Build Log: Bye Bye NBN, HELLO 4G!

Discussion in 'Networking, Telephony & Internet' started by Yoodaa, Jan 7, 2019.

  1. Yoodaa

    Yoodaa Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2003
    Messages:
    1,661
    Location:
    Melbourne
    This build log has been setup to detail my journey of moving away from NBN and not looking back! Hopefully it helps someone else fed up with their NBN connection issues. This log is not about going back and chasing NBN or the provider to assist. I've done all that over and over, and am moving to a 4G wireless based connection now so please, I ask that we keep content in the thread relative. This is still a work in progress but I am looking forward to sparking some conversation around this little project.

    To define some scope around the project and what I want to archive, I would hope to be able to do everything I have been able to do on my NBN connection, with the added bonus of a much faster download and upload basically.

    The main usage of my internet activities are:
    • Work, Work, Work
    • Streaming of Netflix, Twitch and Youtube
    • VoIP calls and conferences (this will be interesting given 4G has higher latency and jitter than fixed line connections.)
    • Some gaming (basically only play Star Citizen, but occasionally delve in other things like Deep Rock Galactic, etc.)

    Special thanks to the people over on whirlpool for all the information and huge threads on this stuff. Bringing it all together has been a challenge but its been great fun learning along the way. The way a good hobby should be!


    So after much back and forward with my NBN connection, lots of support calls, etc. I have finally had enough of it and decided for me, there must be a better way. I live in the Dandenong ranges in Melbourne. A beautiful, hilly, forest like part of Melbourne. The problem with the hills is there are lots of trees and branches that come down all the time on the phone lines, and our lines are old and decrepit, much like anywhere else really. My connection at home was at best 17D/.3U (ADSL speeds anyone???). This for me was borderline acceptable, and given I work from home, I wanted a faster connection, especially in respect to the upload. I have literally been stuck on these types of speeds for the last 10 years between 3 houses I have owned.....All this is about to change dramatically.

    Being in the hills has its pros and cons. One of which is line of sight. Its difficult at best to get a good LOS with so many trees and hills around. Luckily, exactly where I am located, I have a clear view through to a cell tower that's approximately 8km away, and a disrupted view of one that's only 950m away. These two towers will be the towers I will primarily be testing against.

    There has been a lot of R&D involved in this project thus far, but I feel I have a good hold on the tech now and the methods used to get the absolute best connection possible at my place (and yours if you choose to follow this log).

    The first thing I had to do as part of determining if 4G was a viable option was determine if there were 4G mobile broadband plans available that had a large enough download quota. At the time of writing, the best available options is the Optus $60/200G plan (or no contract $70 month to month). I decided that two of these plans would suffice my data needs month to month, and as Optus allow data sharing across services, this would mean I essentially just buy more data as I need it. For testing and initially, I will be running the one connection in parallel with my flailing NBN connection until its stable, setup, and solid enough to literally cut the cable of my NBN connection.

    With the availability of a decent 4G MBB (Mobile BroadBand) plan, I moved forward to tower research.

    This is quite fun/scary as you learn your being irradiated by cell towers you didn't even know existed in your area!

    This process is a little time consuming, but worthwhile, trust me.

    STEP 1:

    The first step in discovering which tower to point your antennas to (assuming your using directional yagi's like I did) is to work out what towers are near you. Do this at oztowers.com.au. Once you have the towers nearby listed, punch each one in that's within say a <10km radius (less is better obviously) into google maps and determine exactly where it is. I also use the app "Aus Phone Towers" to help locate nearby towers and what bands they support, what MIMO setups they have installed etc. This app is priceless, and a must use if you want the most out of a setup like this.

    If you wander outside and can see a tower, you probably don't need to go any further. If you cant see a tower or know its a fair way away, keep reading :)

    STEP 2:

    The second step is much more time consuming, but the most valuable of all, especially if your in a hilly area. Get a coffee, and a biscuit, as this is going to take some time.

    Once you know what towers are near by and you have nailed it down to say 3 to 5 towers, you need to map out the topography between you and that tower. You COULD do this on google earth, but a brilliant engineer has built an online tool that's very seldom mentioned, that I discovered when looking for a way to do this. For me this was one of the most important steps to tick off as we have lots of trees and you know...mountains in the way!

