My unsuccessful search for the perfect 5G home router solution
In search of the perfect LTE or 5G-based home router, I recently found myself tumbling down a rabbit hole.
A few months ago, I discovered that I could save money by signing a new unlimited business mobile contract and replacing the VDSL-based internet in my second home with a 4G or 5G router. The contract allowed multiple SIM cards, and since there’s a well-connected cell tower nearby (likely with a direct fiber connection, rather than radio relay), I decided to go for it. I signed the new contract and purchased a second-hand ZTE MC801A at a reasonable price (still a bit expensive, but comparatively good among the available 5G router options). Initial tests showed that I could consistently achieve the maximum speed allowed by the contract throughout the day.
Originally, I intended to use the ZTE router as a modem for the aging yet still supported AVM Fritz!Box 7490. However, I soon realized that obtaining an IPv6 connection wouldn’t be straightforward with my Telefonica Germany / o2 contract. While the Fritz!Box received an IPv6 address when connected to the ZTE router in bridge mode, it didn’t receive a subnet for providing IPv6 addresses to devices on the network. Unfortunately, the ZTE router lacks extensive configuration options, and there are no alternative firmwares like OpenWRT available.
To address this, I purchased an LTE module (Sierra Wireless EM7455) with hopes of using it as an upgraded “LTE stick” compared to the ones available online. Because I acquired the Lenovo version, it required me to “rebrand” it as a generic module, flash its firmware, tinker with drivers, and so forth (but some people made this process much easier!). This process consumed a significant amount of time and tested my patience. Moreover, the adapter I ordered was incorrect – instead of the USB 3.0 variant I requested, I received a Micro USB 2.0 version and had to buy a new one. Eventually, I managed to establish an LTE connection using my laptop, but unfortunately, the module doesn’t seem to work with the Fritz!Box. This was surprising, considering the module supported AT commands, which was the sole requirement I found on the AVM homepage.
In the end, I believe it’s time for me to halt the search for the perfect solution and simply utilize the ZTE router without the Fritz!Box in the mix. This choice does impose some limitations on configuration and the number of Wi-Fi devices (30 should suffice), but I can access the network remotely through Tailscale, hosted on my home server situated in my second home. To enable remote access to the home server, which also serves as my coding server, for testing purposes such as experimenting with my blogging software, I’ve already devised a viable solution involving a free VPS from Oracle for tunneling.
I must put an end to excessive time and money spent on this endeavor, as the initial goal was to save money using this solution rather than spending more than I would have by retaining the VDSL contract. 😅
Tags: 4G, Thoughts