Rendezvous internet setup

One of the most important things to me and my crew is the ability to connect to the Internet for voyage planning, staying in touch with family, social media, and relaxation. Having a reliable setup has always been one of my top goals, usually leveraging several technologies. Rendezvous has a similar setup to some of my other boats, but with some modifications and improvements.

Internet Defined

I find that defining what “having Internet” means is pretty important when scoping out a new system for myself or a client. It means very different things to each person or setup, and can be very simple, or very complex. For me, it means a few things:

  • On-board WiFi network offering 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz bands and both a private and guest network
  • Managed network – similar to what I wrote about in Managing internet usage on your boat, I want my networks to have priorities for various devices, and ensure I always have connectivity for critical things.
  • LTE internet source – one of my sources for internet connectivity will be from LTE SIM cards, and I would like to have the ability to switch between at least 2. I do not need the ability to have two active all the time. I need the ability to control roaming, which SIM is in use, and to set bandwidth/usage alerts.
  • WiFi internet source – my backup source of internet is 2.4Ghz/5Ghz remote WiFi networks. I need to be able to connect to various networks that I see, with or without passwords, and boost them so I can use them aboard.
  • Ethernet ports – certain critical items need to be directly cabled into my local network so that they have always on access both to the internet, but also to local devices for higher speed transfers.

It seems simple to define this, but it helps a lot in understanding what devices and solutions you can use. In particular, the 2.4/5Ghz WiFi bands seem to be something people still overlook, even given my Marina WiFi is hard article. Many routers only provide 2.4Ghz which is, frankly, inadequate for most boats today.

I do not have satellite internet anywhere in my list, as I am not going offshore, nor do I need internet in very remote locations like Princess Louisa Inlet or the like – there I rely on my Garmin inReach to send/receive text messages for safety, and the rest of the time I use my local WiFi network for on-boat stuff, and enjoy the view/location. The monthly cost for most of the satellite systems is pretty high, and the bandwidth you get as a result is pretty low for my use cases.

What I chose

  • Peplink MAX Transit – provides 2.4Ghz/5Ghz local WiFi, dual SIM LTE internet, WAN port, LAN port. I’ve used Peplink products for a long time, and the MAX Transit for the last few years. It has the best feature-set, software that you can do just about anything with, has tons of power, and is extremely reliable.
  • MikroTik Groove – for grabbing remote 2.4Ghz/5Ghz WiFi signals and piping them to the WAN port on the Peplink. I’ve used the Groove in both plastic and metal for all of my own installations, as well as many clients, and while it is hard to configure, it is the best solution to grab remote WiFi signals on both bands.
  • weBoost amplifier – I have been using the Drive 4G-X for several years, but recently have been testing the new Drive Reach. Boosters provide a huge advantage when in remote areas both for the Peplink router, and any cell phones nearby.
  • Wilson outdoor LTE antenna – based on my testing last year, I still think this is the best performing marine-grade antenna available.
  • TRENDnet industrial switch – this provides Ethernet ports to systems that require them via the LAN port on the Peplink router.
Rendezvous current Internet setup

Improvements

TRENDnet switch

On previous boats, I used products from several other companies which were able to run on DC power, but had some heat and performance issues. The TRENDnet switch runs off of DC power too, but can take two power sources for redundancy, and is made for “industrial” purposes. It has 8 gigabit ports which work very well, and have never had any performance issues.

This switch has performed very well the last 10 months. It has been in both the cold and heat, with lots of vibration and movement, along with devices coming and going. I have a second one in use for my Furuno network which transmits far more data while underway, and have had zero issues with that one as well.

Wilson LTE antenna

This isn’t a new piece of equipment, but I have made it my primary choice after a ton of testing last year with various other types of antennas. Since then, I have tried a few other antennas, but none of them have been built as well as the Wilson. It has an excellent marine mount, which makes it very easy to install, and very stable. The performance from the antenna is excellent – a new-fangled antenna with an additional 1dB isn’t worth the poor mounting or additional cost. 📶

weBoost amplifier & internal antenna

I have used the weBoost line of amplifiers from Wilson for a long time. The Drive 4G-X has been the best choice for almost 5 years, but a few months ago Wilson released the Drive Reach, which I have been testing with good results. The Reach has over 3x the power as the 4G-X for connecting to remote towers, and double the power for the inside antenna. As a result, it has a big heat sink, and a larger power supply.  I hope to have more extensive testing completed soon.

