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Author Topic: Antenna for 3G 'dongle'-type USB NIC plus a USB Cable  (Read 4479 times)

aesmith

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Re: Antenna for 3G 'dongle'-type USB NIC plus a USB Cable
« Reply #15 on: September 24, 2019, 08:48:01 AM »

Thinking this through a couple of options come to mind. 

(1) Get a 4G router as opposed to a dongle, assuming your Firebrick has an available Ethernet interface.  There are routers around that can be put into bridge mode, and in that mode they offer the WAN IP address via DHCP to the router.  That way your Firebrick has direct control of the external IP.

(2) Stick with the dongle. NAT and everything, but use AA L2TP from the Firebrick to get a proper routable IP address, and IPv6.   Then you can choose any 4G service based on price, service availability etc.

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Weaver

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Re: Antenna for 3G 'dongle'-type USB NIC plus a USB Cable
« Reply #16 on: September 24, 2019, 10:06:17 PM »

I just tried speedtest2.aa.net.uk a few times with my iPad with 4G in the bedroom window upstairs in my bedroom, I got ~7.4 downstream / ~7.0 Mbps upstream on AA Three.
« Last Edit: September 25, 2019, 07:05:51 AM by Weaver »
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Ronski

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Re: Antenna for 3G 'dongle'-type USB NIC plus a USB Cable
« Reply #17 on: September 25, 2019, 06:09:52 AM »

Nice, imagine what you'd get with a decent external antenna.
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burakkucat

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Re: Antenna for 3G 'dongle'-type USB NIC plus a USB Cable
« Reply #18 on: September 25, 2019, 03:32:36 PM »

. . . imagine what you'd get with a decent external antenna.

Knowing the location of the "Weaving Shed", any external metalwork is liable to be a "magnet" for lightening strikes.  :(
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Ronski

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Re: Antenna for 3G 'dongle'-type USB NIC plus a USB Cable
« Reply #19 on: September 25, 2019, 03:49:51 PM »

Yes that could well be a problem.

There is a guy on TBB forums who's in Scotland who has an external antenna, although I don't know where in Scotland. He currently has a thread asking about lightening protection as he wants to mount it on a 2 to 3 meter pole.

Surely a suitable lightning strike system offering very low resistance to earth is the way to.
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d2d4j

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Re: Antenna for 3G 'dongle'-type USB NIC plus a USB Cable
« Reply #20 on: September 25, 2019, 03:57:20 PM »

Hi

I am not an electrician but I would have thought if you had a metal rod longer in length to that of arial and was grounded that lightening strikes should use that due to been highest point

Sorry if it is too simplistic

Many thanks

John
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Postal

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Re: Antenna for 3G 'dongle'-type USB NIC plus a USB Cable
« Reply #21 on: September 25, 2019, 04:26:29 PM »

There is a guy on TBB forums who's in Scotland who has an external antenna, although I don't know where in Scotland. He currently has a thread asking about lightening protection as he wants to mount it on a 2 to 3 meter pole.

IIRC from other postings, South Ayrshire.  I'm sure I saw Coylton mentioned once which is a few miles inland from Ayr.
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AdamH

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Re: Antenna for 3G 'dongle'-type USB NIC plus a USB Cable
« Reply #22 on: September 26, 2019, 12:33:25 PM »

Thinking this through a couple of options come to mind. 

(1) Get a 4G router as opposed to a dongle, assuming your Firebrick has an available Ethernet interface.  There are routers around that can be put into bridge mode, and in that mode they offer the WAN IP address via DHCP to the router.  That way your Firebrick has direct control of the external IP.

Yes, I would definitely echo what aesmith said - get a proper dedicated 4G router with its own built-in Ethernet ports and WiFi.

I'm currently using a Huawei B525 with good results via Three. The B525 has 4 Ethernet ports, a USB port, plus an RJ11 port so you can connect a standard phone either to use any minutes via the SIM card, or to use a VOIP service.

