4G-Router vs 4G-Modem + router

I am in need of advice about what hardware would be optimal for my situation

We need to provide internet access to a holiday place, primary for a security camera and other devices, but occasionally also for a couple of laptops and a TV. It will be connected to the primary residence using wireguard (considering the speeds of 4G, I do not think we will need a powerful device).

However, reliability is by far the most important feature for us, as I cannot just walk there if it fails.

I am considering an all-in-one 4G-Router (a TP-Link MR6400, for example), or a normal router (mostly, any well-supported device) plus a USB 4G-Modem (not sure where to start).

Do you have any experiences that you could share, please?

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I'm a big fan of the MF286Ds, even with stock fw, 40€ used.

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Definitely not MR6400 or alike.
MF286D will do the job, subject to support of bands and combos you need. I use it in a bridge mode with OEM software, in front of OpenWrt router (with WiFi).
Alternatively you can buy just a modem (typically in M.2/NGFF form-factor) and put it into an adapter with USB interface.

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I am having trouble finding these around here, even if paying twice... :frowning: thanks.

May I ask why?

disappearing more and more from the market.

Most manufacturers stopped development and production a few years ago. You get still get a few old 4g USB dongles with max speed of 150mbit from that era. Due to being less and less on stock, the good/easy ones are gone by now and price becomes more and more unattractive.

Even before 5G, manufacturers switched to portable (battery) and stationary (no battery) 4g like wifi routers, said that 4g antennas are easier to integrate into those and customers are said to prefering those, to easier place those near windows, were they have have better 4g reception, instead of sticking a dongle into their hand-held devices. Also the 4g wifi routers seem to fit better with clients that have no USB port, but Wifi.
Also from average customer perspective more handy in a world, where there are multiple clients.

Since 5G it got even worse, manufacturers claim that it got no longer practical at all, to integrate the more complex MIMO 5g antenna designs in an USB-sized stick at all.

And even most old USB dongles from the 4g era practically behave as WAN-port-over-USB, probably reusing the digital design of the more sold 4g Wifi routers: under OpenWRT, you end with a "usb0"-like WAN-port, where the stick hands out an IP address to this WAN like as if there was an external router attached to a regular RJ45 WAN port.

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Cat.4 modem, the router itself has rather low specifications.
In addition to that, we normally want to install our Wi-Fi routers in the centre of the property, while the mobile broadband device needs to be installed closer to perimeter, like by the window or even outside. So, the combo devices have their limitations.

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The problem here is that OpenWrt does not have a critical feature required for your setup: automatic reconnection if the operator disconnects the modem. Therefore, to provide the required reliability level, the piece of hardware that connects to the 4G network absolutely must run its stock firmware. You cannot use any modem that is exposed to OpenWrt via AT commands, QMI, MBIM, or similar protocols. It has to be just a generic upstream router connected via Ethernet (or USB "ethernet") and configured to reconnect if the link fails.

See this forum topic for a possible workaround if you disagree with the recommendation above:

I cannot recommend the solution proposed in the thread above because you don't have enough time to test it properly.

Therefore, the recommended setup is to have something like Huawei E3372H in HiLink mode (not stick!) and a router with a USB port. Or MF286D with stock firmware and any OpenWrt router that can handle WireGuard with a sufficient speed.

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I'm using an MF286D with OpenWrt and ModemManager for redundant access to a remote site. Not the same problem space, I know. But it's pretty reliable. A simple "test connectivity or reboot" cron job would have been sufficient to make it survive alone.

But I'm not plagued by an operator disconnecting sessions. I usually don't see any disconnects except for power outages or OpenWrt upgrades initiated by me.

BusyBox v1.36.1 (2023-10-22 10:08:09 UTC) built-in shell (ash)

  _______                     ________        __
 |       |.-----.-----.-----.|  |  |  |.----.|  |_
 |   -   ||  _  |  -__|     ||  |  |  ||   _||   _|
 |_______||   __|_____|__|__||________||__|  |____|
          |__| W I R E L E S S   F R E E D O M
 -----------------------------------------------------
 OpenWrt SNAPSHOT, r24192-4bdd1c1a135b
 -----------------------------------------------------
root@mf286d:~# mmcli -b 0
  ------------------------------------
  General            |           path: /org/freedesktop/ModemManager1/Bearer/0
                     |           type: default
  ------------------------------------
  Status             |      connected: yes
                     |      suspended: no
                     |    multiplexed: no
                     |      interface: wwan0
                     |     ip timeout: 20
  ------------------------------------
  Properties         |            apn: internet.public
                     |        roaming: allowed
  ------------------------------------
  IPv4 configuration |         method: static
                     |        address: 77.18.143.28
                     |         prefix: 29
                     |        gateway: 77.18.143.29
                     |            dns: 193.213.112.4, 130.67.15.198
                     |            mtu: 1500
  ------------------------------------
  Statistics         |     start date: 2023-10-22T14:07:30Z
                     |       duration: 1712489
                     |       bytes rx: 6037968
                     |       bytes tx: 6332850
                     |       attempts: 1
                     | total-duration: 1712489
                     | total-bytes rx: 6037968
                     | total-bytes tx: 6332850

Dear @bmork, any thoughts you might have on:

would very much be appreciated.

Sorry, I don't have many thoughts on that except that I'm sure there is room for improvement.

Other than that, my first thought is that it's a workaround for a stupid and unnecessary operator non-feature. But I realise that we sometimes just have to live with that kind of stupidity. I'm not a strong believer in letting the marketplace solve all problems. Or any problem really :slight_smile: The fact that an operator can forcibly disconnect customer sessions and still be in business for days, or even weeks, is a minor problem in the big picture.

Thanks for looking at this. I don’t mind the 48 hour disconnects as much as the packet loss I see in the evenings.

I'm no expert and not sure which country we're talking about, but you will need a hefty package from your provider to support 24/7 internet via 4G.

Is there no option to get an outdoor antenna (more stable signal) from your provider and then put your own (openwrt) router behind the provider's modem?

This is Spain, I can get a SIM card for 5€ per month and add 10GB to the family data plan (that is currently underused). I do not expect this to be an issue, but I can enlarge the data plan for cheap.

In a worst case scenario, I could create a script to reboot the modem, or the whole router, or even use a watchdog relay. A few seconds of downtime now and then are not a big deal.

For remote install, watchdog relay for router with built-in modem is most reliable solution. Have seen modems to 'hang', not able to restart using soft boot. A zbt we826 is cheap, add a quectel ec25 to it. No need for modem manager when using QMI. However you might learn AT cmds for the modem, for a staged recovery (reset, soft boot, power cycle)

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Today I received an email from GL-iNet regarding a new version of their Mudi V2

Intro of $109 in select markets (I'm in the US), battery backup\power, Open-WRT underneath and their GUI on top. Wiregaurd installed.

It's the device I wanted 5 years ago when I was a road warrior.

Gl.inets Openwrt, if you're picky.

I'm having trouble finding the recommended devices... would any of these two be a better alternative?

  • ZyXEL LTE5398-M904
  • GL.iNet GL-X750

is not a good device. I did custom firmware for it; recognized, that it is very fragile. ZBT WE826 incl. EC25 to get from alibaba.