Tuesday, 11 March 2014

3G routers revisited

A couple of months ago I blogged about the fun I had with intsalling a 3G router as a backup to our then flaky home adsl link.

That worked well - since then we’ve given our previous ISP the flick having finally found someone else prepared to provide a service over our flaky fixed infrastructure.

The end result is we now have a stable, if slower service. When I said I’d trade speed for stability I was absolutely right - predictable and reliable beats fast - suddenly things you could never guarantee before just work - such as reading the paper online rather than a physical copy - at breakfast.

Since we changed over the link has flipped over to the 3G backup link only two or three times - which means leaving it as a prepaid 3G service with a long expiry makes sense, rather than paying a monthly service fee.

This however presented us with a problem. One thing that J and I do quite often is go bush and rent a holiday cottage or two. These mostly come without internet, and increasingly we end up taking a laptop and a tablet or two on holiday. None of these have a 3G connection out of the box, and tethering to phones can be a pain.

Previously we’ve just taken a netbook and a usb stick with us, but this can be a little restricting - some sites like some news and weather sites are better accessed via their tablet app than directly over the web.

The solution is of course a portable 3G router, which gives us a portable wifi network and we can preconfigure all the devices we are likely to take with us.

I managed to find a recently discontinued slimline D-link module on ebay for 18 bucks, and an unlocked 3G modem for $25.

I chose the Huawei E173 as it has a connector for an external aerial, and being the same model as my original 3G modem I know it performs well on the Optus network.

Rather than Virgin, I went with Amaysim this time as they offer this 5 cents a meg deal which means that you don’t need to keep buying credit and throwing it away while the unit is sitting idle. 5c/MB is of course extremely expensive for data, but of course what one does is buy short expiry credit when you need it, and then let it lapse at the end of the trip and only add more credit when you need it. Buying an unlocked unit also means that I can change ISP if someone else offers a better deal.

After the fun I’d had with the TP-Link unit I expected some configuration gymnastics, but not this time. Popped in the SIM, plugged the modem into the router, clicked on the default Optus configuration (Amaysim resells Optus bandwidth) and there we were - solid cerise and a connection - and whatsmyip confirmed the connection. Ten minutes max to configure.

Now last weekend was a long weekend, and we had a few days away. I meant to take the unit with us for a field test, but when I opened the geek box - the plastic box full of phone chargers, camera chargers, and all the other tech gubbins we take with us, I discovered I’d forgotten to pack the psu for the portable router - and nothing else I had in the box was compatible.

So, the field test will have to be next time …

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