I’ve also been playing around with various internal antennas to provide better coverage not only for the Peplink router, but nearby cell phones. More on this testing soon as well. 📱

So far, these improvements have provided a more reliable and powerful internet setup for all of the trips we’ve taken on Rendezvous, and even while at the dock.

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33 thoughts on “Rendezvous internet setup”

  1. Great Stuff! I should say that I have no knowledge of sailing or marine applications but I am a home automation enthusiast becoming interested in some sailing related subjects through a youtube channel I follow. I use Openhab with and rely on Influxdb/Grafana for data reporting and visualization for things like evironmental contditions, electrical/water use and so on. It runs of a small itx computer with a number of remote esp8266 /Arduino type units communicating through MQTT (all simple stuff really). It seems apparent to me that there are just so many great applications on a sailboat yet I see very few examples as I read through various sources. The availability of very low cost hardware and essentially free software has made extensive data acquisition and control simple and cheap yet it seems not wide spread in the boating world.

    I like the NUC – I think you made a great choice. You seem to be ahead of the crowd and I will be following along….

    Reply
    • Hi Mike,
      Thanks for the kind words.

      I am also a home automation enthusiast – I have three different SmartThings locations, over 50 Philips Hue products, door sensors, water sensors, motion sensors, and tons of other things. I don’t really write about those here since the focus is on the marine world, and the sailboat, although I have written about using SmartThings on the boat a year or two ago.

      Openhab is a great project, and I have been experimenting with it at home as well. I can see adaptations using that on a boat as well.

      The bigger issues with boats is power consumption, reliability, and marine grade. I had a set of arduino sensors on my previous boat that corroded pretty quickly in the salt environment, and had some reliability issues that may not have been related (they happened before they corroded quite a bit). Regardless, you can protect them with other methods easier today than 5 years ago, so I suspect we will see more of that sort of stuff pop up.

      There are a number of new products that I’ve tested or own that are based on much cheaper hardware, and not offered by the big manufacturers, and as a result they can do some pretty cool things. They’re also much less expensive to purchase, which is nice as a boater.

      I think if you look at SignalK in particular, you will see that the open source movement is definitely spreading onto boats, and has already driven some new hardware platforms, albeit not as many as I would like!

      Reply
  2. Hi Steve – so, no more Netgear LB1120? I think thats what you recommended in your last article….
    I’m not sure from your diagram how the LTE signal gets from the antenna to
    the router – the Peplink supports 2 Sim cards, but there’s no hard-wired
    connection to the antenna or booster?

    Reply
    • Hi Grant,
      The Peplink router is the one I always recommend for those who have the budget. The LB1120 + MikroTik hAP is the more cost effective way to do something similar, but without many of the features that the Peplink has. It also requires a lot more know-how to get the MikroTik+Netgear working and configured, where the Peplink is pretty plug and play. I still recommend that one too for those who would like that route/feature set/budget.

      I have found that the best way to use a weBoost amplifier is to have the inside antenna as close as possible to the factory Peplink antennas. These amplifiers are not meant to be wired directly into a router, and will damage things if connected that way. weBoost sells an in-line amplifier, but there are significant disadvantages to using that setup, which I covered in https://seabits.com/best-lte-antenna-booster-boat/

      Having the weBoost inside antenna also gives you a second benefit of being able to use a cell phone nearby and have it boosted.

      Reply
      • OK Thanks Steve – so, when you say the Peplink is pretty plug and play – does that include configuring auto fall-over from LTE to WiFi or vice versa? I gave up trying to understand how to programs scripts for my Mikrotik router and now just manually swap Ethernet cables from my Wifi source and LTE source into the WAN connector… it works, but hardly something I would brag about…

        Reply
        • Yes, it is not only automated, but you can change it very easily by dragging and dropping the various connections and devices that you want higher/lower priority. I usually leave the MikroTik on while I am at the dock, and when I back out of the marina and away from that signal, there is a “health check” that notices the WiFi network I am connected to is gone, and switches to LTE automatically.

