Mobile Hotspot thoughts and discussion

Until recently, doing away with my broadband supplier was an impossibility – and it may well still be impractical but I’m investigating possibilities – feedback is most welcome.

So, to start the ball rolling, here in rural Southern Spain where we have NO landlines on the outskirts of our village – we use something like WiMax – that is, the local service provider (Habland) has an aerial in town which supplies broadband wirelessly to properties on the edge of and out of the village.

Only a couple of years ago, this solution was somewhat impractical for all but email and watching low-quality TV – but things change and here in our village we now have up to 30Mbps download (on a good day) and a (somewhat pathetic) 2Mbps upload capability. I understand that Habland’s dishes are optimised for this arrangement as high download speed, low upload speed suits the majority of users. This works for lots of people where most of their Internet consumption is watching TV and movies (30Mbps is easily capable of supporting HD TV and computer use at the same time) but when it comes to, for example, uploading video to YouTube (I do that sometimes when writing reviews) the 2Mbps upload is hopeless. Indeed, most creative endeavours involve 2-way data transfer… images, video etc.

We’ve been promised that fibre is “coming” to the village but the timing on this is still somewhat vague.

Meanwhile we have fairly decent mobile connections here in Andalucia – in my case from a company called Simyo (who use the Orange network). On a typical day my 4G mobile connection can provide up to 50Mbps download AND upload to my phone. As most of you will know, most if not all mobiles offer (provider dependent) “tethering” – my Xiaomi Pocophone X3 will let me tether the 4G signal via WiFi, Bluetooth or USB.

Here’s where I started this morning… I turned on the phone’s wireless hotspot, disabled our normal broadband connection and ran up speedtest.net on both my PC and the mobile phone. Initially despite the above mentioned mobile connection, I could barely manage 6Mbps up and down on the PC. But first, why would I even CONSIDER using a mobile signal for PC/domestic use? Here’s why…

Only months ago, the Simyo mobile offered a maximum of 25GB a month for around 16 Euros (no fair-use nonsense). All of a sudden this has changed and the highest rate they offer is 35GB a month for €15.50 a month and this trend will hopefully continue. Better, unlike many providers – unused data can be rolled over for up to 3 months… so really we’re possibly looking at having 40GB or more available. Right now that might be limiting for those who watch a lot of TV or lots of movies over broadband. Today I watched on Netflix “The Day after Tomorrow” in high quality on my PC vis the mobile connection – that used up 2GB but a typical TV show would use WELL under half of that.

So will I be abandoning my broadband supplier? Not quite yet. Let me say this… when I originally tried the tethering to provide a connection to my PC, I got no more than 6Mbps each way on the PC (according to Speedtest.net) despite the high speed 4G data. I did a spot of reading and it seems that most mobile phones when using WiFi tethering, by default use 2.4G WiFi. It turns out that at least on Android phones there is a simple setting you can change to enable the phone to prefer 5G WiFi (see the cnet link above). That didn’t help much – improving the data rate just a little – so then I hooked my phone to the PC by USB and enabled USB tehering on the phone – WAY better, taking the connection both ways up to 30Mbps.

For now that will help immensely with my YouTube uploading but I’m not yet convinced that 30-40GB a month will be anywhere near enough for general use around the house including TV (and hence movies). I do however expect that Simyo will soon increase that maximum cap. Let’s see how this goes – and if your service provider doesn’t allow carry-over of data from one month to the other – isn’t it time to consider changing providers? I have no connection to Simyo and I’m not sure in what other countries they offer a similar service but they won’t be the only ones doing this. Persumably any other company piggy-backing onto the Orange network could, if they wish, offer a similar service. At the same time of course our Internet provider is promising 300Mbps fibre within weeks or months (all a bit vague) so who knows…

So, for my next step at experimenting, I took the SIM out of my phone and put it into the GL-iNET MUDI mobile router I looked at here some time ago. The SIM went in no problem and the router told me to enter my PIN – I connected the MUDI router to my PC via 5G WiFi and went into the router ADMIN panel and entered the PIN. Almost immediately I was up and running with an Internet connection, sad to say, 7Mbps download, 6Mbps upload according to Speedtest.net – next step – Ethernet to my PC. 21.6Mbps down, 17.4Mbps up, 35ms ping. Far short of what I might’ve expected but far better uploading than my current broadband. At this point I noted that the MUDI had an upgrade available and went for it. All of this worked well, but I am convinced I’m getting no-where near the incoming 4G speed and so any input from others welcome.

