Verizon's 4620L, a great device for the technically inclined

My family recently moved to a fairly remote area, the question of internet access has been a major one for the couple of months leading to the move. Besides satellite & dial-up, our only option was Verizon’s MiFi (3G or 4g if you’re lucky) in the form of a hotspot device: the 4620L.

I was afraid that the 4620L would try to be too smart and not let you tinker with it very much, very few decent reviews are available online and the official documentation is seriously lacking. Fortunately this couldn’t be further from the truth, it is a great little device that performs well and lets you turn all its knobs.

When using “USB tethered mode” I was afraid I’d need specific drivers and a software suite running but lo and behold, it actually just pretends to be an ethernet device over USB. Absolutely perfect to put a Linux router in front of it!

One thing that did not get properly QA’d is the “Enable DCHP Server” checkbox which simply doesn’t work. But guess what, I want to do my own routing and I’d like to avoid NATing from the 4620L to the Linux router. One way to circumvent this is to use the “Config File Download” and “Config File Upload” options which are meant as a way to backup & restore configuration but since the file is all intuitively labeled XML it’s easy to disable the DHCP server from there.

While you’re in there, you can also override the maximum number of “Available Wi-fi Connections” (5 when using 3G). They probably have this restriction so regular Joe user doesn’t hook a gazillion device and complain about speed over 3G. Reaching this limit is very easy nowadays.

A new mission

Verizon’s plan is pretty pricy and very metered… All we get is 5GB per month, each additional 1GB will cost us $10. Ouch… I need to configure the network to consume as few bytes as possible. Netflix is out, AdBlock is in, automatic updates of various types are out. Above all, my home server will now be doing some serious routing, the goal of which is to allow devices to be on the home intranet while minimizing their use of the internet.

No inbound connection

That’s right, the IP you get from Verizon is in the private range (RFC 1918), this means they are doing some NATing of their own. You can forward ports all you want on your 4620L this will have no effect. Your only option is some cumbersome hole punching.

We’ll be talking routing in a next post, I would have liked to find this information about the device & Verizon’s setup so I wanted to put it out there sooner rather than later.

6 Replies to “Verizon's 4620L, a great device for the technically inclined”

  1. Great writeup on the 4620L. I am about to be in a similar rural situation with Verizon 3G/4G, the 4620LE and a big ass 750Mhz parabolic grid antenna being my only real option for internet access.

    Something you may want to check out.. A company called Millenicom offers a “Verizon” hotspot plan with a 20GB cap for far less than what you would pay for 20GB from Verizon. They use the Verizon network, same everything. It would be a simple matter of dropping the Millenicom supplied SIM into your 4620 and off you go.

    Link: http://millenicom.com/plans/#hotspot-plan

    Nice Habey server you have. I’ll likely be constructing a fanless box of similar configuration. In your post you mention you can download & upload the 4620’s config file? Awesome!

    -Andrew

    1. Thanks!

      So I’ve since had many problems with it… I was having disconnection that progressively got worst to the point where I got a replacement. This took care of things but that’s after many months of pain. Overall, they don’t stay online very well, they require a lot of hand holding even when they are not broken. For comparison, I have an iPhone on the same network that never experiences disconnects.

      I’ve looked at alternative carriers too, I never switched because they were leasing from different carriers and you never knew who you would end up with. In my location Verizon’s got great coverage, but Sprint none so I can’t really take a leap of faith :).

      Millenicom looks really good, thank you for pointing them out! A telcom company is actually laying fiber down main street with plan for going through my street in August so I’ll just wait a little before I switch to something else. I sure as hell wish I had known about these guys before, 5GB is very easy to reach…

      So not to sound discouraging or anything but so far my experience has been that cellular networks are unreliable. Both in the sense that it gets disconnected and also in the sense that the QOS you get fluctuates heavily. Which is a problem when doing video conferencing (one of my main applications). The algorithms behind Skype & Hangouts detect your speed and align their compression to it, this is an issue when the speed changes all the time. Not being able to rely on a connected device + no way in from the outside was a bit painfull for home automation projects.

      You can indeed download the config file and re-upload it, this is a good technique for changing parameters that aren’t user facing.

      At the end of the day I’ll be very happy to ditch that 4620L but I’m glad it was around, if fiber wasn’t showing up anytime soon I’d try another hotspot device.

      What applications do you have for your internet connection? What are you going to use your fanless box for?

      1. There is a lot of information out there on the random disconnect issues with the 4620. One has to wade through the noise to find the occasional technical, reasoned posting about the issues. Some claim overheating, ipv6 authentication issues, 3G/4G switching, bad firmware etc.

