Zyxel LTE bridge and Linksys Velop Mesh Wi-Fi won't play well

Perc

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As my parents are losing their wired broadband, I had to come up with another solution that works in a rural area with spotty coverage. I decided to do things properly and get a Linksys Velop Mesh wi-fi for inside the house and a Zyxel combined modem and directional antenna that goes on the roof. The idea behind the modem on the roof instead of an external directional antenna is that you don't have 10 meters of coaxial cable where you lose whatever you gain by fitting the directional antenna in the first place. The ZyXEL LTE7490 is as far as I can make out pretty much as good as it gets, and it better be, for the price. It's not a consumer device, really.

It's been as rock solid as 4G gets for weeks now but the internet was spotty this morning so dad power cycled the extension cord that powers the box on the roof (via PoE) and the mesh node that has the wired connection going into it. There's an LED on the modem itself that shows when there's a working WAN connection and it always comes up about a minute after power comes on. The Velop wouldn't get an IP address after that though.

I'm assuming the Velop does some clever behind the scenes diagnostics or something at bootup that doesn't quite play well with the LTE modem, or maybe the LTE modem does something clever that the Velop doesn't understand. What I do know is that the LTE modem is set to bridge and we're paying extra for a public (dynamic) IP address for this connection and when the Velop does manage to get an IP address (which it has now) it's an actual WAN address.

Does anyone have experience with either of these two things?
 

Quiky

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I've used Cradlepoint and other LTE modems-- most are just daughter-board PCI-E modems attached to an embedded *nix board.
Are you using the Linksys as the router/NAT gateway, or is that being handled by the modem? If you aren't getting an IP or spotty communication, I'd check for damage to the PoE cable or connectors to start.
 

Perc

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The Velop mesh system is the router/nat gateway. The LTE modem is just a bridge that delivers WAN down the ethernet cable. I could switch things around and use the LTE modem as the router, but I'd rather use the Velop system because it has QoS and things.

I doubt there's anything wrong with the cabling - I routed and crimped the 15 meter PoE run up to the roof myself after all :p, my chinesium testing tool shows all eight leads are fine and it's been working fine for weeks. As it's doing now, once it managed to come back online. It took from early morning to noon until it suddenly came back online. This would all be so much easier if I had been out there and able to plug my laptop straight into the LTE bridge but all I know is mom's words "the LTE box on the roof is green, but the white wifi thing blinks red". :(

The Velop system is stable and provides great coverage and does updates automatically and all that, but the configurability leave something to be desired. It's all done via an app and there are zero tinkering possibilities. It also seems to do a bunch of stuff behind the scenes, particularly at bootup.

The cellular provider didn't see anything wrong with the towers in the area today. I did manage to get hold of an actual geek on the other end - I logged in via our company's admin portal where I have control over all our cellular plans and hit the support chat. He told me which tower it's been connected to over the last few days, which frequency bands it's been using etc. Awesome stuff, compared to the usual first-level guys and gals you get. And the SIM card in the LTE modem doesn't even belong to the company, but it's the same provider.
 

killpanda

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You don't want to use the Velop in Bridge mode, it becomes an even piece of garbage than it is in router mode.

I've set up my parents' Internet connection with a Ubiquiti EdgeRouter for their internet, which is totally overkill I know but it's now rock-solid, set up the Velop devices in bridge mode, and connected most of the nodes to the network with a wire. Even though it's a totally supported mode by the Velop system, it just goes in full "don't know what to do" mode where it thinks it's still distributing IP addresses and can't access the internet or something, so they're always flashing the light in Red and the Velop app can't connect to them most of the time.

At the end of the day, the connection is stable enough, but it makes troubleshooting troublesome... Just today one of the nodes decided it didn't want to accept their WiFi password out of the blue, the app couldn't really do much to help them so I had to VPN to the house and reapply the WiFi settings to get it working again.
 

Perc

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I was originally going to buy an Ubiquiti mesh system, but realized at the last minute that the Ubiquiti nodes didn't have wired ethernet. I needed the nodes to have that because one of them is behind the TV delivering CAT5 to the IPTV box. Hence the last-minute switch to Linksys which I assumed would be a trusted name in the business.
 

killpanda

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I recommended them to get the normal APs from Ubiquiti, which have wires, but they got spooked by the fact that it’s technically “pro” hardware, so they went with the Velop. Really though, the ubnt stuff isn’t super hard to get running and then you never really have to take care of it once it’s running. But now I’m the one who has to fix the Velop when it breaks anyway :p
 

Perc

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So their internet was down again. Last time it crapped out mom was home... and trying to do office work over the connection. Her iPhone on the same provider dropped from 4G to bad 3G at the same time, which probably isn't good when I've forced the LTE bridge to 4G only.

This time they found out it was dead once they got home from work, but they didn't tell me until it was too late at night for me to jump in the car and drive the 30 minutes out to their house. They managed to get it up and running by turning the parent node and the LTE bridge off for a couple of minutes, then powering the LTE bridge on again, letting it boot up properly, and THEN turning the parent node on.

The Velop clearly doesn't know what to do whenever there's a hiccup and just sits there drooling until someone kicks it in the shins. And not just any kick, but a special kind of kick that means several minutes of waiting. This is not what I expected from a 300+€ wifi setup.

I guess the Zyxel could be the issue here but somehow I doubt it. When something is weatherproof, bolted to a steel pipe and powered by PoE, I trust that whoever made it has made sure it can handle the occasional network hiccup.

Meanwhile, we have a perfectly normal consumer-grade Huawei 4G router at the cottage delivering wi-fi to a surveillance camera. Works absolutely flawlessly.
 
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Perc

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So, I think I fixed the problem. By throwing more money at it, obviously.

I've been looking at various professional mesh products like HP Aruba and Ubiquiti something or other, but nothing really looked interesting. I dug around on verkkokauppa where I bought the 4G hardware and found out that they now are selling a bundle with a simlar Zyxel 4G modem and a Zyxel Multy mesh network. If these aren't meant to work together, then what is? So i got the pair of Zyxel Multy U mesh routers which was sold separately and at a really nice price too.

The Multy U hardware has a really silly design - it comes with a leather strap to hang it from the wall... yes, really. Alternatively, you can put it on a table using a wobbly plastic stand that's a friction-fit inside a rubberized part on the router itself. You can't just lay it down on a table because the power and ethernet jacks are all underneath the thing.

Design silliness aside it seems to work fine and it handles a power outage like you'd expect. Hopefully it'll handle a problematic network connection as well.

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Perc

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One of the few redeeming features of the Velop system is that the app has speedtest.net built in. The actual speedtest is handled on the router and not in the app, which means you can do some basic remote diagnostics when your parents call you to ask why "the internet" is slow.

The Multy app has speedtest as well, but it's done in the actual app so you need to actually be connected to the wi-fi you're testing. I tried it out last night and wondered why their 4G speeds suddenly had quintupled before I realized it was speedtesting my 250Mbit cable connection.
 
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