Guide: How to create a home network using cellular data.

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COVID-19 has affected the way people work, including me.

My partner and I have been feeling extra claustrophobic in our Washington, DC apartment so we decided to take a trip up to her family’s mountain house in upstate New York. We spent a long weekend up there with little to no cellular service and no home internet access. It was great to be away from the crowded and tight hallways of our apartment complex, away from people out and about. We felt safe being so distant from others. We wish we could stay up in the mountains for a longer amount of time. We wish we could work online in the remote mountains. The hurdle? Getting internet.

Step One, the search for an LTE modem.

I went down a rabbit-hole. It’s one of my guilty pleasures, researching obscure solutions to specific problems. I spent so much time going through google searches, bookmarking ideas, scouring amazon. There are two resources that I found immensely important. Reddit, and an awesome youtube channel that specifies in mobile internet for people living out or vans.

I was able to post my question on Reddit and got a good amount of people responded! Responses varied from…” you can’t get internet unless you drop 1k on this crazy modem that looks like a drone” to “well, you might get the internet”. Most Redditors recommended a particular LTE modem: The Netgear M1 Nighthawk.

I kept reading comments, posts, and articles about the Nighthawk and I realized it was not the solution for me. The premium price for the Nighthawk is because of its killer feature: It can go anywhere, easily. I didn’t need to be that mobile, my case needed a modem that would be stationary. I need a modem that will be the internet source for a house, not a van. I started looking for alternatives and found a solution: The Netgear LB1120, It might not be as sleek as the Nighthawk but it got the job done.

Ain’t pretty but got the job done.

The LB1120 needs a few more components, though. The Nighthawk can double as a wifi router, the LB1120 cannot. Since the LB is more of a home modem it needs a home wifi router. So I bought a pretty good and cheap router from amazon, a TP-Link (oddly, has gone up in price from when I purchased it). I also bought a Mimo antenna from the recommendations of Mobile Internet Resource Center (they are an amazing resource). Now, all that remained was the data plan.

Step two, the data plan

Finding the right data plan, this process was more of a leap of faith than anything. AT&T was the carrier on my phone, and I was able to get cell service outside of the cabin, just not inside. I went down another rabbit hole of researching cell towers, coverage maps, and Reddit posts.

Data plans are expensive and don’t provide many gigabits of usage. I wanted to go big, I wanted unlimited. The problem: AT&T and most big carriers don’t really offer an unlimited hotspot data plan. I was getting frustrated and confused on what to do. Until a Redditor recommended a company named Boom Mobile, and Boom had the perfect plan for me. Best part? No contract.

From a first glance, Boom Mobile looks sketchy. How are they offering an unlimited data plan for only $60? (this plan does not exist anymore unless you are grandfathered in, keep an eye on Boom because they often add unlimited plans for hotspots) I’m not sure how but it worked and they answered all of my questions, their customer service team is fantastic. A customer service rep reassured me that video calls will work on their service and if I have a VPN that video streaming will not downgrade in quality.

Step three, putting it to the test

The hotspot was configured, the wifi router was set up, the data plan was in my hand. Was this month-long journey of research going to work or did I just end up wasting too much time and money? The modem lit up with two bars of service. My computer connected to the wifi. Google loaded. It worked, we had mobile internet. I opened up my terminal and ran a speed test. 15mbps download, 4mbps upload. Enough to work from a cabin in the mountains.

I hope someone finds this obscure guide useful!

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