First a huge thank you to everyone who participates in these forums. You've all been incredibly helpful as I've figured out how to get a good LTE router setup up and running out in the sticks. But now I've got a problem that is not-so-slowly driving me insane.
About 2.5 months ago (at the beginning of quarantine), I started using a Mofi 4500 (SIM4 COMBO) with AT&T service. Out of the box, performance was excellent -- I was consistently getting 40-70 down, and 15-30 up. That certainly exceeded my expectations given the lack of other options where we are in upstate New York. For about two months, everything was rock solid. No difficulty delivering what we need for two people working from home, plus a handful of smart devices and some occasional HD TV streaming. I was thrilled.
Then about three weeks ago, we started losing Internet access out of the blue throughout the day, requiring a reset of the Mofi router. We'd unplug the Mofi and plug it back it, it would initialize, and everything would work great. Until it inevitably dies again, usually anywhere from 45 mins to a couple hours later. So we have been constantly resetting the router throughout the day, and the randomness of it is wreaking havoc on our work lives.
Some unusual (to me anyway!) notes about the behavior when service goes down:
- The indicator light for an internet connection on the Mofi stays green even when we lose service.
- While all of our web browsing dies at the same time on various connected devices, if either of us is in a video call (usually using Google Meet or Zoom), somehow that person can generally continue on with the call for a considerable amount of time, sometimes another 30 mins, even as we can't do anything else. (And even the person successfully still on the video call can't do anything else on their device.)
- When I log in to the Mofi control panel once things have gone down, and try to do the "Internet connection test" from the main screen it does indeed fail. However, when I go to System>>Diagnostics, and do things like run a ping test to openwrt.org or do a traceroute, they work and return live results.
- The router is a MOFI4500 4GXeLTE SIM4COMBO, using AT&T service. Signal strength is usually 4 or 5 bars.
- Current Mofi firmware is 4.1.8-std, which was just released a week or two ago I believe. I was having the same problems with the prior firmware; I did the Remote Update through the control panel to update to this latest firmware a few days ago hoping it would improve things. No change, same problems all around.
- Bandlock is on Band 12, on advice of Mofi (see below). Or at least I think it is, there is a quirk in the control panel I can't explain. When I go to the Mofi "Modem Status" page, it says
Current Band: B2
Module has NO Bandlock filter in place
Bandlock set to the following: LTE_B12
Advanced Bandlock: No Advanced Bandlock
I did indeed follow the instructions to lock to Band 12, but I can't tell if it's really locked or not. Or if this has anything to do with my issue or not.
- Internal modem module is Sierra MC7455
- Our normal setup is to connect all devices to a Netgear Orbi mesh system, which is then physically plugged into the Mofi router. However, even taking the Orbi completely out of the equation and connecting all devices wirelessly to the Mofi, we have the exact same issue.
- I replaced the AT&T SIM card, and also had the data provider completely delete my account and assign me a new one, just to see if it would help anything at all. No change, still have the same problems.
Mofi support was great when I was asking questions before I bought the router, but it has been rather frustrating as I try to troubleshoot this. They've been very slow to respond, and don't have much to say. The only piece of advice they gave me so far was to do a bandlock, which I did (band 12 had the best signal so that's what I chose) and it didn't help.
Does anyone have any ideas on other things I can try? I'm getting rather desperate here, and it is seriously impacting our ability to work and also just generally driving me crazy. Based on the behavior, I'm convinced the issue is within the Mofi somewhere rather than the AT&T service, but I'm certainly open to trying anything and everything.
Help! I will happily wing a nice bottle of booze your way. Or one of my organs. It has come to that.
UPDATE 8/4/2020 -- HOW I "FIXED" IT
Since I started this thread, I figured I should post in one tidy spot how I fixed (or rather "fixed") this problem.
I tried many things, including:
-- Three different AT&T network providers and plans, using multiple APNs
-- Tried Verizon and T-Mobile network plans, and had no problems, confirming the issue was AT&T (but signal strength wasn't strong enough on those to stick with them)
-- Another Mofi router, and another non-Mofi router. Many threads on Reddit, LTEHacks.com and the LTE Hacks facebook group make clear this issue has nothing to do with Mofi, and people are having it with AT&T on many devices.
-- A half dozen different configurations/firmware installs on the Mofi
In the end, going through a VPN saved us. Once we installed VPN software on our primary devices (we used NordVPN, more on them in a moment), everything just worked. No more lost Internet connections, ever. And even though the VPN software was only installed on our connected computers, phones and tablets, the many other devices on the network that weren't going through the VPN -- Apple TV, a zillion smart home devices, more -- continued to hum along just fine, without ever triggering the need to reset the Mofi router.
My best guess is that at some point, some sort of traffic/device limit was being triggered with AT&T and it was disabling HTTP traffic. But I really don't know, and for now, I really don't care. Everything finally works great.
NordVPN (www.nordvpn.com) was incredibly easy to set up, and they seem to offer great deals (in the end, paid about $80 for three years). That allows for six simultaneous connected devices. Though again, we only put the VPN on our heavy-use devices, like our laptops and iPads. Technically, you can install NordVPN (or other VPNs) at the router level, and the Mofi 4500 makes this incredibly easy to do with built-in setup for NordVPN. But there was a huge performance hit doing it that way, as the Mofi just isn't strong enough to process the VPN encryption. Enabling the VPN on Mofi dropped our speeds by about 80%. Enabling it on the device level we see truly NO drop in speed.
I did briefly buy a souped up ASUS router from FlashRouters (www.flashrouters.com), with a massive processor and built-in custom firmware for various VPNs, including Nord. It worked great, and speeds were much faster, but in the end I found the router unwieldy and couldn't get it to play as nicely with our Orbi wifi. I ended up returning it. The people at FlashRouters were fantastic and I would highly recommend them. If you install the VPN at the router level, obviously everything is much simpler in terms of connected devices -- and that only counts as one device.
We've only run into two quirks with using the VPN: Some web sites (including Google every once in awhile) will occasionally force you to do one of those I-am-not-a-robot captchas, as the VPN traffic triggers something or other on their end. And, more frustrating, Bank of America's website and mobile app cannot be accessed through NordVPN. This is a known issue, apparently BofA blocks a lot of VPN traffic. So when we log into banking we do have to temporarily disable the VPN on the device we're using, which again the Nord software makes super easy.
The final point I'd mention is that if you go down the Reddit rabbit hole on NordVPN you'll see that they had some sort of compromising issue in the not-too-distant-past, and some people who are using VPNs for hyper anonymity don't like them for that reason. But (a) Nord claims they've fixed all that and (b) I'm just using it to get my Internet to work, not launder drug cartel money.
So, there you go. Not so much a fix as a workaround, but it really does work, and now we're back humming along with fast speeds and no router resets at all. Good luck.