Amazon link here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Huawei-unlocked-networks-Genuine-Warranty/dp/B06ZZL966Q/

(I've used Amazon for ease, but most of these items mentioned in my post can be found at different suppliers, e.g. Solwise, BroadbandBuyer, eBuyer, eBay, etc - just need to search around a bit).

The most advanced 4G router that I know of that is currently generally available in the UK is the more expensive Huawei B618 (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Unlocked-Router-Genuine-Warranty-network/dp/B073VBYFL5), which is an LTE Category 11 router. Still 2x2 MIMO though. There are 4x4 MIMO routers available - BUT all the ones I have seen thus far only have 2 antenna ports (SMA or TS-9) for external antennae, so if you need to use an external antenna, it turns the router into a 2x2 MIMO one anyway!

Some versions of the B525 (including mine, the B525s-65a) have Bridge Mode, and with mine you can even select the LTE band (either "Auto", "2G Only", "3G Only", "4G Only", "4G / 3G Auto", "4G (800MHz) only", "4G (1800MHz) only", "4G (2600MHz) only", "4G (700MHz) only" - in the case of my router). However, all these features are completely firmware dependant, and it's almost impossible to tell what features you will get until you get the router. However, even without the LTE band selection or bridge mode, the B525 is a good 4G router (from my own experiences, so far...).

I'm currently with Three (but Three-based Smarty are currently doing Unlimited Data for £18.75 per month on a rolling monthly (no contract) basis - see: https://smarty.co.uk/plans/unlimited).

Actually, all 4 main mobile operators (Three, Vodafone, EE & O2) now do unlimited data (although there are usually FUPs [Fair Usage Policies] that apply, O2's being the lowest at 650Gb per month, with Three [incl. Smarty] & EE having a 1Tb per month "soft cap", and Vodafone don't officially have any, although mention of an unofficial 3Tb per month "soft cap" for Vodafone has been made).

I'm thinking of adding a Vodafone unlimited data SIM to my setup, then load-balancing that with the Three link (via something like this: https://www.amazon.co.uk/TP-LINK-TL-R470T-Balance-Broadband-Business/dp/B004UC9V8Q), then combining the output of said Load Balancer with my slow (sub 2Mbps) ADSL link via my Draytek Vigor 2860Vac router - either as Load Balancing, or more likely to use the ADSL as Failover backup link.

Some good external antennae are:

Poynting 4G-XPOL-A0001 (Omni-Directional): https://www.amazon.co.uk/Poynting-4G-XPOL-A0001-Cross-Polarised-Antenna/dp/B00C1DGFPS/
Poynting 4G-XPOL-A0002 (Directional): https://www.amazon.co.uk/Poynting-4G-XPOL-A0002-Polarised-Directional-Outdoor/dp/B00C1DGGKC/

Or you could use a "Yagi" style setup - but they are more directionally sensitive (I think, from what I've read) than the XPOL-A0002 (which, from testing a friends, almost acts as a hybrid directional & omni antenna!).

Now that all main mobile networks offer unlimited data (and the most expensive of these is £34 per month), 3G & 4G (using a dedicated router) does become a much better option to add into the mix for those of us still suffering with slow connections. As long as you have network coverage that is: use a PAYG test SIM with some credit on to test signals and run speed tests before choosing a network or committing to a contract. At least now that all 4 main operators offer unlimited(ish!) data, there are more options in terms of said coverage.

Hopefully this provides a bit of useful information to go on with.

In summary - yes, definitely look into getting a dedicated 4G router, possibly paired with an external (omni-directional or directional) antenna - it could massively boost your connection (and even save money, if you are bonding 4 ADSL lines - you could probably keep just the 1 or 2 "best" lines and combine with 4G via Load Balance [or FailOver to ADSL] if it works out).

Incidentally you can still use the A&A L2TP service via 4G.

Good Luck!

Kind regards,

Adam.
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Weaver

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Re: Antenna for 3G 'dongle'-type USB NIC plus a USB Cable
« Reply #23 on: September 28, 2019, 08:46:07 AM »

Adam that’s just what I need. A fantastically generous post. Especially given that - due to illness - somehow I find it very difficult to locate products.

