Cellular Routers & Modems in Use

Some of our more remote Alaska locations, heck even some of our rural locations, don’t have readily available internet but they do have access to cellular networks, enter cellular routers and modems.

First, some info on cellular networks in North America/Alaska

LTE Bands

  • North America - Bands B2/4/5/12/13
  • GCI uses Band 4

Other Networks

  • 5G (coming soon to metropolitan areas of Alaska)
  • 4G and 4G LTE
  • 3G (1900 MHz and 850 MHz)
  • 2G may still be the only option in some villages

When selecting an appropriate cellular modem, make sure it has fallback capabilities to older networks (LTE - 3G etc.) in case of sporadic support/availability for newer technologies.

Here is some equipment I’ve had recommended to me.

Cellular Routers

Huwaei B310s-518

  • Affordable
  • 4G LTE Unlocked Any GSM Standard Sim Carrier (Not CDMA Carriers)
  • American Bands:
    • 3G UMTS:Band 1/2/4/5 850/1900/2100 MHZ
    • 4G LTE: 1/2/4/5/7/28 (700/850/AWS(1700/2100)/1900/2100/2600MHz)
  • One LAN Port (RJ45) NO RJ11
  • Wi-Fi Protocol 802.11b/g/n
  • Support Speeds Up to : 150Mbps DL/50Mbps UL / 32 Wifi Users
  • But there’s some concern in using their products

Netgear 4G LTE LB1120

  • Affordable
  • American Bands
    • LTE Category 4: Bands 2, 4, 5, and 12.
    • 3G UMTS: Bands 2 and 5
  • Doesn’t fall back to 2G, which may still be the only option in some villages
  • Does not broadcast WiFI, ethernet only
  • Additional POE and ethernet port options available
  • Here’s an interesting amazon review from a fellow Alaskan about GCI usage

Option CloudGate M2M LTE Wireless Gateway Modem

  • Considered the Cadillac of cellular modems
  • Expensive
  • American Bands
    • LTE Bands 2,4,13,17 - HSPA+ (800/900/AWS/1900/2100 MHz)

Cloudgate Mini & Cloudgate Micro

  • Smaller, more affordable Cloudgate options

Dovado Tiny Router (used with Sierra Wireless 313U below)

Cellular Modems (USB)

Sierra Wireless 313U 4G LTE/3G/2G cellular modem

  • used with Tiny firmware versions 7.3.4 operating on the General Communication Inc. (GCI) mobile wireless network.
  • Notes: We use this modem because we have sometimes found that 2G/3G signal strength was insufficient, and a 4G LTE modem was required. However, under low signal strength conditions, we have experienced lock ups when using this modem with the Dovado Tiny router despite enabling the Dovado Connection Tracker. To remedy this, we have used a clock timer to reboot the Dovado Tiny on a daily basis. ~ excerpt from Alan Mitchell’s Mini-Monitor Documentation.

Huawei E173u-6 3G/2G cellular modem

  • use Tiny firmware versions 7.3.4 to operating on the General Communication Inc. (GCI) mobile wireless network.

A note about USB Cellular

  • USB-connected Cellular Modems that directly plug into a device can be nice, but finding a good unit has been hit or miss and takes a lot of research to find a good one, we’ve had a lot better success with cellular modems. Though we have worked with them on the mini-monitor project, more info here.
  • these devices are usually substantially wider than a standard USB port which may prevent you from using any nearby ports on your device

Data Only Cellular Plans

GCI has a data-only plans for $12.50/mo for 300 MB of data per month, which, from my understanding, has been adequate.

Digi-Key, a popular iot vendor, has partnered with wireless carriers to offer cellular connectivity services. See pricing and availability here.

I just found the Teltonika RUT240 which looks fairly promising, also more affordable:

RUT240 is a compact, cost-effective and secure industrial 4G/LTE WiFi router for professional applications. The mobile router delivers high performance for mission-critical cellular communication in harsh and hazardous environments where a wide operating temperature (-40 °C to 75 °C) is required. Equipped with an external SIM holder, digital input/output and signal strength status LEDs, it ensures easy network deployment and management. External SMA connectors make it possible to attach desired antennas and easily find the best signal location. RUT240 Industrial LTE router supports industry leading security features and is widely used for 4G backup, Remote Connection, Out-of-Band Management, Advanced VPN and tunneling services in IoT networking solutions.

RUT240 * **1** ****

  • North America (AT&T, Bell, T-Mobile)
  • 4G (LTE-FDD): B2, B4, B12
  • 3G: B2, B4, B5

RUT240 * **2** ****

  • North America (Verizon)
  • 4G (LTE-FDD): B4, B13

RUT240 * **7** **

  • Global
  • 4G (LTE-FDD): B1, B2, B3, B4, B5, B7, B8, B12, B13, B18, B19, B20, B25, B26, B28
  • 4G (LTE-TDD): B38, B39, B40, B41
  • 3G: B1, B2, B4, B5, B6, B8, B19
  • 2G: B2, B3, B5, B8

More info on their supported frequency bands can be found here.

I have now configured 2 Teltonika RUT240s and it is worth noting that the ONLY way I’ve been able to get the device to allow LoRa Gateways to send traffic to TTN is by configuring it in Mobile Bridge Mode and entering the ethernet MAC address of the LoRa gateway to get the single assigned IP.

More info on Teltonika bridge mode here.