Cellular routers are still mainly used by mobile work teams, emergency response units, and corporate commute vehicles that need to provide a connection to the Internet while on the move. But with prices dropping, these devices are likely to become more popular among consumers who simply want to set up hot spots without being tied to a single location. On top of what you will pay for the router itself, keep in mind that you'll also need a monthly service plan with a cellular provider, such as Sprint or Verizon--this will run you anywhere from $40 to $80 per month. Like the Junxion Box and the 3G Phoebus, the KR1 takes EV-DO PC Cards (specifically, the Kyocera KPC650, the Sierra APC850, and the Novatel Wireless V620). But the KR1 goes one step further--it's also compatible with a few 1xEV-DO USB phones: the Kyocera KX18, the Samsung SCH-A890, and the Audiovox CDM-8940.
Of the three 3G cellular routers we've seen, the KR1 looks the most like a standard router. The slate-gray, plastic case is about the size of medium paperback book and feels solidly constructed. The flat body lends itself to stacking and packing, which is a boon for gear-laden mobile teams that need to be efficient with space. The front panel features a standard row of status lights that shows power and network activity (WAN, WLAN, and LAN). The rear of the unit houses the detachable antenna, the power port, the phone-in USB port, a 10/100 switch with four Ethernet ports for hardwired connections, and the PC Card slot. (There's also a second, unlabeled USB port that the included installation manual makes sure to warn users against using. Apparently, it's for the manufacturer to monitor internal diagnostics.)
Setting up the Kyocera KR1 couldn't be easier: insert an activated EV-DO card into the PC Card slot and plug in the router to a power outlet. Once the status lights indicate that the router is broadcasting, simply find the wireless network called KR1. (Alternatively, you can connect the router to a laptop via Ethernet cable prior to powering on the router.) When you've established the connection, point your browser to the provided IP address to access the Web-based management tool. A wizard will take you through the steps of configuring the router. Security options include WEP (64-bit and 128-bit), WPA-PSK with preshared keys, NAT with DHCP, a VPN pass-through, and MAC filtering. After configuring the router, you'll have to reboot it, which can take a few minutes.
In our CNET Labs' throughput tests, the Kyocera KR1 made a decent showing: 21.24Mbps at 10 feet and 6.67Mbps at 200 feet. For comparison, the Top Global 3G Phoebus scored 11.9Mbps at 10 feet and 7.98Mbps at 200 feet. Like the Top Global's speeds, these numbers are slow for a standard Wi-Fi router, but they're fast enough for Web surfing and e-mailing. Web pages loaded more slowly with the KR1 than over our standard home Wi-Fi network, but the lag wasn't enough to be annoying.
Kyocera backs the KR1 mobile router (powered by D-Link) with a one-year warranty. Web, e-mail, and toll-free phone support are offered by both D-Link and Kyocera, though some of the details differ. D-Link's phone hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Saturday, while Kyocera's phone support is available Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT. D-Link has a tech support line dedicated to the Kyocera KR1, though you'll be hard-pressed to find it on the company's support site. However, the number is displayed prominently on Kyocera's site (if you call D-Link's regular support line, you'll be re-directed). D-Link's online support options include firmware updates, FAQs, and a knowledge base. Kyocera's site offers user guides, firmware updates, a searchable knowledge base, and a form for sending e-mail to tech support.