Skip to main content

Semtech’s Corporate Blog

Unpacking Ruggedness: More Than Just a Label

Smart Utilities

Eva Laviolette

Eva Laviolette

Product Marketing, Router Solutions

When we talk about our AirLink® Pro Router solutions, like the brand-new AirLink® XR60 (a.k.a the smallest rugged 5G router*), we keep bumping into this word: "rugged".  
But why does it matter? Why is being 'rugged' crucial for mission-critical applications? And what exactly does a router need to do or be to earn this “rugged” badge?  

This blog post unravels the defining characteristics that set rugged routers, apart and highlights their crucial role in mission-critical applications. 

Why Ruggedness Matters? 

Keep you connected: In mission-critical applications, the continuity of communications is paramount. Imagine a situation in a public safety vehicle – for example an ambulance rushing a critical patient to the hospital, or a police car responding to an emergency.

In these scenarios, reliable connectivity can be a matter of life and death.  
The backbone of mission-critical communication lies in the reliable connectivity provided by the cellular routers which are generally deployed in very harsh environments. These routers can be exposed to extreme temperature, shocks, vibrations and voltage swings and spikes. Not just any router can stand up to the task – only those designed, built and tested with a comprehensive and multi-faceted approach to ruggedness can withstand these extreme environmental conditions to maintain these critical communications. 


Maintain Performance: Ruggedness is not just about survival; it's also about maintaining optimal performance under extreme conditions. When evaluating the specifications of a router, any mention of reduced performance or power output within the specified range should raise questions. For instance, in the case of smart grid operations, a drop in the performance of a router could lead to a delay in data transmission, which could potentially cause significant impacts and disruptions to the grid's functioning and reliability.  


Ensure Longevity: Investing in a rugged router is a strategic decision that can pay off in the long run: these devices are built to last. This translates into less frequent replacements and lower total cost of ownership. This is particularly important when routers are deployed in critical infrastructure or remote, difficult-to -reach locations. A rugged router can withstand the rigors of daily use over many years, providing reliable service throughout the infrastructure’s lifespan. This can also be key for vehicle deployments where router replacement means downtime and disruption.  


Oil Or Gas Transportation With Blue Gas Or Pipe Line Valves On Soil And Sunrise Background Oil Or Gas Transportation With Blue Gas Or Pipe Line Valves On Soil And Sunrise Background OIL AND GAS stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images


Improve Safety: Ruggedness can also play a vital role in ensuring the safety of your staff in hazardous environments such as oil and gas operations. Rugged routers, specifically designed to minimize ignition risks, are required to protect your teams.  


What Makes a Good Rugged Router? 

Narrowing your search to routers labeled for industrial use is a good place to start, but the specs on the data sheet don’t always tell the full story. It’s important to go beyond and dig a little deeper into the details of system design, reliability testing, and certification compliance. Our extensive experience with industrial and public safety deployments has provided us with deep insights into what it truly means for a router to be "rugged" and what good looks like: 

Durable Materials: A die-cast aluminum enclosure not only resists environmental stressors but also effectively absorbs and dissipates heat generated by high-performance 5G or LTE chipsets. 

Shock & Vibration Resilience: Look for routers specifically designed for vehicle applications and certified against rigorous shock and vibration standards such as MIL-STD-810 and J1455. 

Dust and Water Protection: This is especially important in dusty or sandy environments like construction sites, mining sites or deserts. The integrity of the router’s internal components must be maintained. Check the IP certification of the router - IP64 is a must-have for outdoor deployments. 

Extreme Temperature Range: Routers mounted in enclosed spaces or inside vehicles can be exposed to extreme temperatures. Look for wide operating temperature ranges (typically -40° to +70°c), but also make sure they are tested against rigorous requirements (such as MIL-STD-810) to guarantee they can withstand sudden temperature changes and maintain performance at these extremes. 

Voltage Protection: Routers used in grid or vehicle operations can be exposed to extreme voltage variations that can disrupt communications or cause damage. Here's what you should look for: 

  • Low Power Consumption: This is critical for routers used in remote areas, often powered by solar panels and batteries – the lower the power consumption, the better the reliability. 
  • Overvoltage and Load Dump Protection: Particularly important for vehicle deployments to resist severe spikes in voltage associated with loose or disconnected battery terminals. 
  • Brownout Protection: This prevents the router from rebooting when the voltage momentarily drops, ensuring continuous operation during voltage dips, such as startup voltages in vehicles. 

Hazardous Environment Ratings: In hazardous environments like oil and gas operations, flammable vapors or gas may occasionally be present under abnormal conditions. It's crucial that all electronic devices, including routers, used in these zones undergo rigorous testing by an independent laboratory and receive certification for safe use. When selecting routers, look for those vetted through globally accepted standards like North America's Class 1 Div 2 or Europe's ATEX.  

Bottom Line 

The ruggedness of a router is a multi-faceted concept that goes beyond mere labels and specifications. It's about the comprehensive design, testing and certification that ensure the device can perform optimally under demanding conditions. 

AirLink® Pro ruggedized routers, embody this comprehensive approach to ruggedness. They are engineered to withstand extreme conditions, avoid disruptions in communication, maintain optimal performance and enable durability over time.  
But the true value of a rugged router lies not just in its design and specs, but in its proven performance under harsh conditions. If you are connecting critical assets to your enterprise network, whether it’s in an oil field, or a police vehicle, you want to work with a trusted partner demonstrating field-proven performance. With more than 30 years of cellular experience and million routers serving hundreds of industrial and public safety organizations globally, you can count on Semtech, your trusted provider of mission-critical solutions. 

For more insights, check out our whitepaper on 'How to Evaluate "Ruggedized" Routers and Gateways'  or delve into the rugged specifications of AirLink® Pro Routers here. 


*Based on internal study of comparable routers January 2024 

Related Blogs:

Recent Posts

Posts by Author

See all