          Besides that, there are tons of other features, such as LTE SIM card priorities (if you have more than one), bandwidth monitoring for your LTE plan, and many other features that make it much more reliable and manageable on the boat. I wrote about some of the features I use including bandwidth shaping and limits in https://seabits.com/limiting-data-on-board-your-boat/

          The Netgear+MikroTik solution was something I proposed because many people find it hard to pay $700-1000 for an onboard router. I find this amusing, since most boaters spend more than that in a weekend on fuel, or at West Marine, but it is what it is ? That solution is not plug and play for sure, and requires a lot more attention in setting it up, and even using it, but many people like it because of the flexibility.

          For those people who don’t want to deal with that, and want a very high quality system. I always recommend Peplink. Even though I can configure and use the MikroTik+Netgear myself, I prefer the many additional features of the Peplink when I am actually out with guests so I can focus on enjoying my time on the water.

          Reply
          • OK I’m sold. Any reason the BR1 Mk2 wouldn’t work as well? I only
            have one Sim card, and the other specs appear the same – except router
            throughput, 100 vs. 400Mbps. That seems like a big difference, but in
            real-world conditions, I doubt any of my devices (laptop, iPhone, Roku)
            would benefit from > 100Mbps anyhow, would they? Or maybe so….I
            don’t know. Also, 5G store doesn’t show pricing, so maybe it’s not much
            different anyhow…..

          • The BR1 Mk2 would definitely work well too. Just make sure it is the Mk2 as the previous version only had 2.4Ghz WiFi which is a severe limitation especially in marinas. Additionally, the LTE-A radio is the one you want if they offer both variants – LTE-A includes all of the new bands and such that carriers will be using moving forwards, including faster download speeds. The software on the BR1 Mk2 is virtually the same as the MAX Transit. The only differences have to do with dual SIMs and some higher end VPN and performance features that wouldn’t likely matter to you.

          • Thanks Steve, much appreciated. Just to confirm – this setup would do away with the LB1121 altogether – my Wilson antenna would attach directly to the SMA cellular connector on the BR1 Mk2, and my existing Wifi source connects to the Ethernet WAN port on the BR1 Mk2 – that’s it, right?
            Now all I have to do is find a better data plan than the $25 6GB add-on that T-Mobile has me on – not nearly enough, and instead of slowing to 3G when I hit the limit, it fails altogether!
            Thanks again for your help,

          • Assuming you have the correct cable for the Wilson outdoor antenna, it should connect to one of the two antenna ports that are used for cellular signals. The second one you should leave the factory default antenna to provide diversity.

            Not sure what you mean by existing WiFi source? A Groove or other device that grabs remote WiFi signals? That would work fine connected to the WAN port of the BR1.

            T-Mobile has retired their One Plus International plans (unless you have one already) which were the best choice for a while. Verizon had a post paid truly unlimited plan that I also snagged, and was really actually unlimited, but that one went away too unless you still are using it. Someone will come out with another one soon!

          • Thanks Steve, much appreciated. Just to confirm – this setup would do away with the LB1121 altogether – my Wilson antenna would attach directly to the SMA cellulRight, sorry, I assumed you remembered my setup…”existing WiFi source” is a Bitstorm Badboy Xtreme MJ (Ubiquiti Bullet variant) which I will be replacing with the dual band Groove at some point.
            So basically – I still end up with two boxes, I replace the LB1121 and my existing Mikrotik router with a single box (Peplink) that does the job of both – but, I need to add a 4 port switch to make up for the lack of Ethernet ports on the Peplink router.
            It’s worth it for the features you mentioned, so long as the LTE performance of the Peplink is equal to or better than the Netgear LB1121…. thanks again for your article and feedback.ar connector on the BR1 Mk2, and my existing Wifi source connects to the Ethernet WAN port on the BR1 Mk2 – that’s it, right?
            Now all I have to do is find a better data plan than the $25 6GB add-on that T-Mobile has me on – not nearly enough, and instead of slowing to 3G when I hit the limit, it fails altogether!
            Thanks again for your help,

          • Thanks for the clarifications!

            The Peplink should perform just as well, if not better, than the LB1121. The Peplink is designed for a mobile environment, and has bigger antennas than the Netgear, but you know how technology is – sometimes adjusting things is required to get the most performance. Try your outdoor Wilson antenna connected to one of the ports, and if that doesn’t work as well, try it with the other.

            I am using three of the TRENDnet switches I list above, and they have performed very well for the last year. I expect a switch to just work, especially one as simple as this, and was surprised at some of the problems I had in the last 3 years or so with cheaper DC power switches that ended up causing some serious issues on my network. The TRENDnet ones just work.

