Recommendation for LTE modem (M.2 interface, suitable for laptop)?

Mjölnir

Daemon

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Dear disciples of the free BeaSD,

I'm very unhappy with the widely varying network latency of my internet connection via the old 3G technology. ATM I'm using a HSDPA+ modem in my laptop (3.5G). Usually, I have fully sufficient bandwidth e.g. on big downloads, but interactive use cases are often a big mess... packet loss rates of >50% are common. Thus I decided to invest in an upgrade to LTE (4G).
  • Can I expect lower & more predictable latencies & better connection quality with LTE/4G in practice?
  • Any hints pointing to a good, high quality LTE-modem, espc. concerning compatibility with FreeBSD, are greatly appreciated.
Thx in advance.
 

Phishfry

Beastie's Twin

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My preferred brand is Sierra modems. EM73xx is older but well supported (Was their second generation 4G module).

The newer EM74xx are featured on their website. I have not tested those. Supposedly the EM74xx are supported.

Please check /usr/src/sys/dev/usb/serial/u3g.c
Code:
    U3G_DEV(SIERRA, MC7354, 0),
    U3G_DEV(SIERRA, MC7355, 0),
    U3G_DEV(SIERRA, MC7430, 0),

Note: The Difference between model numbers is this:
MCxxxx=Mini-PCIe slot
EMxxxx=M.2 slot

They are the same chipset between form factors.
Example: Note that MC7430 is supported. By extension EM7340 is probably also supported. Same chipset.
There is a chance you may have to add the VID and PID to u3g.c and usbdevs and recompile kernel.
Depends on model number.

Do note the geographic regions assigned to their modems. This is because different regions use different frequencies.
You may also need to flash a carrier specific firmware to your modem. They ship with generic firmware but some providers need a specific firmware.

For example MC7355 modem supports CMDA and GSM. So Verizon uses CDMA and you might need to flash your module to the Verizon firmware. The Sierra site has these firmwares and you must sign up to access them.

There are also bastard Dell/Sierra OEM modules that have their own VID&PID. Avoid if possible.

One more word. M.2 Cellular modules introduced a new, smaller antenna connector than the Mini-PCIe slot models did.
So if you have built in antennas in a laptop make sure they are right for the module you are buying.
 

Phishfry

Beastie's Twin

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I know that was alot of techno-babble but here is the skinny.

You need to decifer the Sierra product line for a M.2 module that will work in your geographic area.
Choose from the two product lines:
EM73xx ---- I believe you want EM7305 for Europe (EMEA and APAC)
or the newer
EM74xx ???

This shop is in your continent and has some Sierra support software. Maybe firmwares too?
Depending on your cellular carrier you may need it.

Sierra modems have a control interface available available over cu.
There is an unlock code that you can use to change settings. Protocols and GPS settings.
Even CDMA or GSM network swapping.
Most ship with a GENERIC firmware that will work with most carriers.

You can even convert a Dell OEM module into generic EM7355 with AT! codes. Changes VID&PID too.
It is quite involved. It was more convenient than changing u3g on every rebuild.

You could also consider Huawei. Some work but are very different. You might need to learn usb_modeset to get them working.
 
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Mjölnir

Mjölnir

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Thx a lot for these valuable hints. I'm allergic against cheap chinese stuff, rare exception beeing a 80€ head lamp (IOW not cheap at all) made of aviation-grade alluminium alloy that I purchased recently - couldn't find any better, so I took that one (IOW if you can show me a better one I owe you a :beer: just PM to me the paypal of your favourite pub). I'll swim out into the bay & the depth of the Weltnetz & look for a Sierra modem as of your recommendation. Sadly you seem to be the only one here who is firm with this kind of hardware. I remember a guy from the Australian outback, whom I suspect to have some knowledge & experience in this domain, too. Don't remember his/her username, though.
 

Phishfry

Beastie's Twin

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I want to mention that you are talking about an older 3G module and you want to upgrade.

Problem is old 3G modems were MIniPCIe slot not M.2 slot.
Are you sure you have your nomenclature correct?
There is an adapter sled for MiniPCIe slot to M.2 slot (the M.2 cards are smaller).
But then you have antenna problems for the laptop.
Mini-PCIe slot modems use u.FL antenna connectors
M.2 slot modems use MHF4 antenna connectors. They are smaller.
So you would need to re-antenna the laptop lid to accommodate new antenna/connectors.