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17 thoughts on “Mobile Hotspot thoughts and discussion

  1. Pete,

    At our rural property, we rely on both satellite and mobile broadband. I have a GL.iNet Spitz (which I think you have reviewed) with the ethernet WAN port connected to the satellite ‘modem’ and the internal 4G sim serving as the second WAN connection. The default mode is satellite is primary and the Spitz will failover to 4G automatically, when required. This capability requires the ‘mwan3’ package, which is easily installed using the Spitz’s openwrt package manager. The benefit of this setup is that every device is switched and I don’t have to futz around with a hotspot.

    Occasionally, performance on satellite is very bad, so I’ll cause a manual switch to 4G. Performance is excellent, with 50Mbps up and down from wifi-connected devices.

    If you still have the Spitz, you might consider using this type of setup.

    1. Hi there

      My WiFi isn’t satellite bit it IS wireless and like yours it is not 100%. Now you mention it, the incoming dish/modem drives my Tp-Link router to feed my office.Via a 16-way switch I feed various gadgets in the office including my PC (hardwired) and a shedload of ESP8266 and similar devices. Finally one output from that switch drives the Spitz across the building which has both G and 5G outputs, the latter powers our TV smartbox – and replaces all manner of other routers I used to us – the Spitz has proven 100% reliable.

      My second thoughs after yesterdays mixed results indeed include allowing the Spitz to also handle a SIM – I’d not thought this through and the Spitz is currently secondary to the TP-Link (i.e NOT generating addresses – just a slave to the TP-link – but now you trigger me off it might be worth progressing this route… feel free to come back to me on this – I’ve not yet delved into the package manager and mwan3 yet…

      Erm, quick update it looks like I’ve already installed mwan3 – just not done anything with it… and this conversation has triggered me to upgrade the Spritz to the latest firmware…

      Regards

      Pete

      1. Pete,

        I found mwan3 to be a challenge to understand and configure. There are a few examples on the net that helped. If you go down this route, let me know and I’ll send my config files. I actually have two mwan3 config files– one with 4G as secondary and one as primary. A very simple script then swaps the files and restarts mwan3. There doesn’t seem to be an API or command to programmatically drive mwan3. Anyway, it’s been rock solid after I got over the initial challenge of understanding the config files.

        My configuration is:

        Satellite modem into WAN port on Spitz
        Internal 4G on Spitz provides second WAN interface
        then
        Pfsense firewall on Spitz LAN port configured as DMZ host in Spitz
        then
        all pc’s, servers, iot, wifi AP, etc. behind the firewall

        I initially tried to configure pfSense with two WAN interfaces but quickly came to grief. Got it sorted on the Spitz and haven’t dared touch it since.

        Yes, CGNAT is a pain but zerotier does a good job getting through.

        dave

  2. One problem you will probably run into is Carrier Grade NAT. You won’t have a real ip4 address. I came across this in the Philippines recently. Where internet in the villages is all provided by 4g. I won’t go into the details here, but I was able to get around it by having a linux host in the cloud and then using ssh tunnels to provide a secure link from my server to the cloud. I would then point node red at that cloud server and would then be accessing the node red install on the home server. This was tested, but i have used it in anger yet as i’m not there yet.

    1. Hi

      I use various VPN methods to access my current fixed IP address here. If I take the mobile route I’ll have to consider that to ensure my VPN access continues to work….

      Thanks for that feedback Paul.

  3. Is Simyo/Orange your only choice? As you’re a UK resident, having a UK SIM and roaming may give you a choice of data provider whilst in Spain? If you’re happy to jump over the cashback hurdles (send in bills at months 6, 8, 10 ,12 etc) there are plenty deals to be had. I have 100Gb from Vodafone which I believe allows 25Gb roaming per month across Europe for £7/m. That includes uncapped speeds on 5G when available.

    1. Hi Phil – I’m not a UK resident – I’m in Spain – and my SIM has roaming, yes, but it’s a Spanish SIM with SIMYO who sit on Orange. I could use HITS who sit on Vodaphone but Simyo seems to offer the best data package here, mainly because of the rollover for up to 3 months. I can if I wish have 35GB a month for €15.50 with no contract .. but 35GB is the top limit – and after thinking about it, that’s too low. One movie yesterday used up nearly 2GB. The rate you have from Voda in the UK seems unusually cheap, is there a “fair use” catch? Is that your total cost £7 a month for 100GB in the UK??

      1. Sorry – I thought you were in UK and spending half(ish) of your time in Spain. The only fair use catch I see is I can only use 25Gb of my 100Gb whilst roaming.
        Feel free to edit, but this is where you can see the deal I’m recently moved to: https://www.affordablemobiles.co.uk Click “SIMs” at the top, then “Vodafone SIM only deals”, and the first option I see is 100Gb for £7/m after cashbacks.

