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Quest for the fast internet connection

Created on 2019-12-20 in categories ops , cloud , tutorial , internet
Tagged as: internet , network , devices , review , netgear , tplink , tethering

My quest for the fast internet in Central London.

Quest for the fast internet connection in Central London

I’ve moved house recently, I’ve left the amazing fibre optic connection behind just to realise that in my new place BT offers ONLY “11 mbit/s average” connection for whooping £22 p/m + line rental + installation fee. I’ve searched for internet providers in the area, unfortunately no joy there either. HyperOptic turned out to be unavailable, with no plans for development in my building, as their previous attempt has failed. No other choice but to turn my home into 4G powered den.

First choice

Just to have any sort of connectivity I’ve opened the Relish account. Need to mention here I’m positively surprised with delivery speeds as router with simcard arrived within few hours. Simple plug&play router, with few rather funny quirks ( “You’ve been logined out” ) pointing out to firmware development outsourcing. I’ve pointed router at the nearest tower ( need to mention I have visual ) and after running speed test - first disappointment. Speeds were far from promised 30mbit in average, reaching 6-7mbit/s and completely unacceptable for the house with multiple devices connected to WiFi network. I’ve contacted their support, listened few times about restarting the router, repositioning it. Funnily enough - I’ve placed the router on the terrace, covered it from rain, while still maintaining visual on the network. At the end I’ve decided to keep the rolling monthly contract with Relish as “any internet is better than no internet”, as a backup connection in case of my future attempts to beat the world record would fail.

First attempt

Quick research for 4G friendly contracts allowed me to find something within area of my interest - unlimited data and unlimited tethering made me incredibly happy. I’ve rushed to the store, got the simcard ( rolling monthly of course, in case it doesn’t work as desired ) with the plan for ~£30/month. Sounds better, when compared to my previous place BT contract - around £58/month for 72mbit fibre. Together with sim I’ve managed to get a Huawei router from the same network, came back home, connected everything just to realise that… Network does not allow using their simcard in the routers. After an hour on the phone with customer support, where I’ve heard that it is impossible and the sim I’ve got can work only in phones I’ve promised them that I’ll make it work, no matter cost and write the blogpost on it, and here we are.

Second attempt

Having the same sim card from the previous step, I’ve rushed to nearest phone shop to get “any android phone with 4G connectivity”. Samsung J5 dual sim looked okay, took me a while to root it ( just in case I’ll need to set something on more advanced level ) thanks to the super slow Relish connection. After the whole procedure - popped the sim into it and quoting Borat - GREAT SUCCESS. Tethered internet worked with stable 22mbit connection. Only issue I’ve had was limit of devices connected to the phone over WiFi at the same time. 10 wasn’t enough with laptops, home server, phones, vacuum cleaner, kettle, smart home devices and tv’s. To tackle this issue I’ve ordered the new home router - NETGEAR XR500. Yes I know it’s pricey but it allows me to do whatever I want, with really good connectivity across the house together with advanced QoS for playing multiplayer games online. Next task - connect router to the phone was easy - putting range extender and connecting it to the router via network cable. My choice was NETGEAR EX6120-100UKS and it played super well with the phone, visible to the phone as one device and sending all the traffic to the router.

At this stage I’ve reached 22mbits connectivity, with occasional dropdowns to 16. More than enough you’d say, still better than fixed line providers, yet - I decided to pursue this further.

Third attempt

Android phone for some reason had problems with keeping connection speeds stable and I wasn’t able ( despite rooting and testing few apps together with console mode ) to set up the ports forwarding which I need for the home VPN connection, some file sharing and home server in general. Plenty of boxes after the move had my “old” IT hardware, and in one of them.. My old EE MiFi device, luckily without the sim lock. Hooked it up as an Samsung replacement - speeds went up to 25mbit up/down. Made me quite surprised at the time, but still - port forwarding issue remained active.

Fourth attempt

I’ve decided to replace the EE MiFi device with somehow modern TP-Link M7650 MiFi device, which is advertised as 4G+. Speeds stayed the same as in previous step, no option to assign the static IP address to the device using DHCP ( XR500 this time ). After wasting 45 minutes on the support chat with the TP-LINK customer service asking about the updated providers list ( wild guess: outdated providers list was preventing me from achieving 4G+ ) I gave up and the same evening proceeded to next step.

Fifth and the last ( for now ) attempt

I’ve done some research and it seems that 4G+ ( 4G advanced ) is available in London, offering really good speeds as well. Quick search for devices supporting this new technology left me with two potential choices NETGEAR M1 vs HUAWEI e5885. I’ve ended up getting M1 as the whole home network was NETGEAR based so far, device itself had an ethernet port and it simply looked really great. Rest of the hardware was exactly the same between M1 and E5885. Device arrived the same day - thanks Amazon, setup took few minutes - connected and… 65/20mbit. That’s way better than I’ve expected and I’m quite sure I’ll be able to pull even more from it, after searching for the good signal spot in my place. Port forwarding - FINALLY - worked, I’m able to access my home nework and shares via VPN now, speed doesn’t go below 40mbit ( as I’m constantly fiddling with the device location ). I was also able to get rid of the repeater and hook the M1 directly into the XR500 router which also helped with cutting few precious ms.

Update - v5.2

External antenna arrived - cheap TS9 4G antenna ( £15 ) from Amazon improved both the speed and response time. Pings on 25-30ms level, speed 7520. No need for more experiments at the time. Finally can stop abusing the speedtest and signal monitor.

Hardware choices

NETGEAR XR500:

  • Advanced QoS for gaming
  • Built-in VPN server
  • HybridVPN connectivity - routing part of the traffic through VPN
  • DynDNS client
  • Really, really fast

NETGEAR M1:

  • 4G+ / 4G advanced and future 5G support
  • Achieves really good speeds
  • Working port forwarding
  • LAN cable connectivity
  • Really nice design

Summary

I’d like to say - I am not affiliated with NETGEAR in any way.

Speed history:

  • 11 mbit + no port forwarding broadband offered by BT
  • 4-6 mbit + working port forwarding provided by Relish
  • 14-20 mbit + no port forwarding - tethering from Samsung J5
  • 20 mbit + no port forwarding - old EE MiFi device
  • 65 mbit + working port forwarding - Netgear M1
  • 75 mbit + working port forwarding - M1 + external antenna

Total cost of the journey so far:

  • NETGEAR M1 device ( £250 )
  • NETGEAR XR500 router ( £230 )
  • NETGEAR REPEATER ( £39 )
  • External antenna ( £15 )
  • TP-LINK M7650 ( £140, returned )
  • SAMSUNG J5 ( £200 )
  • EE 4G MiFi ( ? )
  • a lot of coffee and / or redbull ( priceless )

Monthly cost:

  • Relish connection ( £32/month - cancelled )
  • 4G provider with unlimited data ( £27/month )

Biggest advantage of this setup - I can move freely, not tied with cabling, waiting for installation, switching contracts and so on.

PS. I have Samsung J5 for sale ;)

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