  3. Another great article. This time, though, I fear it’s going to cost me a ton of $$$ as I plan to upgrade what I’ve got to something just like this. My only gripe remains with the Groove. They have a great new iOS app but, for the life of me, I can’t figure out how to use it to select remote APs. And their web-based UI is ok, but still not very user friendly.

    Reply
    • I think when you put it in perspective, though, it isn’t that much money compared to other boat systems. All told, you can have this system for under $2000, which some people think is expensive, but I bet you’ve spent more per year on maintenance, and for sure on marine electronics at some point! Given that the Internet connection is something most family and crew really want to be reliable, I think it is money well spent!

      The Groove is the only game in town right now. I know of a couple other products that aren’t really ready for prime time that have both 2.4 and 5 Ghz WiFi, but they’re not anywhere near as well performing as the Groove.

      I don’t hardly change my configuration with it connected to the Peplink, other than to search for a new WiFi network and connect to it, which I used on my trips this year at least 10 times without much fuss. Having the Peplink makes a huge difference in making that easier.

      Reply
  4. You need to add a real-world-testing appendix. How did all this work out on the recent cruise? Seems to me we were running about 50% connectivity at anchor up in Desolation with just our phones. A few places like Von Donop we would have to go for a dingy ride to get a connection. When repositioning that number went up to around 80%.

    Reply
    • I’ve been trying to figure out where that belongs – in the article on the Desolation trip, or a separate one which is an update on antennas and boosters. I think the latter might be better….

      The setup worked perfectly on that trip. In fact, there was only one anchorage that had sketchy connectivity – Penrose Bay in the Okeover Inlet area. Everywhere else, including Von Donop, I had completely usable service. The amplifier and external antenna were the primary reason this worked as well as it did – I saw it working hard to keep things connected in multiple places.

      The one that shocked me was heading up Homfray Channel all around East and West Redonda islands – according to the tower map that I have, the nearest tower should have been blocked by the tall mountains that make up that channel, but I had service the whole way!

      I had another boat along with me, and they had service about 20% of the entire trip. Multiple people on that boat requested I anchor closer so they could get online a few times a day when we swung closer at anchor to check their email 🙂

      Reply
  5. Great article! You spend a lot of time in this article and prior articles talking about antennas. I think the antenna quality and placement are more critical for WiFi (and cell) than the actual boat-side station type.

    I have both a Microtik Groove 52AC and a Bullet2 onboard. The Bullet2 is wired through LMR400 cable to our second spreader (maybe about 40 feet?). My Groove has the antenna directly attached and is located on the top of our bimini. I also changed out the cheap antenna on the Groove with a 9db Wifi2b9 2.4/5.8 antenna (http://www.scan-antenna.com/product/wifi2b9) (these are available from a distributor – http://aepsales.com/ – on the east coast for < $100 - I have no relation to them - make sure to get the right mounting brackets too as these have a euro style mount). I always get a much better connection on the Groove (comparing 2.4 vs. 2.4), most likely for two reasons. First, the antenna for the Bullet2 has the LMR400 cable. While this is great cable, it has signal loss vs. being directly connected. Even with a better antenna, it will still not perform as well as a unit with a directly connected antenna. Second, the placement. Because the vertical beam width of the antenna is not as wide as the horizontal beam, the closer I am to the shore station the more likely it is to be on the fringe of my beam since my antenna is on the second spreader. This causes degradation. In addition, at times the mast gets between the antenna and the shore station, effectively blocking the signal. I originally thought that placing it high up would help (and it probably would in specific situations - on the hook, boat station directly connected to the antenna, mast not between the shore station and the boat station, etc.) but it did not. That's why, when I added, the Groove, I took lessons learned and used a direct antenna connection and also placed it in a spot that had nothing between it and a shore station. I can also say that signal strength increased a measurable amount when I replaced the stock antenna on the Groove with the Scan antenna. And I have to say that - as you say too- the Groove is definitely more complex to configure, but with the added 5.8GHz radio + the WiFi options you can usually get access to more WiFi units (including older units the Bullet no longer supports for security reasons) with better/faster connection rates and bandwidth. I also have the WeBoost DriveX unit with a Wilson antenna and LMR400 out to my bimini top. Love it. Sad to see they have a new unit as the wife won't let me spend more money on this until we spend money on other things first lol.

