Dual WAN - Cellular Only - Components, options, experience?


(ActionTiles.com co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #1

There are a couple of 2014 topics that discuss cellular failover options … routers with USB ports for cellular modems; but I’m hoping for a little help with the “latest” options.

Requirements:

  1. Two cellular internet plans for reliability reasons (home is located in an area with flaky internet service; the cost of having two plans is worth the redundancy). No contract plans are best, since we may experiment to find the most reliable.

  2. The least expensive wired router with reliable failover and/or dual-active WAN connections. Most routers seem to have only 1 USB connection, yet some have multiple WAN-ethernet ports, so …

  3. Ethernet (not WiFi) capable cellular modems. It seems overly complicated to bridge a MiFi or similar WiFi modems to physically connect it to the each WAN Ethernet ports on the router.

  4. Is 3G speed sufficient? Due to the remote location, 4G / LTE may be difficult to lock onto.

  5. Has anyone calculated the monthly data requirements for SmartThings (per device?, I guess). This is mostly for a remote security monitoring system.

  6. Video monitoring could be limited to local storage + occasional emailed snapshots; but this is an extra data calculation.

  7. Lights out operation for extended periods (i.e., the cellular WAN connections should self-reset / login, etc.). Don’t need a lot of fancy router options (VPN, own WiFi, etc.), but reliable failover is highly desired so that the alternate WAN can be used to diagnose and reset the primary WAN and vice versa.

Please pardon the vague requirements. I’ve found bits and pieces for this solution, but would like to optimize the configuration for cost / reliability balance.

Thanks!


(DLee) #2

Peplink Balance 30 ftw! Solid.


(ActionTiles.com co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #3

Thanks… I think the 20 might be sufficient (2 WAN connections vs. 3, right)?
But what types of Cellular Modems to use … I seem to find mostly WiFi or USB only … not ethernet like the WAN ports that the Peplink uses. I’d like to avoid extra bridging, of course…


(DLee) #4

I posted that from the grocery store line while bored.

It looks like all the Peplink models only have one USB modem port. I missed two cellular modem requirement you listed. Here’s the peplink comparison. http://www.peplink.com/products/balance/model-comparison/. That links to supported 3g/4g modems http://www.peplink.com/modem. Pretty much all.

I just posted that because the Peplink ended up being one of the most reliable purchases I’ve made. The fail over from WAN cable ISP to mobile is nearly instant/configurable. The logic smart, firewall and options are tops. It’s like commercial quality, never fails.

I use Verizon 4G LTE USB Modem 551L as my backup ISP. 3 out of 5 bars on 4G connection. 18 Mbps down, 4.7 Mbps up. A great solution for a connected home. Our cable ISP had a lot of problems until late January after the neighborhood joined together and escalated to the state Attorney General.

I have my wireless router in AP mode plugged into one of the Peplink LAN ports. Consumer grade routers don’t usually have great firmware so everything become more reliable after I started using the Peplink as the primary router. The auto fail over to 4G is just icing on the cake for a connected home with ST, Nest, MyQ, Z-wave locks and cameras etc.

I have my Blue Iris record on motion video upload to Google Drive instantly. It uses a couple G of data on windy or busy days. If I had an extended outage I would disable that autobackup to avoid going over our verizon data plan. We already have a family plan and work pays for part of it. So we have the new double data for same price Verizon 10G plan, so I have lots of headroom. Emailing images on motion capture would be the way to go with full mobile ISP.


(Jody) #5

I use https://www.pfsense.org/

It can use whatever connection type you want. I have 3. Local WiFi ISP, DSL, and LTE. I can use them all at once, but I have the LTE set as a fail over most of the time. It’s not an out of the box solution, but I had mine up and running within an hour the first time. It’s been very reliable for me and they have a great community behind them.


(ActionTiles.com co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #6

Very flexible, but expensive, no?

The Peplink is $250 vs. The recommended pfsense hardware at $469…


(Jody) #7

I have it running on an old computer I had laying around. It only cost me the network adapters


(DLee) #8

The peplink will also load balance between two WANs/mobile. Marketed as industry leading load balance. I’ve never tested it since my cable ISP is 110 Mbps, 4G only 18 Mbps…


#9

Using the Cradlepoint 1400. You can add up to 2 USB and I think 2 PCMCIA modems PLUS you can bridge those to load balance.

They also have a great addon (not cheap though) dedicated modem that performs much better than the USB modems would.

Lastly it supports Wifi as WAN which is great if you are mobile or need to fail over and have a working Wifi network available.


(ActionTiles.com co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #10

Thanks for all the suggestions and recommendations so far…

The component I still have trouble finding are US carrier compatible cellular modems with direct ethernet output (to the WAN ports of a router, such as a dual-WAN router. Most cellular modems seem to be personal WiFi hotspots or USB, and I’ve seen a few mentions of PCMCIA.

It seems wasteful to bridge from WiFi back to Ethernet, and this introduces latency and another point of failure.

Aren’t there “unlocked”, simple (just basic low cost) cellular modems with wired Ethernet output?


(Jody) #11

On sprint they offer an LTE gateway that looks like a standard isp router. This is the one I have.

http://shop.sprint.com/mysprint/shop/phone_details.jsp?deviceSKUId=80400440


(ActionTiles.com co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #12

So… Pair this with any second router that has a USB port or SIM slot for the second backup cellular connection,… Or find a similar one with Ethernet out from another carrier combined with a third Dual-WAN router…


(Jody) #13

On my PFsense box I have a 4 port network card and the internal network card. All of my devices, including the LTE gateway, have Ethernet ports.

We have two ISP’s here. I have wifi providing 12 megs and dsl that provides 6 megs. I load balance across those two equally and fail over to the LTE when both of those gateways are down. I also have the box and all of my gateway devices on a decently sized UPS that run the whole setup for about 4 hours.


#14

“Cellular” means different things to different carriers.

If your client is in a Verizon coverage area, their “LTE installed” uses an antenna plus a router that probably looks like what you’re thinking of. This is NOT their mobile hot spot offering, it’s a cheaper broadband substitute.

Note that the antenna is the piece you’re missing in your scenario. The hookup is antenna to router, not modem to router.

Hotspots are smaller, sexier, mobile, and usually the consumer has a choice of equipment.

Antennas in this context are permanently installed by the carrier on a single building and usually owned by them. (Then hooked to the router of the customer’s choice.) Your monthly cost per gig will be less than a hotspot plan.


(Brian Smith) #15

I was going to recommend the CradlePoint ARC 1400 as well. This has A LOT of flexibility and we use them for remote sites at work.

HIGHLY recommended…based on my real world experience at a dozen or so locations.

We use the ones with the modem cap from CradlePoint itself. I also like them because you can put different carrier USB modems on it at the same time, which we have done as well.


(ActionTiles.com co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #16

Thanks! These seem great because of the WAN options built-in (USB, express cards, WiFi WAN and Ethernet).

CradlePoint got some poor reviews on Amazon due to their support policies changing or being expensive. This is an unattended remote residential application, so not super critical… But “set and forget” is desirable.


#17

The Cradlepoint 1400 I listed has direct ethernet wan ports.


#18

Also people are complaining because of firmware updates that add a lot of new features… and are really NOT required for operation. You don’t need to go to 3.0 firmware to get full functionality.

They aren’t cheap but these are not commodity items and charging for firmware isn’t necessarily unreasonable assuming of course it’s adding new functionality and is not required to address bugs that cause the existing device to be usable. imo.