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ZTE MC801A Review

twenty4

Casual Member
I have a Sotel version since a few months back and using it with Lebara (LTE only, no 5G coverage just yet). It came with B04 and no update available (although at the time I think B07 was the latest one)

I wanted to test a Smarty SIM so I put it in, went to the GUI and was greeted with software update available (B09). Having read about B09 around here I said: "oh no you don't" so I clicked Postpone.
Smarty didn't work for me (have some 5G coverage but pretty bad LTE coverage so I get upwards of 100mbps down but barely goes up to 1mbps upload).

I've put my Lebara sim back and the update is still showing up - I initially thought it connected to the Three update servers (based on the sim) but it still shows up with the Lebara (Vodafone) SIM so I'm not sure where the update is coming from. I haven't gone to the GUI for a while so the update could've been available before inserting the Smarty SIM.

I have disabled automatic updates so "technically" I should be able to avoid B09 for now.

Anyone else has seen this on the Sotel version?
 

bon

Pro Member
My Sotel automatically updated to B09 a couple of months back. I've mostly used Lebara with it (occasionally Three) for testing. No issues with 5G, I think that affects the "Three B09" specifically.
 

twenty4

Casual Member
Thanks for replying. I updated to B09 and was happy to see they fixed the bug with the Vodafone SIMs where they didn't auto connect to the data - pretty happy with this.
I had a python script that was scraping the page and clicking the connect button but didn't quite like it - nice to see they fixed it in the firmware.

I don't assume there's a changelog anywhere? Anyone noticed anything noteworthy on B09 (from B04)?
 

emu002

Casual Member
How do I use the debug menu to lock onto a specific tower? Mine keeps locking onto a weaker signal than I had 2 weeks ago
 

eccles

ULTIMATE Member
The Cell lock option is at the bottom of the debug menu. You need to know the PCI and EARFCN. Enter those and reset the router to lock the cell.

To release a cell lock you need to do a factory reset and re-enter any custom settings. Backing up your settings makes this less of a chore.
 

emu002

Casual Member
Using the network signal info app on my phone I can see earfcn but not PCI?

Is there a better app I can use?
 

bon

Pro Member
If you go to advanced settings/network information on the MC801a it'll show you the PCI of the 4G antenna you're connected to.

I'm pretty sure band lock doesn't work for 5G.
 

emu002

Casual Member
But I need the PCI of a different antenna that the mc801a isn't connected to so I can change it
 

emu002

Casual Member
That has gained me about a 15db gain on 4g locking into a cell of my choice

For 5g I will need to rotate my aerial some I think

As a bit of background I have a routermods modified router with 2x poynting xpol2 V2 plugged into low and high band terminals and an xpol2 V3 in the 5g terminals all externally mounted at roof height

I think the aerials are able to pick up so many signals now the router gets confused as to what to lock onto and was connecting to things that are supposed to be out of range?
 

meritez

ULTIMATE Member
@emu002
What was the turnaround for routermods modifying your router?

Any chance of a photo of the router with the external ports?
 

emu002

Casual Member
IMG_20220704_212909.jpg
 

TheGreatDivide

Casual Member
I considered sending in my MC801A for the router mod, but in the end I went with an outdoor CPE (MC7010) for the simplicity because it's literally just one cable that goes to the outside (ethernet PoE) :)

I read that they're better in general because some signal is lost when you go through an external antenna.

And you can always stick the router on a dish if the signal is still not quite good enough, like what this guy did:
routerdish.jpg


I don't think I need to go down this route tho. I'm about 800m away from the mast and I'm currently getting around -70dBm on the 5G signal (still need to set it up properly outside).
 

Whoo

Member
MC801A recieved from Three yesterday. Running B07 which subsequently rolled back to B04 overnight. Does manually setting DNS break B04 in the same way it did on B07?
 

kcwong

Member
Hi, I am using 4g router and Lebara sim card right now.
I would like to upgrade to use 5g router.
I am sure that my area have 5g coverage.
is it compatible to use Lebara sim card with MC801A? or other 5g router is better?
 

The Wee Bear

ULTIMATE Member
Hi, I am using 4g router and Lebara sim card right now.
I would like to upgrade to use 5g router.
I am sure that my area have 5g coverage.
is it compatible to use Lebara sim card with MC801A? or other 5g router is better?
My Voxi (Vodafone) sim works just fine in the router kcwong, so it does seem to be unlocked for any of the UK networks, an EE user also said it works for him as well.
 
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