        I suppose I’ll find out soon enough. Mine should be here next week. I do have the advantage of not having to rely on the connection 100% until later this year. For now, I still have my wonderful rock solid 50/10 Comcast cable connection. I’ve got 4 months to decide which way I want to go with a router, BSD or Linux. I have the luxury of being able to test 4620 and get a router box configured before I move. I own a 2nd generation Dlink DIR655 that does a fine job as a router in my present setup, however the bright souls at Dlink removed the ability to put it into bridge mode, so it will be useless hardware to me once I move. No DD-Wrt firmware for it either. I’m considering one of these for use as a firewall/router: http://www.zotacusa.com/zbox-id15.html

        Right now my connection is used for a lot of outbound audio streaming (Icecast), mostly for personal use and a few close friends. Comcast hasn’t noticed, and I keep it to reasonable level. Streaming of anything will obviously be ending with the move. I don’t plan on using the 4620 connection for anything other than email/web/irc, etc.

        I’m moving to 25 acres in very rural East Texas, up against the northwest side of the Davy Crockett National Forest. Got my work cut out for me as the previous owners left some areas of mess that really need to be cleaned up.

        Internet time will be limited. And my wife wants the chickens, cows, bees, greenhouses and garden..No need to explain to you. 😉 I’ll be busy for the rest of my life..

        I’ve really enjoyed reading your postings on the bees. Sucks about the bear. No bears in Texas, thankfully. We have plenty of coyotes that can do equal damage, along with this nice fellow who is a bigger problem for chickens than coyotes:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elaphe_obsoleta_lindheimeri

        I’m not much on blogging, but after seeing your site here I may need to start documenting my own country adventures.

        1. There is indeed a ton of information, I’ve Googled extensively. I’ve tried playing with many of the parameters without luck, I religiously updated firmware hoping for a fix, I also had a specific message in the log that I searched for. What makes the most sense given the symptoms I see is overheating.

          For a router, do you intend on creating your own rule set or do you want to install some Unix router distro? That Zotac box is awesome, second cool tip I’ve gotten from you today 🙂 I often look for small low profile boxes like these for random projects at home & at work. The Habey has been rock solid so far but I’ve had bad luck with others (I can dig up specific model number if you’re interested). I use the box as a router but also for home automation services & playing media it’s fun for many projects :).

          I don’t know about the Dlink DIR655 but maybe the code to run it in bridge mode is still there and they just removed the ability to trigger it 🙂 As with the 4620L, if you can download/upload the config file you might find something useful.

          Your move sounds really exiting! No need to explain the drive to me indeed 🙂 You should definitely start a blog, it’s becoming an obsolete art but with a few years under my belt I look at it very much like a journal so I don’t really give a crap. I also make a point of presenting information I didn’t find online (the 4620L is a perfect example of that), I get comments here and there and get to talk to people with the same centers of interest and see what they’re up to, it’s great! The first few months are boring but after a while it’s fun to look back at a corpus of your experiences. I find that the public exposure forces me to complete certain projects and present information well.

          I thought chickens were used for rattle snake control, I wrongly extrapolated that to all snakes. Here in Vermont we like chickens because they keep down the tick population. We have coyotes as well but the few I’ve seen were extremely shy.

          Let me know where you’ll publish your stuff it sounds like we can learn a lot from each other.

          take care & good luck!

          1. Looking at pfSense or ipfire for routing on the Zotac box. You bring up a good point about the Dlink. It is running some form of Linux. Once I’m not dependent on it I may start hacking at it. If I brick it, no great loss.

            Back to the 4620..apparently with Verizon you can get around the private IP issue for the paltry sum of $500…

            More detail here: http://www.evdoinfo.com/content/view/3939/64/

            Spent last night investigating WordPress, Few other online friends are telling me to put some kind of journal online to document the country happenings. Looking at something called Flatpress now. I like simple. 😉 http://flatpress.org/home/

            When I get something live I’ll post a link.

            Chickens do well for tick & flea control here too.

            Back to the grind…

          2. A while back I’ve had very good luck with a distro called ClarkConnect, they got renamed to ClearOS. It was the best Router distro I played with but that was a few years back. Now I just do my own set of IPtable rules but no traffic shaping. That’s the thing I loved about ClarkConnect, it really made traffic shaping easy.

            $500 is a no go for a static IP, especially if the device keeps disconnecting 🙂

            Flatpress looks really cool!

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