Sprint's Netgear LTE Gateway Is a Plan B to ISPs

REVIEW: The Sprint Spark-based Netgear LTE Gateway offers high-speed Internet service for multiple users—but at a price.

Sprint Netgear LTE Gateway 6100D

It's not infrequently that I, and my neighbors and friends, shake a frustrated fist—literally and figuratively—at Time Warner Cable (TWC), the sole Internet service provider in our neighborhood.

So great is the general desire for some high-speed Internet competition that I have heard a grown man whimper at the sight of a Verizon Fios truck driving past. And when Time Warner and Comcast testified that their proposed merger wouldn't damage industry competition because their service areas barely overlap, my reaction was: First tell us why that is.

That is all to say, it was with open arms and crossed fingers that I welcomed a Netgear LTE Gateway 6100D router into my home office.

About the size of a cable box, the Gateway houses a SIM card that accesses Sprint's LTE Spark network and converts it into a WiFi signal. Or, if you prefer to use an Ethernet cable, there are four ports on the back of the box.

In short, it works. And it's fast.

The unit gets plugged into an outlet, there's a little power button to press, and in about 20 seconds, things inside the box light up in a somehow-speed-suggesting shade of blue, et voila: high-speed Internet access.

Sprint offers a Website where you can adjust your settings, change the password, receive technical information and make various choices—the front of the Gateway shows icons for 3G, LTE, WiFi, WAN, LAN, USB and Internet.

While I did go to the site—which also displays your data usage—I frankly cared about one thing: hitting the power button and getting high-speed Internet, period.

Like my Sprint-attached smartphone, the Gateway worked better when positioned near a window, rather than in the center of my brick-walled apartment. On the days I sat the Gateway on my office window sill, it worked so well that I'd forget I wasn't using my TWC-based router. Until, sometimes once a day, it would crash, or service would pop in and out (I'd see the email icon in my toolbar go dark, indicating that the connection had been lost), and I'd have to restart it. After that, it would usually work just fine again. (Sometimes it took longer than just a few minutes.)

This restarting business may have been annoying if I weren't used to doing the same, sometimes once a day, with the TWC connection.

The bottom line, though—or maybe more accurately, a bottom line—is it works and it's fast. Was it 100 percent of the time on par with the experience of my cable service connected to a WiFi router? No. But if you're fed up with the sole cable option where you live, or if you often work remotely and need a transportable high-speed solution that can also support several people, the Netgear LTE Gateway from Sprint is a truly viable option.

There Are Considerations

So, yes, the Gateway does resemble a cable box, standing on its side, but there is actually one other component: two antenna paddles that screw (no screwdriver required) into the back of the unit to increase reception.