation to Vodafone’s design and specifications. Now that we mention specifications, let me first summaries them below.

  • LTE Broadband Multi-mode ultra-high speed (2G/3G/4G)
  • Plug and Play
  • Connects up to 32 data devices + 4 Ethernet ports
  • 3GPP Rel.9 compliance
  • Supports Android and iOS devices
  • Home and Small Business us
  • IPv4/IPv6 dual stack
  • Ethernet port: 2 RJ45 ports
  • External antenna connector – 1 TS9 connector for LTE
  • USB: USB 2.0 HS (Type A) /Support USB HDD

In the box

Vodafone Uganda CIR 20 Router _In the box

  • 4G LTE Wireless Router (Including SIM)
  • Router Stand
  • Quick User Guide
  • Ethernet cable (RJ 45)
  • LTE Antenna (2 pieces)
  • Power Adaptor

CeLa Link (CIR 20) Wireless Router is like any other traditional router. A small cuboid white finish, with the traditional array of blinking lights to show off the difference statuses of the router.  And the CeLa Link (CIR 20) Wireless Router doesn’t just look simple: it’s packed with two powerful antennas to ensure optimal wireless coverage and throughput throughout your home. If only there was an easy-to-use app, to control it making the setup and troubleshooting much easier than with traditional routers.

Plug and Play is not as perfect as we expected

The big question to ask, is whether with the Vodafone CIR 20 Wireless Router, the company is trying to solve the three biggest pain points of routers — setup, coverage, and troubleshooting — and build a wireless portal for the future. Did it also happen to create the perfect router? After switching out my current router and using the Vodafone CIR 20 Wireless Router for the past few days in my own home, I want to say that Vodafone has come awfully close, despite the set up issues I had which negates their plug and play key feature.

Vodafone spent a lot of its marketing efforts around the CIR 20 Wireless Router especially when they bundled it up with 6 Mbps speeds of Unlimited Data valid for 30 days. This is a starter pack offer only, after your first month you can subscribe normally. It’s always a good idea to place the CIR 20 Wireless Router centrally in your home and offices, which is the most ideal position for wireless coverage and range.

Vodafone Uganda CIR 20 Router _The router2

Vodafone Uganda CIR 20 Router _The connectionsIt is always recommended to centrally locate the CIR 20 Wireless Router in your home or small office: if it’s the same distance from every room in the house, wireless coverage is maximized to its full potential. Walls, furniture, appliances, and all of the normal stuff people have in their homes can block Wi-Fi signals, so having fewer of those in the way makes for a better experience. But the problem with this ideal concept is that most people’s broadband modem often isn’t in the center of the home.  The Vodafone CIR 20 Wireless Router has to be plugged into power with no internal back up battery of its own,  in order to access the internet, making it extremely difficult to put it in a different physical location than your portable MiFi modem.

Setting up the Vodafone CIR 20 Wireless Router in my home was a pain in my experience, trying to connect it via WiFi to my laptop proved fruitless since the default WiFi Password was XXXXXXXX (yes that the password) was as stupid as it looks and also never worked (I wonder why I even bothered to use it). Now, here is another trick, if your laptop has no support for an Ethernet port, this router is a no go for you. I had to use an Ethernet to USB adapter to get the router up and working. Well it could just be me.  All in all, I was up and running, including naming my network and picking a password that I could easily remember. The router has 4 Ethernet ports in case you need to connect some devices like game console or PCs directly to it.

Update: Thanks to a Vodafone Engineer, we were informed that the last 8 digits of the IMEI is the password. You can find this IMEI on your box or the device its self.

Coverage and throughput are shockingly good as Vodafone can limit you

To make that happen, the Vodafone CIR 20 Wireless Router employs several arrays of internal and two external antennas: for both the 2.4GHz network and 5GHz, and one to monitor the network and automatically tune the radios to the best settings. You can even twist the antennas and direct them in your desired direction, for the best possible coverage regardless of how the router itself is positioned.

All of that means I didn’t have to do anything to optimize the radio coverage (nor could I, really). I just put the Vodafone CIR 20 Wireless Router in my office, set it up, and went about my life. Unlike other routers, this one that don’t broadcast separate 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks. Instead, the same network name (or SSID) covers both frequencies, and the Vodafone CIR 20 Wireless Router will dynamically adjust network depending on which frequency offers the best blend of coverage, speed, and minimal interference. (Typically, 2.4GHz networks have broader range, while 5GHz ones have higher throughput and less interference from other devices.) That makes it easy when adding a device to the network: there’s only one option to choose from and one password you need to input.

Speed tests vodafone

We downloaded huge files, played online games, Watched Netflix HD videos and we were able to hit peak of 6 Mbps but at normal usage, although we averaged mostly at 2 Mbps, which is fair enough. My Skype calls kept dropping even if my speeds where good (this has just started of late irrespective if you use this router or Vodafone MiFi ). But overall the experience was great.

Of course, the million-shilling (or UGX 299,000) question here is: do you really need to spend this much on a wireless router when you can get one somewhere cheaper online or Kampala streets for as low as UGX 150,000? Many of my colleagues balked at the price of the router, but were lured in by the 100 GB initial promotional offer that came with it. If you live in a small apartment, chances are you don’t need the power the Vodafone CIR 20 Wireless Router offers. But for any modest sized or larger home, the benefits of the Vodafone CIR 20 Wireless Router are readily apparent: it just works better than any other router I’ve used so far. Although it will be fair to mention that I have heard instances from some friends who have not had a smooth ride with this device. I would recommend to ask a specialist to set it up for you and also have the Vodafone customer care number on speed dial.

 

 

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