    Head over to http://www.ve2dbe.com/. Register a free account, and use the translator in Chrome if needed :). So, this online tool is hugely powerful, and I am certainly not going to explain how to use it, however I will show you the outcome of the reporting I ran against the two potential cell towers to show me which one holds the most viable option for shooting to. In a nutshell, in order to generate a report like the below reports, you need to create a site (locate your home as site 1, cell tower 1 as site 2, etc.), then create a link between the two sites. When doing so, you will need to select the two sites the link will be running between, and also fill in necessary details about antenna strength, etc. If you just want a LOS estimate, you can put anything in for those details. The outcome should give you something like the following:

    My first cell tower candidate:

    [​IMG]

    Clearly I have some earth to mow through here so not the best candidate, even though its only 950 meters away!

    Lets see what the second tower holds in store for me:

    [​IMG]

    HAH! Now we are talking. Almost a perfectly clear run through to that tower, except for a couple of trees at my end I need to shoot through.

    I can connect to both towers surprisingly....

    STEP 3:

    Deciding on a modem. Boy I do things backwards sometimes. So my little journey started with picking up a Vividwireless Huawei b315 modem off OCAU and plugging in a Yagi to test with. Whilst it worked, and I archived about a 20/8 connection (not even roof mounted!), I had no idea how to make it faster, if MIMO was supported on this modem, and what the hell carrier aggregation was. If you don't know what these things are, have a google, and come back :). This is where things started to become addictive....I set out on the whirlpool forum and noted that there was a large movement for this kind of stuff. I quickly learnt that whilst the B315 modem could be sufficient, if I didn't have a great Optus carrier signal on 2300mhz, I wouldn't really be getting great speeds. Turns out this was exactly the case, and a turning point in my R&D.

    I then set out to find a much better modem, and discovered the Netgear AC800s. Its a CAT9 (now CAT 11 supposedly with new model) modem that support triple CA. I was pretty excited to get it hooked up, and by this stage had mounted my test MIMO panel antenna and 9dbi Yagi on the roof. Whilst up there I did note that I got better speeds when the antenna was pointed in certain directions (towards the towers obviously). This confirmed that a directional antenna would work best for my setup. Unfortunately, this modem just didn't perform for me, and no matter what I set on it (band locking), I wan unable to break about 40 down, and 15 up. I tinkered with this modem and band settings for a solid week, and then decided because it didn't have an Ethernet port, it really wasn't suitable for my needs anyway (I have a Cisco WLC driving my wireless at home so no need for built in modem wireless :) ).

    I went back to the drawing board and noted on Whirlpool that there was a bunch of people using the Telstra NetGear Nighthawk M1100 on Optus. WHHAAAAA??? At first I was confused about how this might work, but on further research I noted that the device was not carrier locked, and the only thing it was missing was the 2300mhz band, of which was of no use to me where I live anyway! If you haven't heard of this 4GX modem, your in for a treat. Its basically the bees knees of 4G modems. 4 x MIMO, 2 x external antenna ports, all day battery, CAT16, Ethernet port. Enough said. Its fast. Really fast. I managed to snag one for $100 delivered (CHEAP I KNOW!) and began testing.

    Well....finally I had found a modem that was suitable for my needs, and worked a treat. Using a standard panel antenna (not MIMO), and not mounted on my roof, I was able to archive 45/15. Wowzers. On the roof it was over 50/20. Now I am getting somewhere! If you don't need 2300mhz, just skip my R&D steps and by a NH M1100 please :).


    STEP 4: Band locking

    What I did note is that I needed to lock the bands on the Nighthawk M1 to provide the most stable, consistent speeds. To do this you need to connect to the device via the USB connection (cannot Telnet over wireless), port 5510, IP 192.168.1.1, and administer the following commands to have the bands turn up in the GUI so you can test each one and combinations separately:

    AT!BAND=3,"700 1800",0000000000000000,0000000008000004,0000000000000000
    AT!BAND=4,"700 2600",0000000000000000,0000000008000040,0000000000000000
    AT!BAND=5,"1800 2600",0000000000000000,0000000000000044,0000000000000000
    AT!BAND=6,"700 Only",0000000000000000,0000000008000000,0000000000000000
    AT!BAND=7,"1800 Only",0000000000000000,0000000000000004,0000000000000000
    AT!BAND=8,"2600 Only",0000000000000000,0000000000000040,0000000000000000

    Once entered, I was able to enter the gui, select the first option, Speedtest 3 times, run an average, then move on to the second band, third, etc, etc. My best combination is actually 700/1800. Everything else is at least half as fast. Your mileage may vary but this part is crucial to fine tuning for your area/tower/environment.

