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ZTE MF286D

Gandi69

Top Member
I decided to buy one of the above as a little test to see if it’s any better than my current b535.
However I have a question regarding it:

Does anyone know how you can activate the external antennas on it? Or is it “automatic”?

Due to the very basic web interface I can’t seem to find anything relating to antenna settings
 

Adam2173

Regular Member
I've been using this device a while and have not come across such a thing. I've been following this website (below) to figure out how to change the firmware of the 286D and remember that the external antennas were mentioned. Going by the pics in the linked forum, it could be a firmware limitation or you may just need to plug in antennas for a UI option to pop up. I don't have an antenna to test though.

 

Gandi69

Top Member
Got my bluespot antenna connected and nothing pops up to tell you or is there even a sniff of it in the firmware. Happy to flash it with new firmware mind you, providing it is what I need. I’ve been doing some reading and people are trying to get these working with openwrt which would be brilliant if it happens.
 

Adam2173

Regular Member
Going by this image there does appear to be something in the Elisa FM UI about external antenna but no clarification in the forums about it. Going by the appearance of the UI and the info provided. The thread is quite active still so they may answer any questions you may have. I didn't have much luck though.


These guys managed to install Elisa FM with their stock TIM FM but i was unable to do so with Three's FM. I'm not very technically minded when it comes to this sort of stuff but i do believe i followed the procedure correctly. The only prerequisite i didn't follow was having a TIM branded MF286D, which i assume was the cause of the failed flash.
 

Gandi69

Top Member
Mine is a "three" branded one too but its got bridge mode available in the firmware, which I dont think three would provide (unless I'm mistaken)?
 

Adam2173

Regular Member
Mine is a "three" branded one too but its got bridge mode available in the firmware, which I dont think three would provide (unless I'm mistaken)?
Yes, i believe all Three branded MF286D have bridge mode. My own has it.

I wonder if theres the possibility of TFTP before boot?
I'm not sure what that means :D I'm a dummy with this sort of stuff. If its any help, i get the error code "invalid selected version" Perhaps its just a simple text change in 1 of the many folders but i'm sure its not as simple as that.

Here is the download to the firmware
Here is the translated PDF instructions from Italian to English.
And the forum that made it possible that has a lot of info.

Hopefully you can get somewhere with it! It would be nice to use B3 only as B20+B3 cause me some issues with this device.

Edit: I don't mind being a test dummy if you fear you'll brick it. Luckily they're only 29 quid from Three. Last time i checked anyway
 

Gandi69

Top Member
TFTP is like a method to send files and data - lots of routers have this outside of their main operating system to flash in a new or updated firmware thus making it possible to recover from a "bricked" situation. That said not all devices have this option, usually only the quality stuff. OEMs do like to lock it out for consumers especially ISP provided routers.
I'd prefer not to brick mine as Ive bought mine outright but I can still return it to Amazon I guess!
I'm no expert here but I've done my fair share of flashing LEDE/Openwrt/DD wrt to routers over the years but then its only possible when you have the necessary access available via the above methods.
I've had a fiddle with the external sma connections to my outside wall mounted bluespot antenna and just swapped them round, download has not changed much but upload has quadrupled which is a sign of good things, its more than the 535 could muster anyway. I think this device has a lot of potential but the restrictive software interface lets it down a bit.
 

Adam2173

Regular Member
TFTP is like a method to send files and data - lots of routers have this outside of their main operating system to flash in a new or updated firmware thus making it possible to recover from a "bricked" situation.
Ah, thanks for the info! I can't say this device has that but i do remember a lot of technical talk about the device on fibra forum and not just the thread i linked. There's also a few other foreign forums out there that talk about this device in detail too.

I think this device has a lot of potential but the restrictive software interface lets it down a bit
I do to. The Elisa firmware proves that. When i have some free time i'll look more into the folders in the zip file and see if i can find anything. If it was possible with TIM firmware then it has to be possible with Three's FM.
 

Adam2173

Regular Member
I did find this from a Russian forum.

"
In a misunderstanding by you and not only you of what they are doing.
ZTE does not make firmware.
ZTE makes a SOFTWARE UPDATE.
The software update is done for a specific model of a specific operator.
Accordingly.
In order to update the software in the modem or router Beeline Russia, you need to update the software for Beeline Russia.
When trying to add a software update for MTS Russia, we will receive an error because we are trying to upload incompatible software.
In order not to get the INCOMPATIBLE software error, you need to either patch this software to disable the compatibility check, or use QPST to replace the config file in the device (for example, from MTS Russia) And then the Software Update will think that this device is MTS Russia and will not swear at an error while updating the software."