I would need to ask AA about the implications of using a non-dongle de ice for fallback. The usb dongle i/f may be special in that the Firebrick knows to switch over to the USB NIC when all the lines go down. I don’t know if there’s a way to get a different type of interface to be recognised by the Firebrick as a ‘failover solution’ - or whatever is the phrase I’m looking for. Without sorting that problem out, I could get downstream but not upstream to work.

I had been thinking about using the L2TP service with AA and a cheap SIM. It would not be cost effective for failover though, something that approximately never happens but I would have the recurring bills for L2TP and the mobile carrier. But if I were to start to go all-4G then that would make sense. What puts me off that is (i) droop - time-of-day related and no minimum performance guarantee as you’re depending on the popularity of the cell and how many hogs there might be; (ii) reliability - 4G disappears for a day or two sometimes and always fails when there is a local power outage, so it isn’t remotely reliable enough and would need DSL as backup.

About lightning and positioning: The ‘higher pole’ thing seems valid to me. However since it would cause a lightning strike if too prominent then there might still be damage to other systems nearby due to induction, no? gigantic magnetic and secondary electric fields around the place as the current flows down the pole plus the big problems of the dI/dt.

I wouldn’t mount an antenna high up, because it wouldn’t survive 130mph winds. I could get line of sight in a place where the house shields it from the prevailing wind, or given that the the hous is high up on a shelf above the road which is to the east and the basestation lies to the northeast across the valley, the bank below the house, the garden’s low stone wall and the house itself all shelter an antenna parked on that bank or in the garden. An antenna could be lower than the house and have a line of sight straight to the basestation. Indeed the satellite dish is at ground level, to the northeast of the house and is sheltered by the house itself.

I’ve never had a lightning strike on the house. The house has several 15m trees near to it and to the west of the house the land rises greatly as I am on the sloping side of Beinn nan Càrn, so I’m not the highest point. I think damage has been due to EPR/GPR or else induction in the phone lines. Neighbours slightly lower than me had a lightning injury inside housd though so it doesn’t do to be complacent.

Is it really important for an antenna to be outside? If I have it in the woman-cave former office bay window looking directly at the basestation, will that be enough?

I have a small antenna now; I keep asking Janet to help me plug it into the USB dongle - then I’ll know whether or not I’ve bought the right  type of connector. :-(
« Last Edit: September 28, 2019, 08:54:22 AM by Weaver »
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Weaver

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Re: Antenna for 3G 'dongle'-type USB NIC plus a USB Cable
« Reply #24 on: September 28, 2019, 03:37:26 PM »

I have now plugged in the antenna into the USB NIC. There is a tiny rubbery black cover on the side that can be peeled back to reveal a hole that takes a gold-plated push-in ‘hollow pin’ or tube-like concentric connector? I think this might be what is termed the ‘CRC9’ type of connector but I’m not sure, I’d have to look it up. The antenna itself has a slender lead going to it. My wife has parked the dongle plus antenna in the left hand pane of the bay window, which is facing north-east directly towards the basestation.

It has a screw-on suction-cup ‘foot’. This suggests sticking the foot onto the glass, but then it would be pointing 180 degrees away from the line of sight. Which direction should it be facing ? It will of course be an omni from the symmetrical look of it, but it will have a polar diagram of some sort surely, with respect to a plane in which its line of symmetry lies (‘latitude’ angle dimension/degree of freedom). I would think it has nulls or at least minima at the north and south poles, to a greater or lesser extent. Unless that is they have made it truly 4pi-symmetrical by having several orthogonally aligned elements whose outputs are combined, which I would very much doubt somehow. I get the feeling that the foot should be stuck onto a horizontal flat surface maybe, but who knows.

It seems to be working, from the evidence of the clueless.aa.net.uk control server. Later on when Janet has a few mins I will do a real speed test now, by forcing the Firebrick to switch over to 3G. I could fiddle about and try to trigger this forced switchover remotely, but I’d rather not have to kludge to the XML config.
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Weaver

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Re: Antenna for 3G 'dongle'-type USB NIC plus a USB Cable
« Reply #25 on: October 09, 2019, 03:24:26 AM »

The antenna is positioned at right-angles to the plane of the window, sucker cup attachment on the glass, so that means the main axis of the antenna is pointing directly away from the line of sight. Did a speed test; horrible results = 1.2 Mbps downstream / 0.2 Mbps upstream with https://speedtest2.aa.net.uk.

