29/07/2015

Huawei E5776s-32 MiFi and Cellhire SIM

MiFi devices have been available for some time and Huawei seem to be the market leader. They act as a local WiFi hotspot and allow other devices to connect to them and they connect to the Internet over a GSM/GPRS/3G or 4G network.

Initially MiFi units were quite simplistic, but they now have quite a lot of functionality built-in and can be configured through a web interface.

Huawei's new E5776s-32 supports a 4G connection and 2.4 Ghz at B,G and N. It has a funky monochrome LCD screen and takes a TS9 connector for an external antenna allowing for extra radio sensitivity. The manual with the device claims the following:

  • offers up to 6 hours of working time and up to 300 hours of standby
  • supports 10 WiFi clients
  • provides up to 150 Mbps 4G LTE and 43.2 Mbps 3G download
  • supports 2.4 GHz and 5GHz WiFi 802.11b/g/n
  • features menu-style LCD UI with support for multiple languages

In testing, the device didn't support WiFi over 5GHz, but maybe this will come later with a firmware update. The unit is configured through a web page access through a browser on a connected device.

The 4G connection is a class Cat 4 giving the unit a maximum throughput of 150Mbps on the mobile radio interface along with 150Mbps/s for the N wireless so should allow for decent bandwidth through the unit. The settings are easy to configure withou too much baffling information and so it should only take 5 mins to get up and running.

It's customary to test units in an urban environment where 4G is well established but there is also a lot of Wi-Fi around, much of which is free. In order to do a more useful test, the MiFi was taken to Wales. The unit was placed into the glove box of the car with the external antenna connection to an aerial on a magnetic mount stuck to the outside of the car. This gave an incar hotspot for the duration of the trip. The Huawei gave a very good signal for most of the journey where as the Note 4 would indicate a poor signal. Doing a straight comparison between the phone and the signal with the Huawei and aerial showed that in every location the E5776s got a better signal.

There were some times where it looked like there was enough signal through the mobile phone network for the E5776s but phone and latop refused to connect to the E5776s for periods of up to 10 minutes, the phone showing that is was waiting for the internet quality to improve, but this may well have been a congested cell in Vodafone's network or other network issue. Generally though it was worth using the superior connection of the MiFi.

In conclusion it makes sense to use the Huawei MiFi in rural areas with an external aerial so it can handle the connection to the mobile network and devices connect over WiFi. If it's your mobile phone connected the battery will last noticeably longer as it won't have to use battery power talking to cells that are a long distance away.

The MiFi came with a Cellhire SIM which allows International roaming for a fixed cost (though not particularly cheap), the SIM is guaranteed to work abroad and cost are capped which is more suited to the business traveller. As the SIMs are 3G and 4G you'll get access to those networks when travelling, quite a lot of consumer services only give access to slower 2G networks.

Urban situation 4/10 Everywhere else 8/10