    Reply
    • These are all great points, but I think the most important one is the one you also highlight a bunch – antenna location and distance. I try to highlight this in some of my other posts, but perhaps this warrants a dedicated article just discussing the pros and cons. Many people assume the higher the better with antennas both for WiFi and LTE, and I think this mentality comes from having heard this for line-of-sight things like VHF radios.

      While having a WiFi antenna higher up the mast might help if you’re trying to reach a remote station, I don’t think that people do that as much anymore. It used to be 10 years ago that everyone who had internet while afloat, who wasn’t a rich mega yacht owner and had a satellite, got it via finding a WiFi source on shore, usually an open network (because so many people had those and didn’t mind!) and definitely 2.4Ghz. There were whole swaths of products including many based on the Bullet series from Ubiquiti that advocated height to get the remote signals. I’m sure it helped a bit, but you pointed out a big flaw on a sailboat which I’ve seen many times – mounting the antenna somewhere up the mast where at one point, when the boat rotates, the antenna is blocked by the mast.

      Amplifiers and cables are all good things to consider, but to your overall point – the location and quality of the antenna is critical. Ensuring you have a good one for WiFi and LTE, have picked an appropriate location not too far away, and use quality cabling will all result in a good signal.

      As for the specific antenna you have paired with the Groove – I am using the Altelix available here https://amzn.to/2MLCKXm which has vastly improved the performance over the stock one, and it is dual band as well.

      Reply
  6. Thanks for another great article. Being retired has allowed us to spend, not just a week or two, but months cruising the pnw. But spending so much time on boat has made mobile connectivity more important. The weBoost looks like a good solution. Question (I haven’t seen covered well) regarding the coverage to expect from the internal antenna… can I get bow to stern coverage on a 40 sailboat? What about if the internal antenna were located in an aft lazarette? And, Any placement/orientation advice based on your experience would be appreciated. Thanks in advance! -mic

    Reply
    • Great question! You will definitely not get bow to stern coverage from the internal antenna. In fact, most boosters only have a small area where the internal antenna will provide any benefit. This is mainly due to the design, where a feedback loop would exist if the internal antenna were too strong, and conflicted with the signal level from the nearby tower.

      The standard weBoost internal antennas will only provide coverage in a small area, depending on the location and placement. Their desk antenna for instance will provide good signal around 5-10′ in a mostly circular pattern. The candy bar one I use is much smaller in terms of the signal, but more directed. It is meant to be mounted directly behind a phone that is mounted in a car.

      There are are some internal antennas that will broadcast the signal more widely, but they are meant for houses or buildings, and I am not sure they would work with the standard mobile booster.

      Reply
      • I upgraded our new WeBoost Drive Range indoor/car cab antenna to a (click/paste Amazon ($75)): WILSON ELECTRONICS WSN311155, Dual-Band 75Ohm Wall-Mount Panel Antenna. (I used a 75 ohm cable from the WeBoost to the indoor Antenna). You can also get the 50 ohms version.

        It’s the size of a flat tissue box but has an amazing indoor range.

        Reply
        • p.s. keep it out of your WeBoost outdoor antenna’s range, as it will loop the frequencies (not sure of the techie term when this happens?). I’m at 50′ and it works fine.

          Reply
  7. Is the reason for using the external Groove va the built-in radio of the Peplink purely to have better antenna placement or is there another reason?

    Reply
    • The primary reason for using a MikroTik Groove is performance. The Peplink MAX series products do not have dedicated antenna ports for WiFi as WAN and instead use the same ones that are broadcasting the internal SSIDs / networks for end users. This can result in very mixed performance for both. Some of the larger Peplink products have dedicated WiFi as WAN ports, but that would require two separate antennas and cables outside to take advantage of it since you’d need one for 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz. The Groove does both via an Ethernet connection which is a bit easier to run in many cases, and also has no signal loss compared to an antenna and cable.

      Reply
      • I see the performance issue, thanks for the reply.

        Other than the difficulty of installing the exterior antennas, would it not make more sense to use the Pepwave as the client and a dedicated dumb AP as the local WiFi? Seems like the configuration would be simpler to manage, since you would be doing everything in the Pepwave and the dumb AP would be setup-and-forget. Thoughts?

