Hello. I live in an area with poor coverage from most LTE/5G carriers. Based on FCC coverage maps, AT&T provides the best coverage in my area. There is no option in my area for traditional cable or DSL.
I am also low income and receive the ACP benefit. For those that don't know, the ACP benefit gives me a discount (I believe $30) on consumer Internet service.
AT&T provides a consumer grade service for $55/mo (plus equipment costs) with a 50GB data cap. It's $10/5GB after that. They also offer, for the same price, $55/mo mobile hotspot which throttles to 128kbps which is an addon to their data plans (I believe - it was a little confusing hearing it explained). Finally they offer a business grade service for $70/mo (plus equipment costs) which is unlimited, but I can't apply my ACP benefit to this service. I can bring my own equipment, but it has to be supported.
I haven't investigated T-Mobile as thoroughly. I know they offer unlimited 5G for $50/mo (including equipment costs?) which is a great deal, but my landlord who lives nearby has this service and I'm not impressed. In this area she only receives 2 bars of LTE and the equipment provided seems cheap and unreliable. It includes a built-in Ethernet switch, but I'm not sure if it's configurable enough to connect an external router with better antennas.
Currently I have my lifeline benefit through the T-Mobile MVNO, Assurance Wireless. I can get 2 bars if I leave the phone outside and use the hotspot for another device. Subtle movements will drop the signal. It's a pretty frustrating and unreliable solution.
I'd like to try AT&T since the coverage is better and compare it to my landlord's device, but I'd like equipment that supports any and all carriers. 5G equipment seems expensive and it's unlikely I'd pickup a 5G signal through any carrier. I'd also like to connect it to my router. I think it's also likely I'd leave the modem outside and run a cable to the router indoors and have an antenna run outside as my home structure is built out of concrete blocks and degrades the signal substantially.
If all goes well I'd like to setup APs on the property to cover all of it and get a better deal on my rent from my landlord as she and the other tenants could use my wifi.
My biggest concern is the LTE equipment. I don't want to cheap out on it, but I'm also on a budget. I also want the ability to switch carriers if AT&T doesn't pan out.
Any suggestions or recommendations are appreciated. God bless.
The router needs to be able to supply enough current over USB, LTE (or 4g/ 5g) modems are thirsty and run hot (in other words, they may also tend to overheat), not all USB ports can cover that.
The router needs to be fast enough to push meaningful throughput over the USB ports (e.g. the WRT54G and anything else of that rough era will cap out hard around 1.5-2.5 MByte/s, you need to get somewhere recent for reasonable performance).
Let's go back to all of the requirements... until you know exactly what model router you have, even if it has USB, it doesn't mean you will be able to use it with OpenWrt (and/or with the LTE dongle). It is a complete waste of energy to research the USB dongle options until you know that your router is sufficiently resourced to be able to run it.
There are probably many forums out there that specialize in discussions of LTE sticks and carrier compatibility. I would recommend using those forums to find the answers to this part of your questioning. The OpenWrt forums are well suited to discussing OpenWrt compatibility, but not necssarily carrier compatibility.