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External router advice please

GordonGPZ

Regular Member
I just signed up after finding this really useful forum and reading most of the messages last couple of days. It was great to realise there are others doing exactly the same as me. I have tried umpteen options with no massive improvements. I have tried all network providers. 3 /EE worst, Voda better and O2 slightly better again.

Cutting to the chase, I am looking for advice on what external router to choose. I am slightly in the sticks, 4.5 Km from the BT street furniture and Openreach predict max 6Mbps over fibre. No thanks. I already have a Yaecom external router powered via POE at the end of a 50m cable. It is mounted on a 25 foot pole on higher ground adjacent to my house. It will be 20 feet above my house. It does not do carrier aggregation. It has no provision to connect external antennas. My house is low down and surrounded by tall trees. At home inside we can pickup usable signal on both Vodafone and O2 and make calls. 4g works on the phones although at single digit speeds. Both EE and Three signals are just about present but calls fail all the time. I have 3 Band 20 Vodafone masts roughly equidistant and all less than a mile away. However the router constantly connects to one particular mast and the signal seems reasonably strong but signal to noise isn't brilliant maybe because of the other 2 band 20 masts? Currently RSRP -73dbm, RSRQ -13db, SINR approx 5 db. Another entry in the router says signal strength -79. When I run Speedtests I never get more than 10 mbps down although I used to. So DL 7.2, UL 9.4 ping 45ms. That is entirely expected. I should say that 2 of us can watch HD netflix and another be watching Amazon Prime and it works rather well considering. However I want to stop having to reboot the router/switch combo every day sometimes multiple times.

Going slightly off track I am wondering if they are managing me down to 10mbps now on my £32 per month Vodafone max contract.

If you haven't fallen asleep yet, I would like recommendations on an external 4g or 5G router with at least CA6 or better. EE 5G is supposed to be here but I don't see it on my Oneplus Nord 5G mobile. The router should have sockets to allow external antenna to be connected. It can be a router only (bridge) as a Ubiquity switch and wifi mesh is already in place in my loft space.
Another question, I'm thinking GiffGaff so I can try the O2 network but I'm worried they will throttle the speeds. My family burns through about 600Gb per month. My daughter doesn't even have a TV antenna as everything she watches is streamed and my son is the same.

Thanks for taking the time to read this and for any advice which will be gratefully received.

Thanks.



Gordon
 

Lucian

ULTIMATE Member
Hi,

You could look at something like the below. It should help on all fronts:
- lte6 with aggregation
- built-in directional antenna to help with signal
- mikrotik OS supports cell locking, so it wont jump to other masts.

https://mikrotik.com/product/sxt_lte6_kit or
https://mikrotik.com/product/lhg_lte6_kit

I'm on EE 5G with a Huawei CPE Win outdoors router, but it doesn't have antenna ports, however it could be somehow mounted in an old parabolic dish for directionality if needed (not my case, I get excellent speeds).

Re O2/giffgaff, just get a payg unlimited goodybag for £35 and see if they do anything once you pass 600GB.

The Vodafone Max Unlimited should not be limited or throttled afaik, same for Voxi, probably.

Hth
 

TTJJ

ULTIMATE Member
Huawei CPE Win as reccomended by Lucian above was my first thought as the most appropriate for you.

Some people swear by external antennas but I personally think they don't offer much benefit in the vast majority of use cases. An outdoor mounted 5G CPE would provide you probably the best 4G has to offer and future proof you for 5G.

Giffgaff certainly throttle, the O2 network in general is quite throttly and they're known to actively degrade image and video quality on the fly in order to preserve bandwidth.

Vodafone are generally the best with their unlimited offering and I've not known them to apply any traffic management, EE are also good but do have limits in their terms and is not unlimited.
 

GavinAshford

ULTIMATE Member
10mbps on Vodafone's B20 is reasonably good - you say you used to get more - what speeds were they, and do you know if that was when connected to the same mast as you are now? Higher upload speeds than download speed generally suggests to me that there is high contention on the cell/mast.

What router model is it that you have currently?

Have you performed any testing closer to each mast in your area, to determine if its the distance/terrain/trees that are limiting what speeds (and bands) you are able to receive, or if it's the providers network itself (contention/mast back-haul etc).