    STEP 4.5: Pointing towards the cell towers

    If you don't have an antenna yet to test with, you kinda need one if you want the most out of a setup like this. Borrow one or buy a cheap, but reputable one as you will really need to know if using a directional antenna is for you. Remember earlier I said locate the cell towers in google maps? There was good reason for this. This step involved me downloading an app called "Compass Map" on android. This allows you to set a marker on the map (the potential cell tower), and point to it from your home location. It make aligning the antenna a breeze! Don't so this by eye unless you can actually see the tower.

    STEP 5: Mounting the NH

    Why would I want to mount the NH all the way up a mast? Why not just run antenna leads to it whilst it resides in my roof cavity. Well, this is where things get interesting, and somewhat unexplored. Some people have reported SLOWER speeds when plugging in external antennas. Now this could be because they are using a cheap and nasty antenna, or for another reason. My experience is the opposite. My signal strength and speed is greatly enhanced by a MIMO antenna as proven with the test panel MIMO I currently have mounted on the roof mast.

    After much discussion on the Whirlpool forum, I basically discovered that the NH must be mounted on the mast, and could not be housed in the roof space as I originally intended. I had speed issues when placing the NH in the roof (metal roof so that figures really). This was proved by testing the modem on my roof with the external antenna, and then placing the device in my roof space and connecting the antenna leads. My speeds became horrible when this was done. Pickup the device and go back up on the roof with it, and my speeds were amazing again. I tested with and without the antennas, and they definitely improve speeds (triple the upload at least). I also noted that CA wasn't occurring when the device was inside the roof space.

    After all that testing, and following in the shoes of Ranger over on Whirlpool, I decided that mounting the NH on the mast was the best way to ensure the best signal all the time, and so the NH mast box is born...we'll get to that in a minute.

    Where is the project at now?

    At this stage I now know what cell tower/towers I am pointing to, I know I need directional antennas, I know MIMO improves my upload speeds, and I know what modem/bands work best for me. Its at this stage my/your R&D is basically done and I personally felt comfortable buying some antennas, after comparing notes with the guys at onwireless.com.au. I decided to go big or go home. Its hilly, I have trees around, so the best option as agreed with the onwireless guys were the 14dbi MIMO yagis as seen here:

    [​IMG]

    http://onwireless.com.au/14dbi-4gx-4g-3g-all-band-700-2700mhz-mimo-antenna.html

    One of their premium kits, but also one of the best for my environment.

    Stay tuned for updates as the project evolves.

    Cheers!
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2019
    2SHY, pinchies, shredder and 8 others like this.
  2. OP
    OP
    Yoodaa

    Yoodaa Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2003
    Messages:
    1,661
    Location:
    Melbourne
    Building the Box...

    So the box building begins. I will start with the equipment I have chosen for the build. I realise I could have gotten things cheaper by getting them online, but sometimes I like to actually see and feel things before I commit to buying, and if that means I pay a little more, I figure its worth it as its exactly what I wanted!

    All these parts were basically sourced from Jaycar with links below if you wish to do the same, or similar:

    The box:

    https://www.jaycar.com.au/large-abs-ip66-enclosure/p/HB6404

    [​IMG]

    The box I chose to build in is one of the larger boxes available. Its water and dust tight (which should not really matter too much as I am going to drill holes in it anyway!) I chose a large box because I wanted the option of adding extra things to it as time goes on, perhaps a raspberry pi weather station, etc. The box is very solid, has a great access door for easy access to the kit, and is light which should help deter some of the heat. All boxes checked.

    The next part was to work out a way to run cables in and out of the box neatly, and looking somewhat professionally. I figured I would purchase middleman connections where possible to reduce any sealing of cables in permanently. Here are the fittings I am using:


    Ethernet Jack:

    https://www.jaycar.com.au/rj45-connectors-ip67-rated-socket/p/PS1451

    [​IMG]

    An easy win here from Jaycar again. Will make changing ethernet cables a breeze should anything happen to the long cable that will be running up the pole. This will work nicely, and I will use a very short RJ45 cable in the box itself for the internal termination which will reduce clutter.

