If you have Fast internet in the US, it’s probably because you live in the right part of a major city. The rest of us understand, well … this cable title of the 2007 sums is very good: “Rural America will never have a fast Internet.” Out here, we get the remains. These days, with 3G almost closed, this is nothing or, if you’re lucky, like me, 4G service.
Rural 4G service is essentially your phone plan, unless you have to use it for everything. It’s always measured (Google Fi offers 50 gigabytes a month “unlimited”, which is what I’ve been using lately). It’s usually slow, compared to something like wired or fiber internet available elsewhere.
One thing I have found that can really get a little more out of these poor quality connections is a good 4G modem. I’ve tried half a dozen now and I’m working on a guide, but Gl.inet’s Spitz 4G LTE router is one of the best. With less than $ 200, it’s relatively affordable.
Alone with a telephone
In rural South Carolina, many of my neighbors get along with their phones, either as a primary computer device or using it as a hot spot. The phone as a hot spot works, and for some it may work well enough, but in my case my phone doesn’t get much reception inside. I’ve come to rely on 4G routers, which tend to have larger antennas and get better reception.
Gl.inet’s Spitz 4G router is similar to many other routers in our guide, albeit smaller. It’s not until you open it and find the SIM card slot that you even know it’s a 4G router. There’s also a place for a microSD card (up to 128 gigabytes) so you can use it as a media server if you want. The slot fits a micro SIM.
I tried the Spitz with a variety of SIM cards from different carriers and MVNOs (which you’ll need, if you’re serious about having connectivity here in pencil). I initially tried a T-Mobile SIM and an AT&T SIM, but I also got it to work with a Google Fi nano SIM by carefully aligning it with the slot. I don’t recommend it in the long run, but it works while you’re waiting for your SIM card adapter kit ($ 4) to arrive, and you’ll need to use a Google Fi chip or another nanometer-sized SIM chip. Gl.inet has a guide to setting up Google Fi on Spitz.
The included LTE antennas manage to pick up the signal that my phone can’t, but it would be nice to have some MIMO ports to connect an external MIMO antenna. Otherwise, however, the hardware is simple and small. There are five LEDs at the top that show power status, WAN connection, 2.4 Ghz and 5 Ghz activity, and LTE connection status. At the back is a power port, as well as LAN and WAN plugs for cable networks.
Once you’ve inserted your SIM card, connect to the Wi-Fi network and point your web browser to the Spitz administration page. That’s a big part of what makes the Spitz very powerful. Backstage, Spitz uses open source modem OpenWRT firmware, which allows you to use some access tools and features that are typically only found on much more expensive routers, such as VPN access, network blocking, ad blocking, parental controls, time-based controls. , and much more.
Gl.inet uses custom skin, so if you’re familiar with OpenWRT, what you get with Spitz will be slightly different. All the features are there, and you can install anything you want, but things may be slightly different from what you’re used to.