Sierra MC7305 is the MiniPCIe version. Same antenna leads as older 3G modems.
Problem is HPSA and old 3G used different frequencies than 4G LTE. So while they work, most 3G was 1900//2100mhz over here.
LTE is down on 700-800mhz is the US.(LTE calls them Bands.) How well does a antenna designed for 2100mhz work at 700mhz?
 
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Mjölnir

Mjölnir

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Yes, I'm very sure that I have an M.2 modem card. But I overlooked that antenna issue, although I have slightly above-average understanding of Physics (2 years @university)... dude, chances are that I need another antenna since LTE uses another frequency-band than 3G. Ok, thx a lot for that reminder! I'll research on that, I've got some links saved from my research when I figured out the Hayes-AT commands to get my modem up & running.
 

Phishfry

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I would avoid the Dell-Sierra modules on ebay. They are cheap but use different VID&PID.
For a Sierra novice I would stick to mainstream modules.
The Dell modules have tattle tale signs on the sticker.
There is a Dell Part Number in upper right or left.

Here are two models I found that are not Dell.

Now pictures of a Dell module:

 

Phishfry

Beastie's Twin

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driver for the qmi interface
That is one of our short comings. QMI is a proprietary interface. Qualcomm Modem Interface.
It is the quickest protocol but unsupported on FreeBSD.

We must use the Direct-IP Mode using PPP.

Windows 8/10 is forcing modem updates which strip out all protocols but 'MBIM-Only' which is also problematic for us.
On these modems you have to use some serious kung-fo to get them back usable after the MS sabotage.
It even strips out the comm port.
 

Phishfry

Beastie's Twin

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This site expains why Windows updates can be worrisome.
NOTE: It is recommended to never allow Windows to establish an internet connection with a Sierra Wireless modem that is intended to be used with GoldenOrb router or a Linux machine. Windows, being the control freak that it is, has a habit of placing the modem in an undesired composition.

As such buying a used modem can be fraught with turmoil.

Sierra USB compositions are a combination of protocols.
Most compositions have 2 or more protocols. For instance COM port and QMI.
 

Phishfry

Beastie's Twin

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I have an M.2 modem card. But I overlooked that antenna issue
So what I would look at is the manufacturer of the laptop and if they had an M.2 modem option offered. If so you may be OK.
All the M.2 modems should be MHF4 I believe.
 
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Mjölnir

Mjölnir

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Yeah that's a no-go area. Thus I'll simply not go there, no matter how interesting & compelling (e.g. the price) might be.
 

JohnnySorocil

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Yes, I'm very sure that I have an M.2 modem card. But I overlooked that antenna issue, although I have slightly above-average understanding of Physics (2 years @university)... dude, chances are that I need another antenna since LTE uses another frequency-band than 3G.
If you don't have an M.2 card it will work fine with linked adapters (if you have enough space inside laptop for an adapter) - at least mine did.
I had physics (and loved it - outside the university) for 1 year (I think) and I am using some basic cable antenna (probably WiFi) on my 3G modem 🤣

I would avoid the Dell modules on ebay. They are cheap but use different VID&PID.
I am using "Dell DW5550" (but it is not 4G AFAIK nor M.2) for years and it worked inside multiple laptops, and now it is in my ARM router inside USB adapter. Worked OK for my needs. Tested in briefly under OpenBSD ARM and works. Bought even one as spare and gave it to a friend which needed to do some Windows magick to make it work there o_O

Also tested some Ericsson M.2 LTE module (cheap from eBay) inside M.2 -> mPCIe adapter -> USB adapter and M.2 -> USB adapter and worked without problems.

Both card worked fine with ppp without any of the modeswitches.
Choose from the two product lines:
EM73xx ---- I believe you want EM7305 for Europe (EMEA and APAC)
or the newer
EM74xx ???

According to datasheet EM7565 can also be used as it is global card and much faster (600 Mbps vs 100 Mbps). But also much pricier.

