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Old 01-24-2015, 11:40 AM   #1
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Pantech hotspot troubles

This is for those of you who have the Pantech MHS291LVW hotspot, with wireless data service first via Millenicom then Verizon, when the two companies severed their relationship. For the past few months my data service over the hotspot had been intermittent, with a weak data signal from the cellphone tower. It seemed to happen only at home, which made me thing the problem was with the network rather than the hotspot. But it turns out it was a bad hotspot. I had assumed the hotspot was bad it would fail altogether and not behave the way it did. So if your data service is giving trouble, look at replacing the hotspot. It's probably not the tower.
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Old 01-24-2015, 11:57 AM   #2
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We had a similar issue although with a dsl modem. Kept needing to be restarted. Repair tech was here for something else and I mentioned it. He switched it out with a different make; what a difference. No problems at all.

With all wireless devices they are subjected to much more physical movements than the home ones are. I used to sell a lot of these devices when I had wireless stores and they kept constantly improving them. We just use our phones as hotspots when we want to run our tablet, however am aware that for some who need to use a good amount in a concentrated time the battery life can be an issue.
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Old 01-24-2015, 12:20 PM   #3
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Two things fooled me about the cause of the problem: (1) the dropouts were intermittent and (2) it seemed to happen only at home. I owe some Verizon techs an apology, since I called a half-dozen times about it. At least I was polite, if ignorant. Finally the last tech I talked to suggested I try another hotspot, as they have a 14-day return policy. I did, and this worked. Dang.

The replacement hotspot is a Novatel 6620L. Its cellular performance seems okay, but it appears to have a weak wifi signal, and it has no external antenna connections. I may return to the Verizon store and shop around for a bit for a different model.
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Old 01-24-2015, 03:30 PM   #4
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Having worked with wireless devices in bridge mode, such as building to building I learned the value of a good antenna. There are numerous designs and models for different purposes. It really helps a device if you can attach an external antenna, even if it has a built in external antenna.
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Old 01-24-2015, 06:03 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by fudge_brownie View Post
Having worked with wireless devices in bridge mode, such as building to building I learned the value of a good antenna.
Boy, I wish I had your networking skills. Getting one thing to talk to another thing has always been a challenge for me.

So here's an update-- I went back to the Verizon store and saw that they had only one more choice, an Ellipse, which I think is their own brand. It has two small sockets that might be antenna ports, but the young woman who helped me had no idea. However, this hotspot only works with 4G and nothing else, so I figured it would be bad for camping in remote areas. I decided I was stuck with the Novatel.

I leave the hotspot in my truck, parked in front of my house, and use it as an access point for the devices in my house when I'm home. The wifi signal is weak and occasionally drops out inside the house. So I found a Netgear "wifi extender", essentially a repeater, and put it in a front window. This seems to help with signal strength alright, but I'll give it a few days to see if it stops my wifi from dropping out.
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Old 01-24-2015, 06:53 PM   #6
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I agree that an external antenna is a good idea; it's even better if the antenna is available. My mobile hotspot is a Sierra Wireless Aircard 763s (now from NetGear). It has jacks to connect external antennas (such as the NetGear MIMO Antenna), but none of the mobility stores which sell the device (such as Telus where I got it) have antennas for it, and most of the staff don't even understand the concept of adding an antenna.

I dislike buying stuff online from suppliers without reasonable shipping, especially if I don't know if it's the right product. Since mobile devices only last a few years, it's also annoying to find and buy accessories which likely won't work with the next device.
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Old 01-24-2015, 07:07 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Mike Lewis View Post
I went back to the Verizon store and saw that they had only one more choice, an Ellipse, which I think is their own brand. It has two small sockets that might be antenna ports, but the young woman who helped me had no idea. However, this hotspot only works with 4G and nothing else, so I figured it would be bad for camping in remote areas.
"Ellipsis" seems to the be house brand at Verizon, and they call the mobile hotspots "Jetpack" (the way Rogers calls whatever they are selling at the moment a "Rocket"). The Ellipsis Jetpack selection includes a MiFi 6620L and a MiFi 5510L which are multi-band; the MHS800L is LTE-only and thus the one to avoid.
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Old 01-24-2015, 08:42 PM   #8
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"Ellipsis" seems to the be house brand at Verizon, and they call the mobile hotspots "Jetpack" (the way Rogers calls whatever they are selling at the moment a "Rocket"). The Ellipsis Jetpack selection includes a MiFi 6620L and a MiFi 5510L which are multi-band; the MHS800L is LTE-only and thus the one to avoid.
The 6620L is the one I have now; it is made by Novatel, and so is the 5510L according to its manual. The MHS800L is the one I looked at today at the Verizon store; it was branded "Ellipsis". The 6620L has a port called a "Test Port" in the manual, but it is the same interface as the antenna ports on my Pantech. I'll guess that a "test port" would accept an RF signal, so I wonder if I can attach an antenna to it. Now watch me break the thing...
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Old 01-24-2015, 09:22 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Brian B-P View Post
"Ellipsis" seems to the be house brand at Verizon, and they call the mobile hotspots "Jetpack" (the way Rogers calls whatever they are selling at the moment a "Rocket"). The Ellipsis Jetpack selection includes a MiFi 6620L and a MiFi 5510L which are multi-band; the MHS800L is LTE-only and thus the one to avoid.
Mine is the Verizon/Pantech MHS291LVW like the OP. It's 3G or 4G, is dual band, and has antenna connections for both. It also has Global LTE Roaming support and GPS. They no longer offer the 6620L where I live, and I was a bit disappointed in that until I got the 291L. It's battery life is way better and the signal is great.