    Cable Glands:

    https://www.jaycar.com.au/10-14mm-dia-waterproof-cable-glands-pk-2/p/HP0736

    [​IMG]

    I haven't use these before but man are they handy! I will be using three of these in total for cables entering the box. Two of these will be for the external antenna connections. I will be running the whole antenna patch lead through the gland, SMA connector and all in order to not have to cut any cables, but also get a tight seal around these cables. I tested this at Jaycar to make sure A, the cable and connector will fit through, and B, the gland will tighten down enough around the cable. Again another benefit to buying in-store! The third will be for the power cable running up the mast.

    Bring the heat...

    Prior to actually proceeding with the build in this box, I wanted to do a rather crude heat test to check how hot the actual box gets inside vs the outside temperature so I know what heat forces I will be up against, which in turn will effect my fan layout, etc. I grabbed a cheap $2 thermometer and put the box in the sun for two hours today in the middle of the day. We had a consistent 30 degrees here today, and after two hours, the thermometer was at approximately 40 degrees. That's quite an increase, but expected non the less! On a 40 degree day, I expect the gap to be even larger, somewhere between 50 and 55 degrees. That's getting a little warm for the NightHawk given its only officially rated to 30 degrees so active cooling is a must here.

    [​IMG]



    The Layout:

    After fiddling for some time laying out the pieces in different arrangements, the following is what I came up with as the final layout, enabling me to service all intended ports and connections, and still have room for an air inlet (vent only), and an air outlet (active fan powered). Here is what I decided on:

    [​IMG]

    I have made the holes already as of tonight for the three glands and the Ethernet jack. All that's left to do now is the hole sawing for the air inlet and outlet, and the external box modifications are complete!

    Stay tuned. Antennas arrive tomorrow (apparently), and the electronics should start trickling in, which I will detail in another post. Cheers!
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2019
    garnet and Agg like this.
  3. pivot

    pivot Member

    Joined:
    May 15, 2015
    Messages:
    120
    Interesting thread. I have subscribed so I can see how your progress. I am assuming that your wireless NBN signal was not coming from one of the 2 towers you have identified?
     
  4. Luke212

    Luke212 Member

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2003
    Messages:
    9,501
    Location:
    Sydney
    I have the same problems as you. live in mountains not too far from sydney. adsl1 that drops out. NBN satellite available.
    how did you learn so much about wireless tech?
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2019
  5. OP
    OP
    Yoodaa

    Yoodaa Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2003
    Messages:
    1,661
    Location:
    Melbourne
    Thanks. I never had wireless nbn, only wired
     
  6. OP
    OP
    Yoodaa

    Yoodaa Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2003
    Messages:
    1,661
    Location:
    Melbourne
    I work as a solutions architect in the network space and do a lot of enterprise wireless work so the learning curve from enterprise wireless to cellular wireless wasn't too bad really. Having said that you don't really need a thorough understanding of the underlying tech to get something up and running.

    Do you get decent speeds on your phone where you live? I'd be happy to help you investigate further if you'd like to see if you can do something similar :)
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2019
  7. SSJ4

    SSJ4 Member

    Joined:
    May 16, 2017
    Messages:
    727
    Location:
    Melbourne
    Wow this is very cool. Also sad we have to go to such lengths to get decent internet.

    I dont know if it was mentioned anywhere. But what about when you want to power cycle the modem? That mean a trip to your roof?
     
  8. OP
    OP
    Yoodaa

    Yoodaa Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2003
    Messages:
    1,661
    Location:
    Melbourne
    Cheers. No I will be running a 12/24 volt cable up the mast to the box, however, the source transformer for this will be located in my laundry so I simply need to flick a power point off and on to power cycle it :)
     
    SSJ4 likes this.
  9. SSJ4

    SSJ4 Member

    Joined:
    May 16, 2017
    Messages:
    727
    Location:
    Melbourne
    Nice nice. I had a feeling you'd have something clever like that setup.

    Be interesting to see how the unit copes in the heat this summer.
     
  10. OP
    OP
    Yoodaa

    Yoodaa Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2003
    Messages:
    1,661
    Location:
    Melbourne
    Likewise. I figure as a test the NightHawk only cost me $100 so if it fries, so be it. Its a risk I have to take (obviously i'd much rather it survive!!!).

    I do have an idea for the cooling that should help move some air directly past the NH instead of just from the intake directly out the outlet (fan blows out air). The fan I have bought from Jaycar moves 28.1ft³/min. That's approximately .5ft³/sec. Given the box is approximately 1 cubic foot, I can technically replace the air in that box every two seconds. I was going to get fancy with a cooling solution, but I think a large fan like the 80mm I have bought will be overkill for a tiny box like this.

