Testing USB Modems with Cradlepoint MBR95

In a prior post, I’ve written about my slow DSL connection at the mountain cabin and how I bought a Cradlepoint MBR95 router to be able to use a faster connection from a mobile hotspot or USB modem when I’m in town.

While the DSL is slow, at least it has been a reliable “always on” connection to access my thermostat and webcams. But recently it had been experiencing frequent dropouts, to the point where I no longer want to waste $30/month for a 1.0 Mbps connection and getting only half that when things are working.┬áSo, courtesy of EBay, I assembled an army of USB modems to test this weekend.

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The MBR95 router is in the crawl space, and in the bedroom above I had an opening in the wall formerly occupied by a light switch. So in went the USB wall jack for the USB modems.

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The first modem to test was the Huawei Webconnect 3G/4G UMG1831 on T-Mobile, using a $20/month pay as you go pass. Back in civilization, I was able to get respectable 3G speeds of about 2-3 Mbps. But only 2G/EDGE is available at the mountain cabin. The speed was so slow that it wouldn’t register in the mobile app, so I had to use the desktop version instead.

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Although slow, that might actually still work for connecting to my thermostat, but forget the webcams. However, I did not get a public IP address, meaning I would not be able to access the thermostat from the internet.

Next up was the Pantech UML290 on Verizon. The nice thing about Verizon is that I could add the USB modem onto my current account for $20/month and share my data from my current plan. I knew they did not give public IPv4 addresses (they do give a public IPv6 address, but that was not a can of worms I wanted to get into), but I knew that as a last resort I could purchase a static IPv4 address for a one time fee of $500.

Since I didn’t have a SIM card, I had to go to the Verizon store get one and activate the USB modem. This was the most painless visit to a cellular store ever! ┬áVery courteous and professional staff – in less than five minutes they had it activated, and I was on my way!

So here is the 4G speed, even with sub-optimal placement inside the cabin.

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I forced it into 3G mode to check the speeds.

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Compare those to my “normal” (when it is running) DSL speeds.

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I did not get a private IPv4 address on Verizon, as expected. I did not test the Novatel U760 on Sprint, but after some research, I figured I would not get a private IP address with them either. Since I would not get a private IP address on any of the mobile carriers, then the best decision was to go with Verizon, since they are the only provider with 4G in town and they would be the cheapest due to being able to piggyback on my existing account.

But before calling Verizon to shell out $500 for a static IP address, I had to tweak my network. As explained in a previous post, my ISP allows up to 5 external IP addresses. (Pretty unusual, most only assign 1 external IP address.) So I had been taking advantage of that by putting a switch in between the modem and the 2 routers, so that each router would have its own external IP address, giving two completely separate networks.

WW Routers - Updated

So then I changed my network so that I would need only 1 external IP address.

WW Routers - Updated Again

But after doing this, I noticed that the DSL connection had come back on, and it was rock solid with no dropouts. Perhaps my connection was marginal enough, so that having the switch and getting 2 external IP addresses was a bit too much for it to handle? Anyway, I’m glad I figured this out before forking out $500 to Verizon for a static IP address.

So now I’m back to using my DSL as my primary connection. I’ll hang on to the Verizon USB modem, since during my visits I can plug it in the USB wall port for faster internet access.

I have an old netbook that I leave at the cabin. I installed LogMeIn to enable remote access, and the netbook is still accessible remotely even if the DSL is down and I’m using the Verizon USB modem. So as a workaround, I could connect to the netbook remotely and use it to adjust the thermostat and view the webcams, although that is not my preferred option.