When deciding on a new router, its key to understand what the providers have deployed in terms of frequencies/bands on your local mast(s) and find a device that can make the most of those and can aggregate the bands the provider uses - not all devices can combine all bands.

If you want to try to futureproof be aware that mobile networks develop slowly so it could be (many many) years before things change, so you could spend money for no benefit - and when things do change, there'll is likely to be better/more/cheaper devices at that time.
EE's 5G use a (relative) high frequency so it doesn't travel far and their coverage map over estimates coverage, so it's not unusual you can't get it if you're on the fringes of the coverage maps.
I would say that if you can't get any of the current 5G deployments then I would not recommend the CPE Win router - it's not very futureproof - it doesn't have N1 (2100mhz 5G that Vodafone are using for DSS) and N28 (700mhz 5G, for when the auction for that spectrum happens next year).

If you're mounting the router outside/high up then an external antenna connection on the device is not necessarily required unless you are then planning on using a directional antenna to favour/target a specific mast if the 'default' mast provides less throughput than others in the area.
A directional device (such as those as listed by Lucian) would eliminate a need for an additional directional antenna, but as with any directional if the targeted mast goes offline for whatever reason, then you could lose connection (an omni-directional device would likely just reconnect to another mast).

As mentioned above, I too would avoid GG for broadband use - have a read through their FUP and breach conditions.
 

Lucian

ULTIMATE Member
For what it's worth, I used GG for 2 weeks few months back and it is currently my backup solution in case EE goes down. I have not experienced any throttling, but as I said, I only used it for 2 weeks.
 

GordonGPZ

Regular Member
Thanks Lucian, TTJJ and Gavin for your replies. I would prefer to stay with Vodafone if possible as it seems to be very stable even if not blindingly fast.
Gavin when I run Speedtest I see max about 9mbps, if I monitor my router it sometimes is downloading 1.5 Mb/s which is 12 Mbps. Its as if Vodafone manage QOS and give me more bandwidth when required such as when there are 3 streaming HD clients.
I definitely used to see up to 25 Mbps on Speedtest although not all the time but regularly mid teens to 20 was common less than a year ago. I did not look at the reports in the router at that time. Then my router was either in my loft or on a low external mount just above the eaves. I am now wondering if the placement of the router worked better perhaps because it shielded the router from 2 of the other cells and potentially improving the signal to noise even if the signal was slightly less strong? Now the Yaecom is high up it is receiving lots of cells but possibly a worse signal to noise ratio. One reason I wanted directional antennas is for the gain but also the rejection of the unwanted cells. I am a licenced radio op and I do understand yagi patterns etc.
A few days ago, I drove to all the local masts I connect to from home and at all I confirmed I was connected to the cell then ran a couple of speedtests. Always got between 35 - 45 mbps download. I tried again today at the site I attach to and only got 15 down and 26 up twice. Cell may have been busy I imagine.

Thanks for the info so far. I am not sure but assume a router can only aggregate different bands? I can force my router to ignore Band 20 and it connected to a Band 1 site but surprisingly 4.5Km distant and in a completely different direction to my band 20 normal site. It was a weaker connection and wasn't fast either but speedtested < 10 mbps several times.

Therefore I now think I need the best omni directional 4G router if I want to be able to take advantage of aggregation? If possible. Is that me looking back to the Outdoor Huawei CPE Win or some other device? Not too worried about future proofing.

Is there any links to dealers in UK selling it?

Thanks for any further advice?



Gordon
 

GavinAshford

ULTIMATE Member
I don't have time for a full reply at this time, but for aggregation to occur, all/both bands must come from the same mast. Getting B20 from one and B1 from another and expecting them to combine isn't going to work (the UK network providers haven't deployed inter-mast aggregation)
 

Lucian

ULTIMATE Member
Hi fellow ham!

What Gavin said.

Re product, I think the CPE Win is a great router, even if you don't need 5G. It can do lte cat 19, including band 32 (suplementary download band, if Vodafone enabled it on the mast). The price has gone up now. I got it for 250£ from here (chinese people, but UK warehouse).


Location wise, it could be that on a wall as opposed to high up a pole will reduce noise, giving better results. I would also experiment with putting it in an old sky dish etc.
 

