Posted by: kurtsh | May 25, 2013

INFO: Maintaining a connection on the Verizon Novatel MIFI 4510L

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I have a business “MiFi” – a mobile hotspot – that provides Internet access anywhere I need it.  It’s usually 4G LTE speeds (8.5Mbps down/6.5Mbps up) but sometimes it drops down to 3G speed, giving 2.0Mbps/1.2Mbps max.

THE PROBLEM:  NON-RESPONSIVE
Put simply, the thing drops its connection to the 4GLTE network – or at least stops working.  If I turn the device on and connect to it from my laptop, it will work for a while, then suddenly after some amount of usage, usually after a pause of sorts, I can’t surf the web at all.  Even though the WiFi connection works, it seems to be completely non-responsive.  Most of the same issues I’ve had are documented here:
https://community.verizonwireless.com/thread/700187/

The root cause was hinted at here:
https://community.verizonwireless.com/thread/534516?start=70&tstart=0

Apparently, the device seems to go into a ‘sleep mode’ when there’s no traffic over the connection, and there’s no way to turn off the sleep mode.  The only way to get the connection working is to turn it off and turn it on again.  There also appears to be issues with it getting warm and “halting”.  I’ve updated the firmware and that didn’t fix any of the problems.

imageMY SOLUTION:  MAINTAINING A VPN
A user in the support forums mentioned that his MiFi dies the moment he stops using his stock trading application with generates a lot of traffic.  That was what gave me the idea, “Why not just run something that constantly communicates over the connection?”

That’s sort of what VPNs do.  They establish secure connections and keep the connections alive with occasional traffic.  The session NEVER goes dormant and that’s exactly what it sounded like I needed.  Sure enough, if I establish a VPN using Anonymizer or my company’s VPN solution (Microsoft’s SSTP VPN solution) the connection NEVER, EVER drops. 

This little discovery was downright revolutionary for me.

SOLUTIONS:

  1. CORPORATE VPN
    If your employer has a VPN solution set up, that’s an easy way to establish a VPN solution.  Of course, if you don’t want your employer to monitor your person Internet activity, then this isn’t an option.
  2. ANONYMIZER?
    I pay $79 annually to use Anonymizer, a secure OpenVPN (or L2TP/IPSec VPN) that leverages a random VPN server somewhere around the world.  By rotating the VPN server used & the IP address segment leveraged, it’s a different VPN server every time I connect and clears its logs within 24 hours while providing a 256-bit secure, anonymous connection.  For folks that are tired of being tracked based on your IP address, really ought to sign up for a simple $79 subscription.  The overhead isn’t that bad and it keeps your communications secure – especially over open wireless services like those at coffee shops & hotel networks.
  3. KEEP ALIVE TOOLS?
    In theory, you shouldn’t really need a VPN.  Any HTTP keep alive tool should work.  Ironically, this was a problem a long time ago with DIAL UP connections that would drop – usually associated with America Online connections – so people would run tools to keep their connections up.   I haven’t tested this but you might find this tool works as well as I believe it simulates HTTP/Internet usage.  YMMV.
    STAY ALIVE (FREE)
    http://www.stayaliveonline.com/download.html

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