Wednesday, August 02, 2017

EE 4G Home Broadband

Our promised fast Internet connection is now 7 months late.  If it does not arrive soon, and if there is no alternative we will have to sell our wonderful house.

Before it comes to that we are investigating alternatives to fibre.  Today  4GEE Home Broadband.

And spoiler alert:  Fast yet Flawed.

If you prefer to goto their website only it is here

Otherwise keep reading.

You can order it from an EE retail shop or online.   The benefit of online is that you are covered by UK Law on distance selling regulations, meaning that if it does not work for you then you can return it without question within 14 days.

Our online process failed after a lot of form filling including entering bank details for a direct debit.  The direct debit step failed. So I had to call EE and finish the order with a telephone operator.

The package arrived about 2 working days later.  Efficient.

Inside the box is the Huawei router and a SIM.   You simply insert it and wait for registration.   It came with an impossible to remember password and Wifi SSID on a card which can of course be changed later.

There is also an Ethernet port so you can connect this to an Ethernet Switch or firewall which is how we more professionally connected it.

We tested  devices like smartphones connecting wirelessly and also our main desktop computers which went through a number of Ethernet 1Gigabit switches then to  UNIX firewall whose output was the Ethernet socket of this 4G Home Broadband device.

By the way, the device is tiny!   Just a small cube with a glowing light on the top  (this can be switched off)

Speed Tests

Speed will depend on your 4G coverage under EE, you can get an estimate here

For us we got a very respectible 6MB/second on and a peak of about 5.2MB/second whilst torrenting a Linux .iso

In our old home of Switzerland we had 4G speeds of upto 10MB/second, but unfortunately I have never seen such speeds in England.   In fact 6MB/sec is pretty exceptional in the UK.

Menu System

There is a pretty decent menu system that you can web browse into, in particular it can tell you how many GB of data you have used and also allows you to change your SSID and password.

Routing Woes

We have a need to reach computers inside our home network from outside on the internet.  For example,  we might have files on a home NAS (Network Attached Storage) device and need to access them whilst travelling on holiday.

For this we need to be able to route from the internet, to the public IP address of our device in the EE network, into the EE network and to our actual device, and then using a Virtual server defintion to our device.

There is even a Virtual Server menu in the Huawei menu. SO looks good right?  No.

It just does not work.  And its because the EE network is internally an unrouted 10.x network, so you inbound packets just cant find your home device.

I did offer a partial solution called the Yaler Tunnel . Please read my article.   However this is not foolproof because you would have to know a very awkward IP address and URL string and I was unable to point my DNS provider to it.  So as a result the Yaler tunnel workaround was not satisfactory.

This is a major Achilles heel of a home broadband system.  There is no easy or scalable way to access devices inside your home from the Internet.

Data Usage and Plans

We selected the largest 100GB per month plan for about 75 GBP direct debit.    Yes, this is expensive but consider the following.

I hour of Highest quality Amazon Prime streaming is 5GB.  If you watched just 10 moves from Prime in 1 month your Data allocation would be exhausted.

In our testing we used about 20GB in 2 days.  Some of that is not typical daily usage, but more representively it would be at least 3GB daily excluding any movie streaming.  So for us 100 GB per month would work just,  but also assuming we don't do any cloud data synchronisation.   [In our old home in Switzerland with our effectively unlimited speed uplinks we sychronised Terabytes per month, clearly this plan would not cover the smallest fraction of that need].

Summary Points

- EE provides an expensive  75GBP per month plan delivering 100GB of Mobile broadband per month at upto speeds of 6MB/second download

- You need to sign up for a 12 month plan and for that you receive a free Huawei router that is somewhat customisable

- You don't receive a fixed IP address and we found that you can't host any Virtual Server inside your home network and have it accessible from outside on the Internet. (So, no hosting a Wiki Server or NAS system)

Addendum 20170802 11:30
After painstakingly writing up this report to share I double checked and the EE 4G Home Broadband product seems to have mysteriously disappeared this morning from the EE ordering screen. You may need to call them.