H3G (Three) is mentioned in a couple of text files within the zip

 

Gandi69

Top Member
Interesting I’ll have a read of that, I’ve just been looking at the update and there’s clearly a check to see what firmware you have first to see if it matches
 

Adam2173

Regular Member
I’ve just been looking at the update and there’s clearly a check to see what firmware you have first to see if it matches
I think so too. That .txt i linked led me to the FOTA_FS folder that contains modem info for each carrier, three being one of them. You'll need winrar to open it.
modem.tgz\.\image\modem_pr\mcfg\configs\mcfg_sw\generic\EU\H3G\Commercial\UK
It contains a .mbn file. The install path in the instructions have a few MBN file types, none named mcfg_sw. mbn though.

C:\Users\Adam\Desktop\ZTE Terminal Software Update Framework ELISA MF286D\Bin\UPDATE

This all might be useless as i've been spending most of my time in the Bin/Update folder
 

Gandi69

Top Member
Well so far my pi based Speedtest box has consistently shown higher results using the ZTE device than the B535 so it must be doing so eh thing better.
Yes the speeds aren’t fantastic but I’ll take a solid 25-40+ Mbit and 20 ish up for the majority of the day over bursts of 50mbit at 4am and then sub teens for the rest of the day
 

Gandi69

Top Member
Not much light is really being shed on this one via research. It appears the modem inside the unit itself is set up so it "chooses" the best antenna to use rather than being enforced by a software settings from a GUI. Some firmwares allow you to lock a band but unless we can get a different one on to these units then it'll stick be randomly choosing antennas. Apparently on the older MF286 people were swopping antenna cabling around inside to improve performance on certain frequencies though in my view there you are better just modifying the router to put new SMA connectors on it to bypass the internal ones (which I guess is what router-mods.co.uk offer).
Bit of a shame really as OpenWRT supports the chipset this router runs on, I'm wondering if someone out there may be attempting to get it running sometime in the future.
 

Adam2173

Regular Member
I hope so. This isn't a bad device. It does the job but its bogged down by the limited carrier firmware. I've seen the same regarding the DIY connectors. It may be possible with the 286D.
Should i get the Elisa firmware working you'll be the first to know if there is an internal/external antenna option.
 

Gandi69

Top Member
I’ve posted on the Oz based r00ter forums to see if there are any wrt based builds for it. They usually cover some obscure stuff such as comfast devices etc
 

Essex_Man

Member
Good to see that the discussion about the MF286D is picking up in the UK. Besides the Italian and eko.one forum in Poland, I found some more stuff here http://www.bez-kabli.pl/viewtopic.php?t=47687 and here https://bbs.io-tech.fi/threads/zte-mf286-kokemuksia.609/
Thanks to Google Translate, these provide more interesting insights.

I am looking at moving my broadband from a rubbish ADSL2+ to 4G. The MF286D appealed to me since it offers Bridge Mode (I want to keep my Fritzbox 7590 and stick the MF286D in the attic) and VoLTE. I briefly tested the phone socket on the MF286D with a 30 year old wired phone and it worked with SIM cards from 1p Mobile (on EE) and ID Mobile (on 3). I am not entirely sure whether it really uses VoLTE or CSFB, but I was quite impressed to see the phone function working at all.

The web UI is very basic, to put it kindly. They seem to have spent more time on a nice design than providing any relevant functions. Hence it would be good to get Telnet to work on this box. There is an interesting article here http://blog.asiantuntijakaveri.fi/2017/03/backdoor-and-root-shell-on-zte-mf286.html to turn on telnetd on the router. I don't know whether it works on the Three firmware.

Telnet would allow sending AT commands directly to the radio modem which should open up various possibilities, like band locking etc. without having to flash a different firmware which may have other limitations.

The external antenna sockets seem to fairly useless, certainly for MIMO. There are three antenna connectors on the radio module (plus another two for WiFi Antennas), but exactly what function these have is unclear and whether there is much point in connecting an external antenna directly to the radio module remains to be seen.
 

Gandi69

Top Member
Odd quirk with mine, it seems after a few days it just loses connection/won’t pass traffic and needs a reboot. 535 didn’t so this, it would just slow the connection down by about 70%. Odd. Even the trick of bypassing connection monitoring in pfsense or disabling the interface and re enabling doesn’t work.
Learning curve hmm
 
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