Range extension using hotspot

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kente

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Jun 1, 2018
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I am considering using a ZTE MF279 LTE router to set up a wifi hotspot.  I would use it with external antennas to try to get the range I need when boondocking.    Has anyone else used this device?    It is labeled as an AT&T device but I believe that I can change the SIM card to use it with other networks.    I am currently on Google Fi which uses Tmobile, Sprint, or US Cellular depending on which has the best signal.      As noted from other posts on this forum LTEfix.com has some very attractive alternatives which look like they would almost certainly do what I want but the price is a little higher and the devices they have seem to draw more power, which is something of an issue when boondocking. 

I am thinking about mounting the external antennas on a mast or just removing the useless vhf tv antenna and mounting the antennas on that mast.    The issue I see with that is just that there is only one coax coming from the tv antenna and the cellular system requires two.    Haven't assessed yet how much trouble it would be to run another coax.

Any other suggestions or alternatives would be much appreciated.   
 

Doc Roads

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Southern Arizona
Here?s an antenna alternative I used for my WeBoost and/or Alfa WiFi extender.  I mounted the antenna on a length of rigid PVC (2in) of approximately 4 ft.  You can use metal conduit too, it?s just heavier for us mobile types.  I bought a hollow plastic umbrella base at Home Depot.  The 2in PVC fit just right in the base, filled it with water and now you have a portable stand.  I placed it on my roof, and ran the coax through a window via a flat flexible coax junction.  I also set the base and mast up on the ground near the RV.  This configuration allows me to point my blade (yagi) antenna too. When it?s time to move the RV, I disconnect the coax, pull the mast, roll up the coax, dump the water out of the base and store it all in a compartment below.
 

kente

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Jun 1, 2018
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I probably used the wrong title on this post.  I am not interested in extending wifi range, I am interested in extending cell phone range and using a wifi hotspot to provide service in and around my RV.  I have ordered the MF279 and should receive it next week.  I will initially use it with the internal antenna to verify functionality and then will attach external antennas to get a range boost.    I have also ordered a SIM card from Google to use in the device. 

Since I am now committed to using this device I will report on my progress in case that helps anyone else with the same issue.
 

docj

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The ZTE279 has antenna ports for a pair of MIMO antennas.  Your most effective download speed improvement will result from buying a pair of antennas that will attach to those ports (you can get them on Amazon).  Alternatively, you could get simple booster such as a WeBoost Sleek and lay the ZTE on the cradle.  That will boost the overall signal, but it's my understanding that adding the MIMO antennas will probably yield better results.

FWIW have you checked to see if the device receives the proper bands for use with Project Fi?
 

Isaac-1

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SW Louisiana
The problem you get with a mast mounted antenna is the high losses one incurs for every foot of antenna lead at the frequencies used by LTE frequencies (particularly the higher frequency ones).  If you are in a slightly marginal area where you get some signal with the internal antenna at ground level, but just not good enough, consider trying a Netgear 6000450 MIMO Antenna (assuming your device uses the common TS9 antenna connectors), this really is one of the best bang for the buck semi-directional antennas out there as it sells for only about $30 on Amazon, etc.
 

SLOweather

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Dec 2, 2018
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I have one of these routers on our moho. Currently it is connected one exterior mag mount antenna on the roof. So far, it is working very well. I got it new from ATT, specifically because I needed a router with a 4 port Ethernet switch in it as well as WiFi. It also has POTS ports on it in case your service comes with a phone number. Ours does, but i haven't found a use for the POTS yet. Maybe I'll install a bat phone. :) Or one of our KC Beariphones...

Dunno yet about changing networks. I have a second unit I just inherited from my MIL when she passed away. I tried goofing with Google FI, but we don't have new enough phones to get the SIMs authorized.

It's nice to have decent Internet on most of the roads we travel, and at campgrounds.

Hmmm, I have a Yagi from another cell project laying about. I'll have to see if I can mount that somehow. Maybe on a King Jack style TV antenna mount.
 

kente

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I haven't specifically checked to see if this has the right bands for use with Google Fi but the seller claimed it was unlocked and would work with Tmobile so I am thinking it will probable work.  I have received the SIM card from Google and have adapters coming from Amazon so as soon as I receive the MF279 I will be able to set it up and test it with the internal antennas.    My understanding is that the external antenna ports are set up such that one port is for RX/TX and the other is for diversity RX.  If that is true I should be able to get by with one external Yagi antenna rather than two, at least in all but the most remote locations.    Has anyone tried that?  I will also look at the Netgear MIMO antenna.
 

SargeW

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My internet set up uses a Pepwave "Enterprise Router" that has an embedded 4G LTE radio. I functions off of two different SIM cards from different providers (T-Mobile and Verizon in my case).  It accepts the external antenna, and I use a 6' push up mast with a  SureCall 9.5 Inch Wideband Outdoor Omnidirectional 3G/4G/LTE Antenna and a Wilson Signal 4G Direct Connect Amplifier. A 30' Black Ultra Low Loss Cable connects the antenna to the Amp. 

The set up works well for the last 2 years, and I can get signal in many places that others can't.  The booster works to get signal to the tower, and the exterior antenna and mast works to get the answer back.

