Netgear Orbi 4GX LBK1220 MESH (Telstra) – router on the move (review)

Netgear Orbi 4GX LBK1220
7.8

The Netgear Orbi 4GX LBK1220 router and MESH satellite can deliver either NBN fixed or Telstra 4GX mobile data to a small home or apartment at Wi-Fi AC1200 speeds or via 1GBps Ethernet. Or it can act as a fall-back to 4GX if NBN is down.

Our test home is in a Telstra 3-bar reception area, and the trial Telstra SIM had expired by the time we could test it. Fear not, although you can only buy it from Telstra, it works equally well on Telstra MVNOs like Boost or Woolworths with access to band 28 (700MHz).

These tests are on NBN 100Mbps from Aussie Broadband and Boost mobile data (most Telstra MVNOs have capped data download speeds at 100Mbps so it may be capable of slightly higher speeds).

Let’s move on to the tests for the Netgear Orbi 4GX LBK1220

Test #1 – 4GX Reception performance

Let’s start with Telstra 4GX speed claims. Telstra state (the capitals are its)

THE TELSTRA MOBILE NETWORK OFFERS 4GX IN ALL CAPITAL CBDS AND SELECTED SUBURBAN AND REGIONAL AREAS AND IS PROGRESSIVELY ROLLING OUT TO MORE PLACES. IN OTHER COVERAGE AREAS AROUND AUSTRALIA, YOU’LL AUTOMATICALLY SWITCH TO OUR FASTEST AVAILABLE 4G OR 3G. CHECK COVERAGE HERE.

In 4GX areas, typical download speeds are

  • 2-75Mbps for 4GX category 4 devices
  • 2-100Mbps for 4GX category 6 devices
  • 5-150Mbps for 4GX category 9 devices
  • 2-50Mbps for 4G areas

Using a Boost sim and a Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G (and sitting beside a 4GX tower) gives a maximum of 100Mbps download (capped) and 20Mbps upload. The reality is that even if you have the best 4GX reception Orbi cannot achieve much more than that.

#Test 2 – 3-bar reception performance – forget it!

The Orbi app has a connection status tab that shows mobile broadband signal strength (Reference Signal Received Power or RSRP). In our case, RSRP is between -97dBm and -115dBm – almost useless for mobile data.

The moral is to check that you have adequate Telstra 4GX (band 28) reception before considering the Orbi (or any other 4GX modem) instead of a fixed NBN router. Ideally, the RSRP should be between -30 and -80dBm (lower is better).

You can download Network Cell Info Lite for Android from Google Play to check. See the screenshot below.

If you have lousy Telstra reception (as we do), the best you can expect is probably 10Mbps download, and 10Mbps upload with ping times from 40ms. This is enough to do email, browsing, audio streaming. But don’t expect to share that with too many devices on the Orbi Home Network.

Test #3 – how it performs in a 280m2 area.

All manufacturers make theoretical claims about coverage, so we try to convert the theory to reality.

The reality is that coverage is about 2 x 13-metre circles overlapping by 3m each – about 20-metres x 10 metres in total.

That equates with the approximate 10-metre diameter circular Wi-Fi 5Ghz transmission range that the Orbi uses for MESH backhaul. The ideal placement is about 5-7 metres apart inside the 5Ghz overlap with the router and Satellite servicing different home areas.

We set up the router first (no satellite)

Distance from router (meters)Signal strength %/-dBmMbps
1100/-28866 – excellent
3100/-55390 – good
5100/-61260 – good
1095/-6845 – unusable

Then the Satellite at 7m from the router (line-of-sight)

Distance from Satellite (meters)Signal strength %/-dBmMbps
1100/-28430 – about maximum*
3100/-55360 – good
5100/-61260 – good
1095/-65200 – good

What this means

The router has an overall transmission distance of a 10m diameter circle. By itself, it is a competent AC1200 dual-band (2.4GHz 400 and 5Ghz 866Mbps) router. Its antennas are not as sensitive as the traditional Orbi tri-band Wi-Fi AC and AX MESH systems.

* Once set-up the Satellite uses 5GHz backhaul to the router. In this case, it leaves about 430Mbps data transfer speed. This is the same as any dual-band MESH.

Regrettably, there is no satellite Ethernet backhaul.

Test #3 Mobile data costs

For ease of comparison, most NBN providers offer 12Mpbs ($60), 50 ($80) and 100 ($100) monthly plans with unlimited data and no-lock in. Your minimum commitment is $60-100 per month (or $720-1200 per annum) for all the data you can eat. Routers range from $150 for an AC1600 dual-band to $699 for the fastest ASUS AX11000 tri-band.

Mobile broadband costs are somewhere between $.38 and $3 per by the GB. Depending on the Telco or MVNO unused data may be lost; rolled over to the next month and expires in that month (*); or in some cases data banked, e.g., Woolworths has 200GB data bank rollover for 28-day pre-paid.

Just be careful that any Telstra MVNO you choose has 4GX LTE band 28 and remember only Telstra has uncapped speeds that may get you a few more Mbps.

All prices below exclude any time-specific marketing promotions.