GordonGPZ

Regular Member
Hi fellow ham!

What Gavin said.

Re product, I think the CPE Win is a great router, even if you don't need 5G. It can do lte cat 19, including band 32 (suplementary download band, if Vodafone enabled it on the mast). The price has gone up now. I got it for 250£ from here (chinese people, but UK warehouse).


Location wise, it could be that on a wall as opposed to high up a pole will reduce noise, giving better results. I would also experiment with putting it in an old sky dish etc.
Thanks Lucian.

Now that I understand you can only aggregate bands on 1 mast, that leads me back to a directional solution I think. Next question is can any of the routers lock onto particular masts? For instance if I can only see 1 Band1 cell site, can I force it to stay connected to that.

73
MM0GPZ

Cheers.

Gordon
 

Lucian

ULTIMATE Member
From what I know about Mikrotik, their OS is capable of this. Search "mikrotik cell locking" and do some reading.
 

GavinAshford

ULTIMATE Member
4.5km away is fairly far, so not surprised B1 has a weaker connection (due to its higher frequency vs B20) and low speeds (max theoretical for Vodafone's 10mhz slice of B1 is 75mbps).

I'm not sure if going directional/locking to get aggregation of B1 with B20 from that more distant mast would really give much better speeds than you have now - it may also make the connection less stable.

To me it feels a bit like there isn't much capacity on Vodafone in your area and I would almost be inclined to say if you can hold out for another year with what you have got then review again to see how the network might have changed - I think the continued rollout of 5G next year should bring some considerable changes to some areas, though obviously no telling if yours is one.
 

GordonGPZ

Regular Member
Thanks for further thoughts and I tend to agree re waiting. However that is what I have been doing for a year already. Vodafone 5G was rolled out in Glasgow with the initial rollout. It frustratingly rolled out to within 2 miles of me. As I'm live at a really high location, there are even slivers of service next to me according to their coverage map but not nearly enough.

My best bet is to find an O2 provider that will do unlimited. I see GG do unlimited but throttle to 384kbps after 80Gb used so no good. From what I can see, it looks like Tesco mobile and O2 both do unlimited now. I'll check with O2 to confirm it can be used for home broadband without limitations. 02 £35 pm on a 12 month contract. I've ordered a giffgaff and I'll load some credit on it to test the O2 network here before signing on any dotted lines.


Cheers.


Gordon
 

Lucian

ULTIMATE Member
GG have a golden goodybag with unlimited data for 35, no throttling to 384kbps.
 

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grabaar

Casual Member
Lucian beat me to it.. GG do “unlimited” without the 80 gb threshold via their £35 golden goodybag, however take note of their FUP:


Have trialled the above option and noticed that GG throttle quite quickly as DL speed got stuck at 5 Mb/s after a few hours of heavy usage for the rest of the day. I can’t think of anything else as my native O2 sim in the same device achieved 5x better speeds on the same mast at the same time.

Re O2 their FUP used to say that their SIMO phone offerings should not be used in devices constantly plugged to the mains. Not sure if this wording is still there but they warn not to use non data sims in modems anyway:


Of course if GG/O2 trigger their FUP one can argue net neutrality and drop in Ofcom in the mix, however with the brexit trade deal direction on mobile comms this angle may become very weak.
 

Lucian

ULTIMATE Member
Well, the current laws will stay, though I agree Brexit will bring some weakness and ofcom will probably be more prone to all sorts of influences now.
 

GavinAshford

ULTIMATE Member
If you're thinking of going to O2, usually they share their masts with Vodafone, so it's likely the signal is coming from the same place. Ha e you performed any similar testing with O2 as you did with Vodafone and disabling B20 and seeing what/where it connects?

Are you able to share your rough location, or a nearby postcode (within a few hundred meters, of a pub/shop etc) so we can see what you're area looks like on cellmapper?
 