It wasn't the cheapest system, but the performance has been very good. And the ability to switch between carriers in various parts of the country has also been very helpful.

I use a business named https://5gstore.com for my equipment.  They have great tech support people to help design a set up for you without wasting money on what won't work or you don't need.
 

docj

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The device works on the following bands: UMTS 850/1900, LTE 2, 4, 5, 12, 29, 30

You can find a spec sheet for it here:  https://www.zteusa.com/att-wirelessinternet

As for the antenna ports, they are MIMO ports and have female SMA connectors.  Since they are MIMO ports one would normally expect to connect a pair of matched antennas.  But you can also attach a single antenna to one port if you want to use something like a directional Yagi.
 

zulu

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SargeW said:
My internet set up uses a Pepwave "Enterprise Router" that has an embedded 4G LTE radio.
Do you have a link to this device?
 

SargeW

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Sure, here is the link to the 5G store where I got mine. I have no personal interest in the store, just good tech support.  https://5gstore.com/product/6818_pepwave_max_br1_mini_lte.html
 

SargeW

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docj said:
With all due respect, it's probably worth upgrading to the newer version of the device which has a Cat 6 LTE modem.  https://5gstore.com/product/6817_pepwave_max_br1_mini_lte_advanced.html

No disrespect noted. I may upgrade down the road, but for now it's not necessary.  I fully expect the same thing will happen to 4G  that happened to 3G.  I had a grandfathered 3G unlimited plan for years. When 4G rolled out, my speeds on 3G went off the charts because so many users jumped to 4G that the 3G bands were way less congested.  I was often over 2 meg download speeds with my 3G usb modem.  I would have had it a lot longer if Verizon had not screwed me out of it. 

So I am not in a big rush to jump to 5G. I just don't do that that much heavy data transfer or gaming, so it doesn't matter much.
 

docj

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SargeW said:
So I am not in a big rush to jump to 5G. I just don't do that that much heavy data transfer or gaming, so it doesn't matter much.

To clarify one thing, a Cat 6 modem doesn't have anything to do with 5G; it's still an LTE device. Here's an explanation I picked up from a website:

LTE Cat.6 allows transfer rates of up to 300 Mbps in the download and up to 50 Mbps in the upload. The mobile standard is the first category of LTE Advanced. Technically, LTE Cat-6 realizes its high 4G speed via MIMO (Multiple Input - Multiple Output) and Carrier Aggregation (2 x 20 MHz). In the multi-antenna technology uses 2 x 2 antennas. A typical feature of LTE Cat-6 is above all the carrier bundling. The classic LTE uses only the multi-antenna technology MIMO, which limits the transmission rates of the current 4G networks. LTE networks with category 6 have already been launched worldwide.
 

kente

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Jun 1, 2018
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Status Report:  I received the MF279 and my Google Fi Sim card.    I powered it up and ran the ATT admin program and changed the APN per the Google Fi instructions.    Something is not working.  I am getting 0 bars on the MF279 in an area where my phone gets 2-3 bars.    I don't know how good the internal antenna on the MF29 is but I would assume it would be approximately as good as the antenna on my phone.    I have googled Google Fi and MF279 and have not found anything helpful.    I'll keep poking around but if anyone has any suggestions they would be appreciated.    I may call Google Fi support to see if they are wiling to help but I don't believe that this is a supported device.
 

docj

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kente said:
Status Report:  I received the MF279 and my Google Fi Sim card.    I powered it up and ran the ATT admin program and changed the APN per the Google Fi instructions.    Something is not working.  I am getting 0 bars on the MF279 in an area where my phone gets 2-3 bars.    I don't know how good the internal antenna on the MF29 is but I would assume it would be approximately as good as the antenna on my phone.    I have googled Google Fi and MF279 and have not found anything helpful.    I'll keep poking around but if anyone has any suggestions they would be appreciated.    I may call Google Fi support to see if they are wiling to help but I don't believe that this is a supported device.

I'm currently using a MF279 with an OTRMobile SIM which is still on the AT&T network.  I created a new profile in the admin program and set the APN to "broadband".  I have no idea what the correct Project Fi settings would be.
 

kente

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I did the same thing in the admin program.  I created a new profile called "Google Fi" and entered the new APN as per the directions that accompanied the Google Fi Sim card.  Was there anything else that you did that I should be aware of?
 

kente

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The device is working fine now.  It occurred to me that it might have been simply out of range of a Tmobile tower.  Google Fi uses Tmobile, Sprint, or US Cellular, depending on which has the best signal.    I downloaded a couple of apps (Network Cell Info Lite, and Signal Spy) that allowed me to see what service my cell phone was on and found that I was on Sprint when at home.    The Google Fi data SIM only works on Tmobile so I needed to be in range of a Tmobile tower.    I drove to a spot where I knew that Tmobile service was available and got full bars immediately.  Now that I know that the modem works on Google Fi, for purposes of boondocking I need to implement an external antenna system to hopefully get significantly greater range.   

Thanks for the comments and help and I hope this provided some useful information to others.  If I learn anything more in the process of implementing an antenna system I will post more.
 
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