My home has ADSL and it’s a bad one

I chose my apartment for its great balcony despite the fact it was not ready for FTTX. Welcome to Côte d’Azur, France !
No VDSL opportunity either, I took an ADSL subscription being the only option left for my home internet access.

Turns out to be the worst ADSL ever witnessed.

Workaround

I noticed that the 4G of my Smartphone was very stable at home. So I used it for my Smart TV (Netflix, YouTube) over the first months using the default android tethering feature. It works like a charm.
Due to our Rick & Morty addiction, we could consume from 300GB to 400GB per months and my mobile phone data plan is limited to 100GB per month (with Free Mobile). Good but data is limited.


4G tethering, my mini fiber experience

So I looked for 4G providers (for house usage) to replace the ADSL at home…
Surprisingly, there is always a quota (200 - 400 GB per month) and that’s expensive ! Moreover, You also need to buy/rent the provider 4G router (SIM cards locked to proprietary routers, I love it). And I can’t ensure that this 4G will be as good as experienced so far with Free Mobile and my Smartphone.

Dead end in here. Unless…

Let’s Hack

Free Mobile claimed to offer unlimited 4G (for mobile) for Free ADSL/VDSL/FTTH clients a while ago. Digging a bit in forums, No clear experience of people using the 4G for intense usage.
I noticed that it was not very clear in TOS documents either. it states that ‘the service quality could be reduced anytime if I reduce the global quality of service’. Seems fair. Let’s try and see where it goes.

So I bought a second hand 4G Smartphone and took another Free Mobile subscription dedicated for home usage, linked to my ADSL subscription to activate the unlimited 4G feature. Tethered it right to the Smart TV, the biggest consumer at home by far, still using the default tethering application. I’ve also disabled the 2G, 3G bands in the Smartphone just in case.

By sending an SMS @ 555, I can retrieve my current month data consumption.

Far beyond the standard plan of 100GB, the 4G remains fast, Victory ! And Netflix runs @ 4K due to the network awesomeness.

Integration like a boss

Let’s integrate the Smartphone in my network so all my devices can use the 4G internet source through my router. It makes me able to revert back to the ADSL seamlessly if 4G goes down.

I assume I can only tether from the Smartphone using the WIFI (5GHz or 2.4GHz band, Android gives you the choice), life is too short to try the USB mode.
My DD-WRT router could be reconfigured as WIFI repeater but it takes one band busy for the repeater feature. I use a dedicated WIFI repeater to convert the 5GHz Smartphone tethering to an Ethernet 100Mbps link, that I plug right in the router.

We now have the network below:

The job is done.
The download speed of 41Mbps measured initially can be reached, but devices are bound to ~15Mbps individually, for some reason. Ping is degraded from 20ms to 40ms, not noticeable.

This crazy setup uses 4 to 5 WIFIs:

  • 1 from the 4G tethering.
  • 1 from the WIFI repeater, that I don’t use and can’t disable.
  • 2 from my DD-WRT router (2.4GHz and 5 GHz).
  • 1 from the ADSL router if I turn it on.

18 months later

I was not expecting this setup to work for so long! I only encountered 3 or 4 network outage in 18 months, resolved by rebooting the 4G Smartphone.

4G carriers use Network Address Translation, making ports forwarding impossible without using complex workarounds like VPN. UPnP does not work either.
The public IP address is changing almost each week, but remains under a consistent IP address range. Only Google’s Gmail complained about the IP once for potential security breach.


My best month

Final note

Please not that the use case in this article is against the terms and conditions of Free Mobile.
I’m bracing myself, FTTH is coming home.