GordonGPZ

Regular Member
Happy to share location, no prob. All I have tested with O2 is borrowing my wifes work iPhone. It was getting 15 Mbps inside my house over 4g. O2 do share the cell site according to Cellmapper although I haven't confirmed she was connected to that cell. I also attached her phone to a fibre glass pole, hoisted it up to 25 feet and got nearly 30 Mbps. I will definitely try O2 in a router and be able to see where it connects either tonight or tomorrow.
My location is marked on attached pics with red X in middle of map
Cell 4321 is the Voda cell mine always attaches to. It is the only cell that points in my direction. The 2 closer cells to my west are both pointing west to the houses at East Kilbride. For info, when I am next to cell 5459, my phone would download at up to 150 mbps. The cells are on a massive near 300 foot tower but away down the hill from me and over a ridge such that I can't even see it. It would have been great to tap into that but I am looking through trees in that direction. Maybe not so bad now I have router mounted on a pole on higher ground and further back now.


COnly=false&showBand=0&showSectorColours=true&mapType=roadmap

For info, I chatted with Tesco guy and asked if their sims are ok to use in a modem. He said they are designed for phones but said to try a PAYG and if it works then go for the unlimited sim.

Oh yeah, if you check EE 5G coverage postcode G72 0TP, you will see it is supposed to cover us. My 5G phone doesn't see any EE 5G when I search for networks.

Any more info needed, please ask.

Thanks.

Gordon
 

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GordonGPZ

Regular Member
I thought I would provide an update.
My CAT4 Yaecom outdoor modem was on top of a 25 foot pole in the field next to my house which is also about 10 feet higher than the ground my house is on. With either a vodafone or an O2 sim, it could not quite reach 10 Mbps download with lots of tests. Both O2 and Voda are on same mast. The signal seemed to be much stronger on the pole but I think importantly the SNR wasn't. RSSI in the field as much as -59 dbm. In my loft -88. But it works faster in the loft. RSRQ similar both places around -11 db. In the field SINR was usually 4 to 6 db. Currently showing 5.4db in loft. But downloads and uploads are now more variable than before but now max at around 18 db down and 25 up but also much slower sometime like 3mbps. As far as I can see, it is on band 20 100% of the time. If I turn band 1 on and band 20 off, it does connect with a remote cell but speeds are much slower and responses slower.
Now I am wondering if a better router would make more of the available signal? I wondered about the Huawaei CPE WIN 5G router as I can't see anywhere that looks trustworthy in the UK that sells it. I know I can get it via a 30 day contract and pay £325 up front plus 1 moth PAYG and the router will be mine and unlocked. I would prefer the outdoor variety but it seems to be in short supply. I am reasonably happy with the Voda supplied CPE version as it has antenna sockets which are not present in the V2 CPE.

Any sage advice on another 4g/5g router known to work well and makes the most of signal in my type of situation? It would be handy if it also does bridge mode.

Are there any hidden good deals on EE 5G? I am supposed to have weak 5G on EE only. Browsing the EE site makes it look prohibitively expensive as in 100Gb for £75 PM. Ehh no thanks.



Thanks.


Gordon
 

Lucian

ULTIMATE Member
Hi Gordon,

I bought my CPE Win router from that a1smartshop I linked above, it looks dodgy, but it's OK. I got mine in about 1 week of ordering and I could pay with Paypal, in case it all went south.
I also bought and returned a Huawei Wifi6 router from them and while that took a while (1 month), I got my money back, so I would say they are legit and frankly it's more expensive everywhere else.

Re EE SIMs, on https://shop.ee.co.uk/sim-only/pay-monthly-phones# I can see the 5G unlimited data monthly sim is £37, the one with 1 benefit. I chose mine to be BT Sport which is quite cool, I use that on my (non-EE) phone.
 

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GordonGPZ

Regular Member
Thanks for the info Lucian.
Yeah I looked at the A1smartshop. The reviews are not good :) I guess I could take a chance with Paypal as a guarantee.

I saw the EE unlimited deal at £37 pm. It states 5G phones only on the advert so I presumed this was a non starter for a 5G modem. It also has a maximum of 12 tethered devices. Looking at my router now, I have 23 devices attached currently and several more at times. (You can see why I need better than 10 mbps lol.) I am sure there is a VPN solution to overcome that if the SIM would continue to work in a modem? I'm not sure how the network knows how many devices. Presumably it can examine the traffic and deduce. I think if a VPN is in place on a switch attached to the router then it cannot examine the encrypted traffic but I don't know how to go about that yet so some researching required.

Cheers.

EE5G.JPG
 
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