So a nightmare; either the antenna is horrible or the positioning is indeed a disaster.

I need to retest with the antenna axis vertical, I think.

Any thoughts ?
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aesmith

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Re: Antenna for 3G 'dongle'-type USB NIC plus a USB Cable
« Reply #26 on: October 09, 2019, 08:03:04 AM »

When I was messing around with the Huawei router I found it very very sensitive to exact antenna orientation.  Based my experience then, you really want a live read out of RSRP while trying different locations or orientation.  Is this still with your 3G dongle, if so then of course it'll be a 3G parameter to be monitored.
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Weaver

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Re: Antenna for 3G 'dongle'-type USB NIC plus a USB Cable
« Reply #27 on: October 10, 2019, 07:48:57 AM »

It is with the 3G dongle
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Weaver

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Re: Antenna for 3G 'dongle'-type USB NIC plus a USB Cable
« Reply #28 on: October 11, 2019, 05:35:50 AM »

Janet has re-oriented the antenna to have its axis of symmetry vertical, sucker cup is on a horizontal surface, and I need to do another speed test to compare the signal strength indirectly. I don’t have a way of getting the actual signal strength readings out of it.
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Weaver

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Re: Antenna for 3G 'dongle'-type USB NIC plus a USB Cable
« Reply #29 on: November 07, 2021, 03:59:57 AM »

[apologies for the length of this post; seems to have grown into a monster ;) ]

I have a 3G USB ‘dongle’ interface and I wished to use this with my Firebrick router, which has a USB port on it intended specifically for this purpose. I wanted to position the dongle in the window where it would get a direct view of the basestation across the glen to the east/northeast. So I bought a 5m long USB cable which is - I think, can’t remember - described as ‘active’. I had the idea that 3m was the maximum length but I think that that was still in old money and it’s maybe 5m for USB 2.0, so that’s why I bought the active cable.

I would have thought that such a device would need an external DC PSU input, no? This has none, so I’m assuming that it’s just simply designed to live off the ample power available from the USB cable. Is that usual?

The dongle connection has been monitored by AA’s usual PPP LCP ping servers (FB60xx series) and in the past the connection has repeatedly been seen as down. I don’t know whether this is sometimes a problem with 3G or the mobile network’s connection back to AA, but there has certainly been a problem with the 3G dongle as when the link to the dongle is seen by AA as down, I have gone to try Firebrick FB2900 and asked it what’s up, and the FB2900 says that the dongle has gone out to lunch. The USB port is shown as up, but iirc no dongle device seen on it, and certainly no 3G PPP sessions shown on the USB i/f.

So badness with either the dongle, the FB2900’s USB i/f, the dongle driver, or the USB cable. So the easiest way to eliminate one of those is to get rid of the active cable and plug the dongle straight into the FB2900, which is the usual way it’s done, and is the way that Firebrick Ltd tested the system. This is a known good model of dongle, recommended by AA and used by them in their testing so there shouldn’t be any bugs in the dongle itself or the FB2900’s code because this is then all a known setup. The dongle should still have a line of sight to the basestation given where the FB2900 is; on the south wall of the upstairs office, facing north, bay window on the east side of the room, so there’s a line of sight to the northeast just right for the basestation and dongle. I’m wondering if the FB2900 USB port doesn’t supply enough power for ‘extras’, ie anything above one dongle, so perhaps not enough for a greedy active USB i/f regenerator device at the far end.

Assuming the active cable has a regenerator at the dongle end, won’t it need a second one at the FB end too? I haven’t studied it.

Next bad thing. I bought a small external antenna from somewhere, I forget - either eBay or Amazon. This plugs into a tiny port on the dongle. I’m wondering if this was absolutely rubbish and the dongle would be better without it. I asked Janet to unplug the antenna, can’t remember whether she got around to it or not - will have to ask her. I also iirc talked to her about getting rid of the active cable, but again, am not sure whether she has done so yet or not.