        1. Hi – I can see why you thought I was spending half-ish) of my time in Spain – because that was the plan and something we kept up for some years and planned for many more – but Brexit put pay to all of that – we now had a choice – be based in the UK and take trips (up to 3 months) to Spain – or the other way around – we chose the latter. For some reason I only see special offer 100GB £15.50 after cash-back… not £7… also money is paid back after 99 days… and it’s a promo – so not long term… it isnt clear if those limits are the same in a 4G area… shame there’s a 25G cap for Europe – maybe the plan changed already…. as 100GB in Spain would definitely do it… I cant find anything anywhere above Simyo’s 35GB a month – no catches.

  4. Current price in France is 15€ = 100GB
    We used to have price battles going down to 8€ for 20-40GB but all operators stopped as they want to limit the drop of revenue.
    So they started to fight on the GB package which cost nothing to them because most of the customer will not use a tenth of that.
    Official price is more 20€ for 80-100GB but you have almost continuous sales in the range I gave on top.
    We even add for 1 month 2 operators offering 200GB for 15€. I almost decided to get one as a backup for my landline but finally didn’t. May be I’ll go for it if it’s back (most bargains comes back every 3 months).

    There are nice 4G modems with either Wifi or Ethernet or both. So generally no difficulties to set that up as infrastructure.

    1. That French pricing sounds good. I expect they will cap roaming amounts as do the UK suppliers to a fraction of that. Modems.. yes gl-inet are looking promising if I can get the actual output speed nearer to the incoming rate.

    1. Hi James

      I considered Starlink in excruciating detail and was gutted when I saw the pricing details.. he’s WELL out of line with that, making it impractical for the very areas and people that need it the most.

      1. Hi Peter

        Well there is a substantial cost outlay for putting enough satellites into. I am sure the costs will come down in future.

        Its going to pose lots of interesting questions like under who jurisdiction is the connection? The country the customer is in or the country where the main link is or where Starlink are based (if different)?

        James

        1. James….

          And the good thing is most of the companies here in Spain don’t hold ytou to a long contract – SO if Musk DOES decide to do a much reduced price deal, say 25 Euros a month – I personally would have it… #I spoke to our local providers yesterday and they re-inforced that in the coming weeks (theye didn’t say how many) they will be rolling out fibre even to areas with no phone lines (they have my address)….. I’m getting excited now….. waiting for YouTube uploads right now is FAR worse than watching paint dry.

          And that’s a good point about the jurisdiction? If for any reason you lose service (not paid bills, satellite faults etc) under which country’s rules would that operate – i.e. compensation…… in the UK, on the very rare occasions my Vodafone fast broadband has gone down (thankfully not recently) – after many calls I managed to get replacement models and compensation – would Musk feel any need to give such compensation and if not, could the country of the customer force a change of heart? All food for thought…

          Regards

          Pete..

  5. Hi Peter, any differences outdoor vs indoor speeds? Here um Portugal -algarve in Portimão and Lagos i usually have much better speeds when i Run tests outdoor using a teltonika rut950 router. Most rural areas here are band 20, and and even sometimes i feel se have very limited speeds using 4g connections. Anyway,that pricing for A 4g connection is way better there than here… Our ISP’s just want all our Monet and dont even have a good network distribution nor backbone.
    Cheers!

    1. Hi

      Not tried outdoor yet, I’m working here in a Cavehome in Southern Spain. But I’m only 2 metres from the outside window – the data aspeed incoming to my 4G router or phone is ok, but I’m finding in both cases the actual speed when routed to be a lot lower than, say, the result of a speedtest.net result on the phone.

      Before Spain I spent most of my time in the UK where mobile operators are also greedy though it sems voda UK do a decent price for 100GB a month of 4G/5g (if you can get the latter) data… but it is capped when roaming. It looks like using my normal broadband for normal use – also Simyo with data carry-over-for-3-months (for Youtube uploading) here in Spain remains my best bet until we get fibre…. I just need to get that actual data rate nearer to that reported by speedtest.net on the phone – WiFi tethering takes me no-where near, USB is a little better – using the GL-iNET or similar 4G router with Ethernet is not much better.

      So, right now, 7:30am Monday – my phone (3 metres inside the building) reports on speedtest.net 57M down, 21.3M up…. (outside the front door 58.4M – 25.7M) – I need to work on the way to get as much as possible of that upload speed in particular, into my home network. Interestingly it looks like I use 200MB of my allowance just running speectest.net twice, unless some updates came through while I had mobile turned on (15 minutes) 🙂

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