Regarding cheap Chinese crap in communication gear - some light reading
 
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Mjölnir

Mjölnir

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Ok, I have the Intel ME, my beloved almighty yea free BeaSD, and that modem's real-time OS... Any other nasty surprises??? When I was trying to get the astro/gpsd (why is that in astro??? Should be in comms, right?!) working (didn't succeed), I fired up good old minicom(1) on the modem's GPS port and to my great surprise, it was calling "home" to some site, maybe that was the anti-theft service (CompuServe or the like) enabled by the previous (professional) owner. One thing I know for sure: my next laptop will be open source from plate to screen. I'm really p*d off that I do not control what I legally own. I paid real money for this laptop, I'm a redneck (sorry I got that complete wrong because of the red colour :): ) tick but not a terrorist, damn, and they couldn't tell me the ME password!!! Enough is enough!!! I want OPEN SOURCE, damn again! :mad:
 

JohnnySorocil

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One thing I know for sure: my next laptop will be open source from plate to screen. I'm really p*d off that I do not control what I legally own. I paid real money for this laptop, I'm a redneck but not a terrorist, damn, and they couldn't tell me the ME password!!! Enough is enough!!! I want OPEN SOURCE, damn again! :mad:

OK, we are heading into OT land 🤓
I have a dream of DIY open source laptop and I am "working" on it. In the meantime: Pinebook Pro or Novena or Olimex laptop. Those are made by legit people (Pine people are trying to have open source laptops, SBC, phones, soldering irons,... Olimex is somehow similar, Novena is made by bunnie who is well know in electronic circles).

Problem with all those is that they are practically toys - just 4 GB of RAM and two fast (Cortex A72 in RK3399 case) CPU cores. Mine cellphone has more power than that (and has unix interface on which I can't compile neovim :()
At least there is no UEFI nor ACPI nor ME in this small ARM computer.

RK3399 can be booted without software blob (u-boot + (optional) GRUB + FreeBSD/Linux/OpenBSD). Problem with FreeBSD is that it seems slow (even when big cores are enabled) and there is no RTC driver. Didn't try GUI yet. Some thing on that well supported board in Linux world are still WIP: mainline VPU, USB C, (in my case) problems with audio, ... Panfrost GPU drivers are into making but don't know state of it. All seems to work on older, non mainline proprietary Linux distribution made by HW manufacturer tho.

But, I still have a dream of open source laptop powerful enough for reading man pages, watching YT (without using 3x Firefox with 100+ tabs, of course) and sshing into x86 real machine (with attached cheap Chinese 4G modem mentioned above) 🥳
 

diizzy

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Instead of hunting down old modems just grab a cheap Huawei E3372 USB, put it in "stick mode" (NCM mode) and off you go? :)
 
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Mjölnir

Mjölnir

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FYI & TWIMC I edited my previous post due to a horrible misunderstanding of the meaning of the american term "redneck".
EDIT P.S.: and FMLU Phishfry is among those conservative folk that I consider to be honest & sincere. I take the freedom to take that decision just from reading his posts.
 

gpw928

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Instead of hunting down old modems just grab a cheap Huawei E3372 USB, put it in "stick mode" (NCM mode) and off you go? :)
Beware that the Huawei E3372 has two completely different firmware versions. There's a lot of chatter on the Internet about how to flash the firmware.

[I have an E3372h-607 (which has the 22.x firmware that runs a NAT firewall on a USB Ethernet) and have not yet had the time to flash so it can do "stick mode" (21.x firmware has PPP and NCM capability on USB serial TTYs). The Pfstore instructions seem plausible.]
 

diizzy

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Beware that the Huawei E3372 has two completely different firmware versions. There's a lot of chatter on the Internet about how to flash the firmware.

[I have an E3372h-607 (which has the 22.x firmware that runs a NAT firewall on a USB Ethernet) and have not yet had the time to flash so it can do "stick mode" (21.x firmware has PPP and NCM capability on USB serial TTYs). The Pfstore instructions seem plausible.]
Yep, I flashed the two Megafone modems I got off eBay :)
 

Phishfry

Beastie's Twin

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Also Listed In:geography

It is more mapping based than comms although you could argue that it is math based or radiowave based.
There are like 5 disctinct programs that makes up GPSd including a rudimentary x-app.


There is even a nautical program you can use with FreeBSD & GPSd and your modems GPS (providing it has a GPS antenna).
astro/opencpn/
 

hruodr

Aspiring Daemon

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dude, chances are that I need another antenna since LTE uses another frequency-band than 3G.

Different operators in different countries use different frequencies, be GSM, UMTS or LTE.
Perhaps you need a modem that support many bands?

Instead of hunting down old modems just grab a cheap Huawei E3372 USB

I have E372 (HSPA+). But used it only with OpenBSD. No idea how to configure FreeBSD.
 
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