LTE for me

Once again our phone line is dead which means that I’ll have no ADSL until Telkom fixes the problem. This is the SMS I received from them:

Telkom has concluded its investigations. The cable in your area will be replaced and the restoration of your service is targeted for 2013/05/22.

I have no idea why the cable has to be replaced. Either the copper cable was stolen (a common occurrence in South Africa) or Telkom plans to upgrade the current cables. More likely the former.The cause of yet more cable theft.

Now ADSL has its issues. I usually get no more than 2.3Mbps for downloads but al least it’s not too expensive and it’s uncapped. I can’t go without Internet access that long.

I’ve used 3G in the past and although signal strength is fairly good the access speed sucks. Now LTE has entered the picture and I decided to give it a shot. According to Vodacom’s coverage map my house lies on the border of the coverage area.

First of all I needed an LTE capable device so I decided to try the Huawei E5776 (or more accurately Huawei E5776s-32) which I ordered from Expansys. The device arrived about three days later.

I tried several different SIM cards but could not get past the “No Service” message if “Network->Preferred Mode” was set to “Auto” on the modem. I eventually solved the problem by using a 64k Vodacom SIM which had to be provisioned for LTE. You should also have the APN set to lte.vodacom.za. It seems that when the modem scans for signals, finds an LTE signal, tries to connect and fails because the SIM isn’t provisioned for LTE. The modem will then assume that you aren’t allowed to access the network.

Huawei E576 on Vodacom LTE
Huawei E5776 on Vodacom LTE

I tested the modem at home and was impressed by the speed I could attain at home with a very poor LTE signal.

Screenshot_2013-04-28-22-23-41
LTE speed test at home

The problem I now faced was getting the modem interfaced to my existing LAN. The E5776 doesn’t have an ethernet port and although it has a USB port my existing routers don’t support it. I managed to use a Netgear WN3000RP as a bridge but ran into a limitation of the E5776: it supports a maximum of ten WiFi connections. The WN3000RP created a WiFi connection to the E5776 for every device on my LAN that has an IP address – routers included. I quickly reached the ten device limit so not all the devices on the network could access the Internet.

I noticed an Alcatel L100V and a TP-LINK TL-MR3040 in a store and decided to try them out. The L100V plugs into the USB port of the TL-MR3040 which in turn connects to an ethernet port on your LAN. Although the L100V is not on the list of modems supported by the TL-MR3040 it had no problems using the L100V.

LTE at home using the Alcatel L100V connected a a TP-LINK TL-MR3040
LTE at home using the Alcatel L100V connected  to a TP-LINK TL-MR3040
LTE at the office. Smokin'!!!! Bye bye data bundle.
LTE at the office. Smokin’!!!! Bye bye data bundle.

At this point I suggest using a Vodacom promotional 20GB bundle which will set you back R499 and is only available on prepaid. LTE can devour a data bundle very quickly.

Specifications

1. Huawei E5776s-32 taken from here:

HUAWEI E5776S-32 unlocked 150Mbps Cat4 4G LTE mobile hotspot specifications:

  • 4G LTE DL up to 150Mbps
  • 4G LTE UL up to 50Mbps
  • LTE FDD 800/900/1800/2100/2600MHz
  • DC-HSPA+ DL/UL 42/5.76Mbps
  • UMTS 850/900/1900/2100MHz
  • GSM 800/900/1800/1900MHz
  • WiFi 802.11b/g/n
  • 10 users connection support
  • Built-in antenna
  • 3000mAh rechargable battery
  • External antenna interface TS9
  • Micro SD card slot up to 32GB
  • Dimensions: 106 x 66 x 13mm
  • OS: Windows XP, Win7, Vista, Mac OS

E5776s-32 is one of HUAWEI E5776 extension models, E5776s-32 compatible with 4G, 3G and 2G, works for LTE FDD  800/900/1800/2100/2600MHz and quad-bands for 3G UMTS 850/900/1900/2100MHz that greatly improved the compabilities why reasons people choice (sic) it.

2. Alcatel L100V

Mobile Boardband (sic) SpecsData Rate : LTE Downlink 100Mbps, Uplink 50 Mbps
4G Bands : 800/900/1800/2100/2600 MHz
3G Bands : 900/1800/2100 MHZ
2G bands : 850/900/1800/1900 MHz
Wi-Fi : N/A
Storage Capacity : NAND Flash 1Gb+512Mb SD RAM
External Interface : USB 2.0 interface
Battery : N/A