Telstra has a pre-paid mobile data-only plan (bunded with this device) that costs

Included data (GB)Expiry daysCostPrice per GB
528 *$15$3
2028 *$25$1.25
6028 *$50.83
20028 *$75.38

Note that the price per GB assumes that you use all the data each month – most don’t, and you are paying a far higher average GB rate, even with a 30-day rollover and expiry. Our advice is to go for the lowest data plan and upgrade if you find you need more.

Boost has pre-paid plans too

Included data (GB)Expiry daysCostPrice per GB
528 *$20$4
2028 *$30$1.50
3028 *$40$1.33
4028 *$50$1.25
6528 *$70$1.08
24012 months$300$1.25

So, if you are a heavy user, then NBN is your best alternative. Note that Orbi supports WAN (Ethernet) connections to an NBN Gateway.

Price

$399 from Telstra ($33.25/12mths or $16.62/24-months) plus a data plan from Telstra.

Other Netgear Orbi 4GX LBK1220 (Telstra) information

  • Netgear website here
  • Comprises LBR1020 router and RBS10 satellite. You can add an extra satellite but remember it shares the same 5Ghz backhaul so it may slow data transfer speeds
  • 4GX Band 28 but also supports 1,3,5,7,8,20, 38, 40, 41
  • 3G Bands 1, 3, 5, 8 (download speed range .5-7Mbps with some devices up to 20Mbps)
  • Optional at extra cost Netgear Armor from Bitdefender
  • Optional at extra cost Circle Smart Parental Controls  – Manage content and time online for all your devices.
  • Router 131 x 131 x 68mm x 491g plus a wall charger. Includes LAN/WAN port
  • Satellite 104 x 104 x 68mm x 245g plus wall charger – no LAN port
  • Voice assistant compatible
  • AC1200 also covers Guest network
  • Two TS9 external antenna ports for the optional antennas (may increase signal strength)
Netgear Orbi 4GX LBK1220

GadgetGuy’s take

Buy the Netgear Orbi 4GX LBK1220 for 4G fall back.

Netgear/Orbi is good quality from a good company. This is an entry-level dual-band MESH system suitable for a small apartment where you can get the router and Satellite working in 5-7metre line-of-sight, and you can get decent 4GX speeds. It probably can support 10-20 devices.

Its unique selling proposition is 4GX fall back from NBN or for itinerant renters. As we have shown, data speeds depend solely on 4GX reception signal strength. And mobile data is not cheap, highly variable and often wasted.

We find it hard to recommend it as a standalone AC1200 dual-band MESH router as there are many faster tri-band MESH routers for not much more.

And one final caveat. Telstra obviously wants you to buy it on a 12–24-month plan where you commit to $399 for the router and $15-75 a month for data. That is a significant and fixed-term commitment, especially as there are lower cost outright purchases 4GX Modem/routers and third-party mobile data providers with no lock-in plans.

GadgetGuy has a lot of information on MESH and routers here.

Netgear Orbi 4GX LBK1220
Netgear Orbi 4GX LBK1220 MESH (Telstra) – router on the move (review)
Features
8
Value for money
7.5
Performance
7.5
Ease of use
8
Design
8
Positives
Add 4GX redundancy to NBN
Good for itinerant renters
Negatives
4GX mobile data is expensive
If you dont need 4GX fallback look at faster tri-band NBN routers
Satellite adds another 5-10 metres tranmit distance but shares 5Ghz backhaul
Suppports around 10-20 devices
No Ethernet backhaul for the Satellite
7.8
  1. 7.6
    Great product, works well with excellent coverage but the app is clunky.

    I live on a farm in a rural/semi-remote area and this setup works great for us. For some reason we only get Telstra service in one particular spot buts its a very good signal. So we always have our iPhones on ‘wifi calling’ and use the wifi. It creates about a 30m radius around our house for wifi coverage.

    We had NBN satellite and it was rubbish in comparison.

    Hooking up a yagi to the antenna ports will hopefully help improve further. Might try adding an additional satellite and see what impact this has.

    Breakdown
    Leave A Review

    Features
    8
    Value for money
    8
    Performance
    8.5
    Ease of use
    5
    Design
    8.6
    1. The antenna makes a huge difference – but even more so if you can mount them outside the house with a clear ‘line-of-sight’ to the tower. Make sure you buy antenna that supports the Telstra band you are getting. Check using Android Cell Info Lite – it will likely be band 28 or at worst band 3.

      1. Absolutely correct, I have a single 16db yagi on my roof and point to a Telstra repeater tower that’s 7km from my home (in the sticks)
        I get -63db signal strength and 34mbs download, 24mbs upload.
        I use the Orbi to work from home for a “large telco”… The Orbi is hardwire LAN into my work PC in rural QLD.
        We also have Skymuster satellite for homeschooling our kids and it is rubish compared to this setup.

  2. I have been looking at this device and wondering if it will improve our current mobile broardband service using a ‘nighthawk’. It is variable and poor. Down to 0.18 mbps download. The current service is at the point where I am looking at giving Telstra away. I am not sure but this device mentions satellite and that is the reason for my interest.

    1. In theory no. If the current Telstra modem is only getting .18Mbps download you should never have been put on 4G in the first place. Download Network Cell Info Lite from Google Play and see what your smartphone signal strength is in -dBm and fW (femtowatts). My guess would be lousy reception. I cant use 4GX mobile where I live as the signal is unusable.

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