Review of “4G LTE WiFi Modem” hotspot

I’ve purchased a USB dongle acting as a WiFI & 4G cellular router with a generic name “4G LTE WiFi Modem” and listed as “4G LTE WiFi Hotspot Wireless Router USB Dongle 150Mbps Modem Stick Sim Card” on the online store (Lazada) I bought it from.

4G LTE WiFi Modem unboxing

4G WiFi Modem

It’s a 3-in-1 device that works as a 4G USB dongle connected to a PC or laptop, a 4G USB WiFi cellular router/hotspot, and a USB flash drive when adding a MicroSD card.

3-in-1 LTE 4G USB Modem with Wi-Fi Hotspot
Specifications

4G performance is limited to 150Mbps DL, 50Mbps UL, while WiFi only supports up to 72 Mbps using 802.11n 2.4GHz WiFi. That’s perfectly fine for my use case, as the plan is to use it as a standalone WiFi hotspot with an unlimited 10 Mbps SIM card, and in locations with low population densities so 5GHz WiFi is not a must.

4G LTE WiFi Modem

The USB dongle ships with a user manual in English mainly explaining how to install the driver when connecting it to a Windows 10 computer. Something we’ll not need here.

4G LTE WiFi Dongle SIM card microSD card

The bottom cover has credential information for the WiFi access point (SSID: 4G-UFI-XX, password: 1234567890) and the web interface used for configuration( username: admin, password: admin).

The MAC address prefix (381C23) reveals the manufacturer should be Hilan Technology CO.,LTD, a company based in Shenzhen, China.

4G LTE WIFI modem teardown

Let’s open the device to check out the design and main components. We just need to remove three screws before popping up the two plastic shells.

4G WiFi USB Router boardThere’s a sticky metal sheet on top that should act as a shield. We can remove it to reveal all components, besides the Qualcomm RTR8605 RF Transceiver.

qualcomm usb wifi 4G router board

It’s a Qualcomm design, but the markings for the main are all but gone. The memory chip should be SK Hynix H8ACS0PE0MBR-46M.

The other side of the board comes will plenty of passive components, the SIM card and MicroSD card sockets, and Qualcomm PM8028 for the power section of the circuit.

I also inserted the USB dongle into my PC:


We can see the Vendor ID is 05C6, the product ID is F000. There are some references on the OpenWrt website, about people getting a 4G USB dongle working with an OpenWrt router, not running OpenWrt directly on it. Nevertheless, at least one of those posts mentions it’s based on a Qualcomm MDM9200 platform.

Using the 4G LTE WIFI Modem as a stand mobile hotspot

Let’s try it out. I’ve inserted a nanoSIM card through a SIM card adapter…

SIM card installation in 4G WiFI USB Dongle

and connected the device directly to a 5V USB power adapter.

4G LTE WiFi Modem review

I could not get an Internet connection the first time, only WiFi, as the SIM card was not detected. Removing it and re-inserting it did the trick, and after connecting to the 4G UFI_XXX SSID, I immediately got Internet access, no configuration required at all.

4G UFI_XXX SSID

That’s awesome. But let’s check out the web interface going to HTTP://192.168.100.1…

4G WiFi Modem web interface mobile
Qualcomm 4G WiFi router-configuration interface

Not quite a modem responsive design web interface, and it’s a pain to use on mobile, so let’s switch to a desktop web browser instead.

4G Router Mobile WiFICopyright “2014 Qualcomm”. This thing may run an old firmware from a Qualcomm SDK, and they did not modify anything. Don’t expect much security from the dongle, and it may be easy to hack. Let’s login.
Qualcomm 4G WiFi Hotspot web interfaceThere are five main items with Home, 4G Settings, Wi-Fi Settings, Station, and Help Information. The Home section shows the list of clients and data statistics.

change password

Better change the admin password before check out the 4G settings…4G settingsNow that’s really odd because I’m based in Thailand and connect with a DTAC SIM card, while here it shows the network as being “China Unicom (3gnet)”. The dongle will probably automatically acquired the right network name and APN, but not update it in the settings.

Qualcomm Wi-Fi security Qualcomm WiFi profilesAs one should expect, the interface will allow us to change the Network Name (SSID), as well as the password. After changing both, clicking Apply and Reset, it would still reconnect to the old SSID, but removing and reinserting the dongle work, and I could use the new credentials.

The reasons I decided to get this 4G USB dongle and WiFI hotspot are that it’s small and cheap (around $14 shipped), and I was not satisfied with the performance stability of using my Android phone as a WiFi hotspot, and installing my SIM card into a PinePhone to use it as a mobile hotpost proved to provide good performance when it works, but 4G would disconnect regularly requiring a reboot, or several to get a connection.

As already mentioned, I have a 10 Mbps data plan, so I would have assumed the 4G USB WiFi dongle to reach 9 to 10 Mbps, but it’s a disappointment.

4G hotspot speedtest

Moving the USB dongle in the same room seems to improve things a bit, but again short of expectations.