    At this stage with the inlet, I want to cut a hole, and run a piece of pvc pipe through the inlet 1/2 to 3/4 way into the box. This means the air will get sucked into this pipe, travel to the end of the conduit (which is inside the box), and then flow back down out the exhaust, where the fan is actively pushing air OUT of the box. This serves two benefits. 1. If I run the conduit up to the upper region of the box, I will be removing any hot air from the top of the box that settles (think hot air rises, even in small containers!), and 2. I can use the conduit to mount the NH on. I don't want the NH to be velcro'd or stuck in any way to a face of the inside of the box. I suspect the surfaces of the box will be orders of magnitudes hotter than the inside of the box given they absorb the sun directly, and I don't want the NH being a heatsink for the sun. This is the theory at the moment, but should work a treat.
     
  11. s4mmy

    s4mmy Member

    Joined:
    May 20, 2004
    Messages:
    2,108
    Location:
    Melbourne
    Don't run the Nighthawk M1100 with the battery in it!
    Did this at a few remote sites with heat the BOOOM! :lol:
     
    zeggie likes this.
  12. OP
    OP
    Yoodaa

    Yoodaa Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2003
    Messages:
    1,661
    Location:
    Melbourne
    Absolutely not! Thanks for the heads up however. Did you have any other issues with the m1100?
     
  13. s4mmy

    s4mmy Member

    Joined:
    May 20, 2004
    Messages:
    2,108
    Location:
    Melbourne
    A few of those battery explosions.
    Random Reboots.
    Straight Powers Offs (the on button in general was just a shit).
    Devices stuck on 3G. Would flick after a reboot.
    Had one partially melt. :lol:
    Remote management was non-existent.

    Looked after about 30 of them, we changed them all over to Draytek Vigor2926L devices.
    Didn't miss a beat after that, plus a lot more in the way of configuration options and remote management.
     
  14. OP
    OP
    Yoodaa

    Yoodaa Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2003
    Messages:
    1,661
    Location:
    Melbourne
    Antennas arrived today! Very excited to see the build quality is fantastic, along with the packaging and extras. Pictured is one of antenna, split in two for transport. There going to be almost a meter long, and i've got two of these! Yike! Yippie!

    [​IMG]

    Sadly I cant put them up really until the NH box is complete. Luckily most parts are being shipped from Aussie suppliers so I should be looking at being able to get things up and running by next week some time.
     
    Pugs, SSJ4 and cmi83 like this.
  15. OP
    OP
    Yoodaa

    Yoodaa Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2003
    Messages:
    1,661
    Location:
    Melbourne
    Hopefully she runs smoothly. If I could get a Draytek that's better than CAT4 i'd be very keen to test them out. Ill save that for phase 2 however. Ranger over on whirlpool has had no issues with the NH on his mast, so I am hoping I encounter the same result. Don't suppose you have any NH's laying around you want to move? I'm chasing another one for travel purposes.
     
  16. iMomOx3

    iMomOx3 Member

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2008
    Messages:
    1,126
    This is looking good. Keep up the good work and progress :thumbup:

    Subscribed!
     
  17. SamNabz

    SamNabz Member

    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2013
    Messages:
    16
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    Very interesting thread and read. Subbed and look forward to the outcome. Cheers for sharing, mate.
     
  18. s4mmy

    s4mmy Member

    Joined:
    May 20, 2004
    Messages:
    2,108
    Location:
    Melbourne
    Shoot me a PM, I might.
     
  19. chip

    chip Member

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2001
    Messages:
    3,604
    Location:
    Pooraka Maccas drivethrough
    For a bit more than the draytek you can get something like this: https://www.telcoantennas.com.au/comset-lte-cat-6-wifi-router-with-sim-card-slot-cm (Of course, for the same money you can buy 3 ebay refurb'd MR1100s.)



    edit: given you've hidden your address, you might also want to hide the latitude and longitude in those fresnel zone images
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2019
  20. John Kitchener

    John Kitchener New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2019
    Messages:
    21
    Location:
    Gloucester, NSW
    Hi,

    Really great project. Keep up the good work

    What is the actual signal RSRP from each tower with the M1 alone on the roof (or with the temporary antennas)?

    Note: Tower 1 obstructed but at only 970m, Tower 2 unobstructed at 8Km

    Which tower offers:

    1. the fastest service
    2. the least congested service?
     

Share This Page