Which "Pi" arm64 Single Board Computer for a LTE 4G modem

A cellular provider is introducing LTE home internet but the bundled Nokia device has no antenna jacks and does not provide 2.4Ghz wifi - just 5Ghz. I live about 1 mile from the tower which has band 66 and should be capable of greater than 100Mbps.

I'd like to keep my own routers and just use the sim card in a Raspberry/Orange/Bannana/Nano Pi with a Quectel, pci-e EC25-AFFA card. Essentially, it would be a modem w/ a cellular uplink. If possible the modem ethernet port should be 10/100/1000. OpenWRT support would be nice but I can also use Debian or FreeBSD/OpenBSD. NetGear makes a LC1200 that looks close but I had bad luck with the brand - two 614 routers died weeks after the warranty expired.

I've started wading through all the hardware options and there are quite literally hundreds of devices. I'm aware that USB dongles are an option but this is going to be stationary and I have no plans to move any time soon. I found that the Raspberry Pi 4 has support and a 40-pin pci-e hat but I prefer something less tightly packed with passive cooling.

CELL Tower 
      \\\  High Gain Directional Antenna Pi w/ EC25
                                          10/100/1000 wan on my router

Any recommendations from Pi hackers appreciated.

there is a rooter build for the rpi4 based on 21.02.x this would be a good place to start...

  • modem hardware
  • peak ethernet(wan) speed and
  • additional services

would be your key decision points here... specifically point 1, and the complexities managing power, heat and the elements... ( see one example here )

many people opt for a simpler device for such a task...

RockPro64? You might also make sure that it's PCIe only as such cards might mix PCIe and USB.

If you're talking about T-Mobile (USA) Home Internet, their FAQ says that the service is locked to the gateway device they provide; the SIM card will not work in another modem.

Also the EC25 as it is only LTE class 4 is not a good choice for a high speed setup.

Of course you can connect your own router and wifi APs after their modem. They use CG-NAT so another layer of NAT is not an issue.

@mk24 My major concern. To me it looks like the Carriers have twisted semantics in order to generate another billing category and hustle more $. I can get an unlocked T-mobile sim phone card, with unlimited data and no throttle until >100GB/billing cycle (I average 80GB/month). To my eye, I'm using the same infrastructure/bandwidth. As far a Class 4, it's touted to handle upto 150Mbps, I'm presently getting 4.8Mbps on ADSL ANSI T1.413. The technician for my provider says they have no plans to upgrade.

@wulfy23 Heat is also a major concern and a concern for the "Hat 40-pin" pci-e

Rather than stuffing everything into a tight fitting enclosure, I was thinking a short 40-pin ribbon cable making a 180degree flip to separate the two boards. I'd like to avoid a fan and build with chimney, passive cooling/big heat sinks.

The Banana Pi R2 has a built in pci-e and some OpenWRT support, I only need one NIC though. I like Mediatek and this could potentially be a full fledged modem/router. There is also the supported ZTE 1326 and WG3526.


I already have several routers running OpenWRT, 2 sitting the in the closet, which was the motivation to just build a modem.

Ultimately those boards are just USB adapters.
They require a separate USB cable to the Pi because there is no USB or other fast bus on the 40 pin connector.

It doesn't look like the pcie slot on the Banana has a SIM card socket. So it's not suitable for a 4G modem.

@mk24 See this wiki page:

It looks like a real pci-e socket, but you're right about the SIM socket. The 40-pin hat, link'd in a prior post, has one.

 	Banana Pi R2
CPU 	MediaTek MT7623N, Quad-core ARM Cortex-A7
GPU 	Mali 450 MP4 GPU
Memory 	2G DDR3 SDRAM
Storage 	Onboard 8GB eMMC Flash, Micro SD-Card slot, Two SATA 2.0 Port
Network 	5 x 10/100/1000 Mbit/s Ethernet (MT7530)
WIFI&BT 	Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n 2.4G/5G + Bluetooth BT4.1(MT6625L)
Display(s) 	HDMI (Type A) output with HDCP 1.4, resolutions up 1920x1200; MIPI Display Serial Interface (DSI) interface(4 data lanes)
Video decoder(s) 	Multi-format FHD video decoding, including Mpeg1/2, Mpeg4, H.263, H.264, etc. H.264 high-profile 1080p@60fps, HEVC/H.265 1080P@60fps
Audio Output(s) 	HDMI & I2S
USB port 	USB 3.0 PORT (x2), USB OTG (x1)
mini PCIE 	1 mini pcie interface & 1 pcie pin define interface
Remote 	IR Receiver (x1)
GPIO 	40 Pin Header : GPIO (x28) and Power (+5V, +3.3V and GND). Some of I/O Pin can be used for specific functions as UART, I2C, SPI or PWM
Switches 	Reset button, Power button, U-boot button
LED 	Power Status and 8P8C
Power Source 	5 volt @2A via DC Power and/or Micro USB (OTG)
Size & Weight 	148 mm × 100.5mm 100g
OS 	OpenWRT, Debian, Ubuntu, Raspbian and others OS 

The firefly-RK3399 has a SIM card slot and is supported by OpenBSD. Would probably be a good device for OpenWRT but it is out-of-stock at this time.


Where did you get this? It is entirely contradicted by the following link and pasted content.

Here is what I found at this link

T-Mobile Internet Service Policies


Does T-Mobile allow customers to use non- T-Mobile devices and applications for its Broadband Internet Access Services?

T-Mobile customers may use any compatible GSM, UMTS, LTE, or 5G device, such as a tablet or smartphone, to access our Broadband Internet Access Services, as long as they do not cause harm to our network. T-Mobile may limit activations of compatible devices on older technologies as we transition our network to newer technologies..

If you did not purchase your device from T-Mobile, please be aware that T-Mobile has not made any determination as to the call quality, performance, or other functionality provided by the device.

At the bottom of the page under Device Details open "What are some of the key features..."

The SIM card will only work with the High-Speed Internet Gateway device. It cannot be moved into other devices or routers.


Doesn't sound like a "key feature" to me or a js window I would open looking for information on sim card transfer to another device.

Broadband/Cell service providers kinda remind me of used car dealers - both sides of their mouths. Oddly enough I'm > 55 years old and would get a discount on talk/text/data plans. I'm paying $80 for ADSL (4.8Mbps down on a good day) and a land phone line - I could get 2 lines w/ unlimited data for $70.
Unlimited 55+ plans

The fine print is the difference between unlimited cell phone data and 5Gb limited mobile hotspot. I don't consider a screwed down, antenna tethered, 120v powered, home device as being mobile but it looks like this is something I need to pin the sales agent down on and get in writing.