SpeedTest 4G LTE WiFI Modem USB Hub

I’m now at home where I mostly use Fiber-to-the-Home (300/100Mpbs), but I’d usually get around 9-10 Mbps with Speedtest using my Android phone in another house where I don’t have broadband Internet. So for comparison, let’s install the SIM card into the phone, set it up as a hotspot, and run Speedtest from my computer again.

Speedtest Android hotspot

The results are better, although the upload speed is under 4 Mbps. Note that results vary quite a lot between runs.

[Update: August 26, 2021. I’ve now moved to another location with a better cellular signal. 96% instead of 57% as shown on Pinephone, and ran Speedtest again with the “4G LTE WiFi modem” router with the same SIM card, and results are pretty good.

It’s maxing out the speed of the SIM card. So it looks like it’s just the dongle does not handle a relatively weak cellular signal well, at least compared to a phone, but when the signal is strong it performs as expected.]

Conclusion

The good things about the “4G LTE WiFi Modem” USB adapter are that it’s basically plug-and-play, and when the cellular signal is good, it works as expected, and is just as good as a phone. Its low price is also a plus but note that it runs an outdated OS and performance is underwhelming when the cellular signal is not that strong, compared to running the hotspot in a phone at the same location. The same device is sold on Aliexpress for $11.99 with a fair amount of reviews, most of which are positive. But it looks like people are using it as a USB modem rather than a WiFi hotspot.

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22 Comments
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maurer
maurer
1 month ago

@cnx-software, yes I also recommend to use it as a modem only – just use any small sbc from your reviews that has a case – rpi4 would be overkill but would provide the best performance and you’ll be good to go

itchy 'n' scratchy
itchy 'n' scratchy
1 month ago

Having a Huawei dongle myself with similar specs, never faced troubles. But honestly mostly used it plugged into an openwrt router, just using the native wifi for guest access.

Price was 3 to 4 times of course

maurer
maurer
1 month ago

it’s a pity to use the pinephone as a hotspot only device…

Milkboy007
Milkboy007
1 month ago

based on my own experience, if you want to get better speed, you need to get bigger mifi modem with a build in battery.

i currently have 2 devices, mv003 modem w/battery and xidol k5188(2019 version of your modem),
on the same network and location;
mv003 can reaches ~30Mbps, or ~3MB/s
while xidol k5188 only reaches at most 8Mbps, or ~1MB/s

itchy 'n' scratchy
itchy 'n' scratchy
1 month ago

Never felt a difference between Huawei 4G dongle and the modem with the powerbank though

Milkboy
Milkboy
1 month ago

Huawei 4G dongle & my modem w/ battery are probably better designed than the USB LTE modem like jean & mine.

I mean, no RF/EMI shielding, and that is the only visible parts.
i also just noticed PCB antennae (wifi? i think) has been simplified,2017 from 2 path paterned, to 2021 one a single straight path. (the one beside the broadcom chip)
who knows what else they change year after year to reduce cost at the expense of performance.

also my test spot is like 100M from the tower with minimal obstruction.
hence the higher bandwith

luca
luca
1 month ago

Do you think that you can connect a pigtail for an external antenna to the connector on the lower left? Is there only one (i.e. no diversity)?

TLS
TLS
1 month ago

That’s actually not an antenna connector, it’s a test point. I.e. something along the lines of this https://www.mouser.com/new/murata/murataswg/
However, there’s a solder pad for an antenna connector right next to it.

Milkboy007
Milkboy007
1 month ago

actually the earlier generation has a pigtail port right beside test point you mention, the unsoldered space on the left.(if i remembered correctly)

but man do they cheap out this time. not even rf shielding. That’ll definitely impact RF perf.

2019 version still have a proper metal shield, no pigtail port (my current device).
>~2017 has a pigtail port and RF sheild , see picture

c9ced45db0ca6978229ba8c427bb54191.jpeg
Theguyuk
Theguyuk
1 month ago

Why not ask a few companies for examples to review on your site? Then keep the one that works ? ? ?
You could provide regular updates of the traveling performance, in the field.

David Jashi
1 month ago

Utterly upsetting results. My ancient Huawei E8372 shows up to 50 mbps on Telekom when I am alone, and once I stress-tested it by serving YouTube streaming via Wi-Fi to a full van of school kids (7 seats excluding driver). But it is 6 times more expensive, though.

TLS
TLS
1 month ago

I think you misread on the chip you couldn’t identify, it ought to be an RTR8605 RF Transceiver Circuit from Qualcomm.

TLS
TLS
1 month ago

It’s also a bit peculiar they went for a Broadcom (now Cypress/Infineon) Wi-Fi chip https://www.cypress.com/documentation/datasheets/bcm43362-single-chip-ieee-80211-bgn-macbasebandradio-sdio

TLS
TLS
1 month ago

You can read it on the chip in your pictures…
It’s between the USB port and the RF transceiver.

Rogan Dawes
Rogan Dawes
1 month ago

Any idea what OS it is actually running under the hood? You mention running OpenWrt on the stick itself, that’s something I’d be interested in personally.

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