Anyway, the 3G link has been problem free for a long time, which is a big change seeing as before it would be down/up/down several times in the day, down for a couple of hours approx each time. And this improvement may be because Janet has made some of these physical changes, will have to ask her. She’s very unwell at the moment, recovering from surgery, so I haven’t pestered her with unimportant things such as asking her to inspect dongle connections. Several years back, the 3G link would be fine for months on end and then go down, for reasons unknown. I had a moan about it with AA, and wanted them to set up a long term test bed, but I did warn them that I had to wait several months for mine to fail, and for all I know it could be something to do with my basestation which will possibly be different with theirs. Anyway they weren’t immediately willing and I didn’t push. I can’t remember, but I suspect that back then such a link down state would also be associated with a no dongle and/or no 3G-session being visible at the FB2900. It could be that now we’re back to that improved but still unacceptable level of reliability.

I say ‘unacceptable’ because it shouldn’t be happening, as this is a critical link used for failover and must always be there when called upon, and also because there’s currently nothing to tell me that it has failed. AA could do this but they have (somehow) set dongle and other mobile connection objects in clueless to have no notification events associated with them. This is fair enough for 3G/4G/5G interfaces used in portable devices such as an iPad as there would otherwise be lots of bogus irrelevant notifications all the time whenever the host goes out of signal, goes into deep-sleep or ‘off’ or off mode. There need to be explicit flags visible to control this behaviour: suggest a fixed-position/movable flag and/or a notifications y/n flag. The former, fixed-position, state would cause notifications to be delivered and the device would always be expected to be in signal and up or else it’s considered that something bad has happened. I might suggest this to AA as it’s an easy change.

If I do a bit of research or just ask AA, I think that there might be a way to get the FB to generate notification events when a dongle goes down. It can possibly turn notification events into emails, I think.

I wanted to do IP ICMP ping monitoring using the servers at https://f8lure.mouselike.org/, but a traceroute into the IPv4 address associated with the FB2900-end of the 3G link seems to show a route that is insane, so ping monitoring isn’t currently possible. The route comes into my firebrick at the normal WAN i/f; this will be DSL now, as normal, in the non-failover state; from there the route goes to the designated IPv4 for the dongle at the downstream end of the 3G link at the firebrick; next it goes back up the 3G link to an AA router and then reverses heading back downstream to the dongle again, so a routing loop! My fault definitely. AA will reroute traffic when all my DSL links fail and direct traffic into the ‘secondary routing’-marked links in clueless.aa.net.uk, which in this case are set to be the 3G link. The route downstream to the explicit FB-end of the 3G link should as I see it always be down the 3G link. This is what I need to be able to ICMP-ping the 3G link to test it. I’m pretty sure that I have messed up the tickboxes for primary and ‘secondary routing’ controls for each link in clueless and am asking AA to have a look and tell me what a wally I’ve been.

If I go to a 4G dongle - AA sent me one free, but Janet may have ‘filed’ it, so that could be trouble- then this might well be the type that is an ethernet device, and not a PPP-speaking modem, but a stupid NATing router. The enforced NAT is a disaster, so I decided not to use it and didn’t have the mental energy to investigate the possibility of reconfiguring it to be a straight modem (and didn’t have the required tools anyway). But now I have read that L2TP services are free to all AA users. I thought you had to pay for L2TP, but that seems to be just for people who are not current customers. I could use L2TP to route all known traffic to my existing IPv4 /26 and my IPv6 /64 (out of a /48) so I would get seamless failover provided I get the reduced MTU right and make it a permanent restriction. I could let IPv4 fragmentation and keep the MTU at 1500 and maybe the upstream end of the L2TP might reassemble all fragments, maybe not, but AA do growl at you if you pass fragments through.

So a lot of varied questions - quite a few things that I need to ask AA about as I don’t know what I’m doing, but perhaps you could put me straight in some of them.
« Last Edit: November 07, 2021, 04:14:14 AM by Weaver »
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