        Reply
        • I guess it depends on what you want to simplify. If you switch back and forth a lot between WiFi and LTE then having the WiFi antennas off of the Peplink cabled outside with appropriate antennas would be a good solution since it is one interface. But there are definitely features that the integrated Pepwave AP has that you would lose with a dumb AP inside. Some you could still leverage, but not all. Those that I would miss would be the guest network and setttings therein. You could still do that with another AP, but it would have to have VLAN tagging at the minimum.

          Peplink sell a line of standalone APs that I have which is pretty good, and could be controlled via the MAX that is doing the outdoor stuff, which I have used in that configuration before. It is a really good setup and you don’t lose the functionality above. I’ve had the AP One Rugged, AP One AC Mini, and the AP One Flex. They have some drawbacks in terms of performance, and the AP One AC Mini has had issues with heat.

          I think I would prefer to run a UniFi AP with the associated software which I do at around 9 other locations combined with the Peplink Balance One non-LTE router to manage the internet side, and I love that combo. The UniFi stuff is some of the best prosumer APs you can get, and would allow for all of the same features, and a much higher performing WiFi setup.

          The other challenge I’ve had is finding good quality marine external WiFi antennas. Ideally you’d want two – one for 5Ghz and one for 2.4Ghz. Each would probably run you $100 at least, plus the cabling. Then you’d need to figure out which port on the Peplink is 5 and 2.4 which on the MAX series seems to be pretty difficult. They’re not labeled that way… So might have to compromise with a pair of dual band antennas.

          Reply
  8. As I’m following your footsteps. I tripped on connecting the MikroTik through a Pepwave Max mini 1 (Cat 6).

    The Groove is up and running as per your instructions. The Pepwave Max Mini is also up and running (at the moment with 1 sim).

    I plugged in the Groove’s LAN/WAN into the MAX Mini’s LAN/WAN PoE IN and I’m trying to see if anything is happening in the PEPLINK remote web interface

    Yet I’m not sure how to add the Groove as the WiFi router?

    p.s. FYI: In your connecting the MikroTik page, I found that I had to disconnect from what ever the Groove was used for WiFi testing. After I disconnected the WiFi connection. The Groove found all kinds of other WiFi signals.

    I have also mentioned you (system designer) in my recent YouTube VLog: https://youtu.be/fadrdJd5Wok (hope you don’t mind?)

    Reply
    • You’ll have to enable the WAN port on the Peplink. By default it is usually disabled I believe, and you can drag the order of things on the main dashboard to enable it. I’d put it in Priority 2 for now until you get it configured. Once you do that, you can click on the Details button to the right of the WAN connection and configure your IP addressing. Many people simply let the Peplink get an IP address from the DHCP server on the MikroTik itself.

      Also keep in mind that by default the Peplink is going to do a health check on the Groove and mark it as “down” if it is not connected to a remote WiFi source, one of the quirks of using the MikroTik with the Peplink. You’ll have to disable that health check (also in the Details page for the WAN interface) before you can actually even login to the Groove from the Peplink.

      Reply
      • Your magic words were “WAN disabled” Found out that the MAX Mini 1 offers the LAN/WAN ports, however, you need to buy a one-time licence ($100 USD) to unlock the WAN feature. It’s not in the original firmware, nor the updates.

        Another tidbit:
        I upgraded my SURF SOHO to 8. and it now offers 5G WAN Wi-Fi coverages . . . nice !

        Reply
        • Ah yes, Peplink has some of their lower end models where you have to buy add-on features that are standard on their MAX Transit and MAX BR line. In many cases I’ve found that just upgrading to the bigger model is cheaper than paying for the addons, if you’re going to use them.

          Reply
          • …the sad thing is…I have the latest MAX BR1 mini! A step down from the Transit.

            Anyway, thank-you for sharing your knowledge, and because off that, I’m able to stay online!!

  9. Steve,
    Your articles and helpful responses to readers’ commentary are great. A not so short background before a request for LTE router activation advice:

    I have cut the cord on an unreliable shoreside cable WAN source and switched from a Pepwave SOHO MK2 to a Max BR1 MK2, which I intend to use as a sole wireless internet source for a saltwater home. The BR1 router with associated hardware may later migrate to a salt-water boat as technology evolves. I have had about 15 years of experience with wireless internet solutions using satellite, then VZN’s “Cantenna” for 4G wireless to a couple cradlepoint routers, and now since 2014 Pepwave routers with LTE(A) using inControl 2, and I too remember the frustration of networking slow baud dial up modems in the 90’s.

