I wanted broadband at my holiday caravan in Norfolk. Some sites offer WiFi but at the time mine didn’t. It does now but is quite expensive, slow, and limited to one device so I’m sticking with my original solution.
I used the Ofcom mast finder (unfortunately now discontinued) to investigate the nearby cells. The news wasn’t good. The only UTMS cell nearby was a Three one 2.6 miles away. Everything else within range was GSM only. My Android mobile phone was on Three and access to the cell from inside the caravan was pretty hit and miss. It was just about viable to hang the phone in a window and use it as a hotspot but this was pretty slow so I decided to buy an external antenna. I could have chosen either a yagi or a panel and decided on the panel.
The only MiFi type device I could find with an external antenna port was the Huawei E586E. This uses a CRC9 connector which has a poor mechanical design. I drilled and cut a right angle plastic furniture block to support the connector and hold it in place with a hair bobble – a worthy bodge as it actually works quite well.
This setup has served me well. I started off using PAYG SIMs bought on eBay but have now moved over to a 30day contract SIM which attracted cashback equivalent to over two months payments from TopCashBack and as I will only need it for half of the year this works out pretty economical.
I’ve had a period of about a week in all when it kept remaining connected to the cell but the internet wasn’t working and I had to manually disconnect and reconnect. Calling Three support proved to be a waste of time. I found they had a Facebook support page but the response I got from that was laughable…
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Move to 4G
I got a free Huawei 5573S with a later sim but was stuck with 3G as that was all Three were offering. I then found that EE were providing 4G from the same cell location and got one of their sims to replace the Three one. The panel antenna was not working well on 4G so I tried a cheap WiMo panel from eBay which was marginally better. I realised that the cell must be using the 800MHz LTE band 20 so I bought a short TV log periodic and trimmed the first half dozen elements down a bit to improve its high frequency performance. The result is a pretty good 4G setup at low cost.