Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Review: Huawei B525 4G LTE Router


This is a review of the Huawei B525 4G SIM router. In passing I will discuss some other things.  This article is of particular value if you have to make do without a wired DSL, VDSL, Fibre Network.

Right now Agata and Marcus are struggling along using as you will see multiple 4G (LTE) Wireless networks, powered for the most part by Huawei routers like the wonderful B525.


A Moving Target
At the time of writing the Huawei B525 is almost top of their 4G router tree.

Some other excellent products

ASUS 4G-N12
Huawei B310

But this product is better!



At the back is a 4 port Gigabit Hub and a USB port for 500mA power and an RJ-11 socket to connect a phone which you would access via VOIP.




Takes a Micro-SIM i.e. the one slightly bigger than the nano SIM.


LTE Numbers


In the Technological race the capability of your 4G modem normally far exceeds that of your Network provider.  For example in the UK, my Three network provider only transmits at LTE Category 3, so the fact that this Huawei Router can receive LTE Category 6 transmissions at upto 300Mbits/second is irrelevant.  I can never ever receive faster than 100 Mbits/second.

A lowly Huawei B310 router is in fact fine for this speed, it's just that the B310 lacks some other facilities  (like the Gigabit Hub).

But the main point is valid,  don't select the router based purely on its CATegory, bear in mind what your provider is sending.


A Big Aside
(Marcus' secret network diagram)

I'd like to share the fundamentals of how our UK home Networking is organised.

- We have multiple 4G Internet contracts.  More than 4 in fact
- The central point  is a Marcus configured   (it was tough) Mikrotik Hex router.
- The Mikrotik has a number of Ethernet Ports than can be configured WAN or LAN as well as a USB port that is connected to a Smartphone with a 4G SIM inside
- The Mikrotik is actually configured to automatically select the best internet source, but I find it fails to do so reliably.  So in practice I manually toggle which Internet source is to be used via the Winbox console utility
- Each Internet source connects as a WAN connection to the Mikrotik
- The output is a Ethernet port configured as a LAN port
- The LAN port then connects to a dedicated Firewall
- BTW:  The Mikrotik also has an embedded and configured Firewall.  At this point then an attacker has to breach 2 firewalls, plus the firewall on each computer  (good luck)
- The firewall output feeds the Main Home Infastructure

Actually this is a simplified overview, matters are much more complicated than this but the configuration shown is thus so

- We can transparently switch between Internet sources
- The downstream firewall and Home Internet are on different Networks and have no idea of any source Internet change
- Should our Fibre connection ever arrive then this can be added in seemlessly as an addition WAN port



All the Features

I diligently made screenshots so that Power Users can appreciate the capabilities you may use:



Automatically or manually scan for Networks




Update your Firmware




Discover your configuration including IMEA, IMSI and signal strength








For the UK this is a phenomenal 4G Speed I can assure you.  Normally it is significantly slower than shown, this was a clear night, and in uncontended hours.  Regardless, the best speed is pretty much on a par with a UK Fibre to the Cabinet connection.




On the summary screen you can see at a glance what the total upload and download statistics are.  Any more and you need to logon.





You can send and receive SMS




Lots of Wireless settings



Ethernet Switch can be variously configured.



VPN Capable




2.4 and 5 GHz Wireless networking.  And it may be separately switched on or off.





To me curious but you can setup a VOIP account and assuming your 4G provider does not block it   (check because all I know do), then you can connect any phone with a RJ11 connector into the back of the unit and make and receive calls.  



Lots of facilities under the Security Menu





A Virtual Server like a Webserver is supported by the Huawei, however to my knowledge no 4G provider in the UK will support one, due to NAT restrictions.



A Firewall is present




Dynamic DNS support.





Good range of System Facilities



Absolutely crucially there is the physical provision to connect an external aerial pair via 2 SMA connectors.  Then in the software you can use, Internal Only, External Only, Mix or Auto settings.

Our Antenna Choices
We have tested a range of replacement external LTE antennas. I'll separately post our results. Suffice to say that you can choose something from Amazon, that is waterproof, externally mountable. Expect to pay about 100 GBP and from Amazon if it does not deliver benefits, you can simply return it.


Churches and Transmitters and Aerials
As I have proclaimed before, I see 4G and 5G telecommunications as entirely sufficient to replace end user Internet connections to the home for all those who don't have a Fibre to the Home  (FTTH) connection.   In the UK that is surely over 99% of the population since the UK Standard is unfortunately Fibre to the Cabinet and Copper from the Cabinet to your Home.

(NB: The backhaul i.e. the main links within the UK will still be fibre of course, I am talking about the last step km to the actual customer premises)

In the last weeks there has been some press

- The Government seeks agreement to install 4G transmitters in Churches

https://www.techradar.com/news/government-hopes-church-spires-will-boost-rural-4g-and-wi-fi

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/church-spires-to-boost-digital-connectivity-in-rural-areas

- EE and Vodaphone trial installation of 4G mini aerials at consumer (i.e. non business) premises

http://newsroom.ee.co.uk/ee-launches-4g-home-broadband-antenna-to-connect-more-than-580000-homes-across-the-uk/

https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2018/02/ee-boost-rural-uk-4g-mobile-broadband-coverage-via-external-antenna.html



Summary
The Huawei B525 is a truly excellent 4G Wireless Router.   It supports upto LTE Category 6, 300 Mbits/sec download, has support for External Antenna, its own Firewall, Port Routing, Virtual Server, VPN, and other software features.   There is also VOIP support and a Gigabit Switch.

Many of these features may be rendered inoperable by your 4G Internet provider, example Virtual Server, but nevertheless this hardware has proved reliable and capable.

Recommended.