    I had really good results 2 years ago with a MAX HD2 Mini LTEA in another location as a sole high reliability wireless internet solution through hurricanes– so good that I realized its 2 modems were really overkill and probably unnecessary at that location; that router may also eventually migrate to another more appropriate mobile challenge in a marine environment.

    My challenge now: I have had the following dilemma with sims in the BR1– I put a Verizon unlimited data sim in it that I have used successfully for several years in an old iphone SE, and got a detailed email from Verizon that their sim on an unlimited data plan was incompatible with pepwave use; fair enough (that probably explains the Pepwave marketing that the BR1 MK2 is an “approved” VZN device). (I popped an older grandfathered _really_ unlimited VZN sim in the Max HD2 Mini for 2 yrs have had no issues; really solid.)

    To test economical carrier signals I first put a limited data Sprint sim in the BR1 MK2 when I got it at the beginning of this month having given the IMEI of the BR1 to the store clerk, and fortunately it works really well despite only a -80 to 90dBm RSSI from a distant tower across a hill. I have used the VZN sim in an iphone 8 with a stronger signal as a hotspot while I have been away travelling to back up that Sprint cellular WAN. I have been travelling most of the month so am only now able to test other sims in the router.

    Yesterday I tried a T-Mobile prepaid sim in the BR1 MK2 (which sim I had activated yesterday in the iphone 8, and I am having the same problem I had with the VZN sim– constant seeking of an IP address with no data connection. Although the T-Mobile sim moved peppy data into and out of the iphone at the router location, it will only receive texts (seen in the InControl “Sim Toolkit”) when installed in the BR1 MK2 , which toolkit I have used to try so far unsuccessfully to find a solution.

    And finally I have an inexpensive prepaid ATT unlimited data sim I want next to try to judge the signal strength here so that my evolving site survey will demonstrate which of these wireless carriers will provide the two best and most economical LTE signals for the BR1 in this stationary location [before I decide whether I need to boost the LTE signal with either a higher gain MIMO antenna (1st) or an LTE signal amplifier (2d)]. Too much detail but I want to explain my relatively limited expertise.

    So my question to you is this: is there a technique to be sure the sim activation gets into the BR1 router the proper APN, etc and the carrier gets the router’s IMEI ID, etc to enable data use within the constraints of the carrier’s plan without getting the problem I have had to date with the T-Mobile and Verizon sims? I have have explored the inControl 2 “auto” Wan Connection and Carrier Selection and Operator Selection settings as well as manual entries tailored to VZN, Sprint, and T-Mobile.

    I do not expect heavy unlimited data use, but I do have a reliable Homeseer automation system that I need to query, monitor and tweak and DC power backup for the internet solution so that during frequent absences I can check on and control environmental and security automation through infrequent but sometimes critical power outages.

    My many thanks if you can suggest optimum alternative solutions for activating the prepaid sims in the BR1 so I can test the respective carriers’ data connectivity.

    Reply
    • It sounds like you have a good plan and setup, but are having unfortunate issues with SIM cards in the BR1. I wouldn’t necessarily say that every issue you’re having is because a provider is doing something weird, or you have settings setup incorrectly.

      I use T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T on my Peplink MAX Transit/Transit Duos without any issues. The T-Mobile SIM is on a central plan and not pre-paid, and is setup specially to allow hotspot use. The AT&T SIM is through OTR Mobile, and my Verizon SIM is a pre-paid unlimited plan they used to offer a year or so ago.

      Verizon is notorious for not allowing SIMs to work without an IMEI from the device in question, but I think because of the plan this one was under, which is most likely going to be used in a hotspot, they don’t lock it. AT&T hasn’t locked things in a long time, and since I bought my SIM through OTR Mobile, who is technically the provider, and intended on using it in a hotspot, they didn’t lock that either.

      When you bought your SIMs did you buy them with a hotspot device? That’s what I see being the most reliable way to get a SIM that will work in Peplink products without calling someone.

      I’ve never changed the settings in Peplink other than forcing LTE, and preventing roaming on the Verizon and AT&T SIMs so they don’t flip over to other networks in Canada.

      Reply

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