http://www.pantechusa.com/modems/jet...obile-hotspot/
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Old 01-24-2015, 10:20 PM   #10
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The 6620L is the one I have now; it is made by Novatel, and so is the 5510L according to its manual. The MHS800L is the one I looked at today at the Verizon store; it was branded "Ellipsis".
Yes, "MiFi" is Novatel's line of mobile hotspots - my first mobile hotspot was a Novatel MiFi (I think a 2372, now obsolete). According to Verizon's website they call them all "Ellipsis", whether they say that on the device or not; in this case the manual is branded both Verizon and Jetpack, but not Ellipsis.

That "test port" on the 6620L (datasheet) with an antenna connector is a strange feature - the manual confirms that it is a test/diagnostics port, not intended for an external antenna. I hope it works for you, Mike.
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Old 01-24-2015, 11:26 PM   #11
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Well, I just discovered that there is an antenna for the 6620L, after all:

http://www.amazon.com/Novatel-Wirele...PTT1A7JK9D22CQ

It must connect to that port. So if this hotspot will take an antenna, I'll keep the one I used for the Pantech handy in case I need it.
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Old 01-25-2015, 11:15 AM   #12
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Another solution for hotspots hat don't have an antenna connection is to use them with a Wilson Sleek. Far more gain available than with an external antenna alone. I use one, combined with Wilson's short trucker antenna, although I will be switching to a WirEng BoatAnt in the spring - it is easier to remove so I can put my cover on the trailer for the winter.

With the Sleek, I have been able to get as much as 23db gain over the hotspot alone. Makes a big difference when you are in a poor signal area.

As to the Pantech MHS291, the reason you don't see it advertised is Pantech filed for bankruptcy. I have the 291, and like it, although the battery has caused problems for me & others. It swells to the point where it pushes the back off the unit. I replaced mine & now have a spare.

The RV Mobile Internet Resource Center (run by a couple of RVers) has a posting comparing the Verizon Hotspots.
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Old 01-25-2015, 11:44 AM   #13
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Another solution for hotspots hat don't have an antenna connection is to use them with a Wilson Sleek. Far more gain available than with an external antenna alone. I use one, combined with Wilson's short trucker antenna, although I will be switching to a WirEng BoatAnt in the spring - it is easier to remove so I can put my cover on the trailer for the winter.

With the Sleek, I have been able to get as much as 23db gain over the hotspot alone. Makes a big difference when you are in a poor signal area.

As to the Pantech MHS291, the reason you don't see it advertised is Pantech filed for bankruptcy. I have the 291, and like it, although the battery has caused problems for me & others. It swells to the point where it pushes the back off the unit. I replaced mine & now have a spare.

The RV Mobile Internet Resource Center (run by a couple of RVers) has a posting comparing the Verizon Hotspots.
There were several bad batches of batteries used on the MHS291. I lucked out and got the newer series and have had zero problems with it. They all seem to have the same part number though, so it's hard to tell if yours is affected unless you have problems. Mine is marked BTR291B, 3.8V Li-ion Typ 4040 MAh / Min 3900 mAh Typ 15.4 Wh / Min 14.8 Wh.

And a good point about the sleek. We had ETI install it and it's connected to the roof mounted Wilson Antenna. We won't be fiddling with the tiny antenna connectors on the JetPack itself. Also makes it easier to remove and take with you away from the trailer when you need a hotspot. Good to hear some real world numbers about the dB gain Jon. Maybe we made the right decision for once.
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Old 01-25-2015, 01:49 PM   #14
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The RV Mobile Internet Resource Center (run by a couple of RVers) has a posting comparing the Verizon Hotspots.
Thanks for that link, Jon, it's very useful. Their article on the Pantech reminded me to try to run my Novatel 6620L without its battery, with power coming only from the charger. As with the Pantech, this unfortunately didn't work. Oh well.

As for the Wilson Sleek, I was concerned its cradle might aggravate the Pantech's battery issues, so I didn't buy one. But since I have a new hotspot I might get a Sleek before my next trip. I'd rather have an amp in-line on the antenna line, but Wilson's in-line model is substantially more expensive than the Sleek.
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Old 01-25-2015, 05:09 PM   #15
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I previously had a 3G only 2 antenna system that used an outside antenna, a 3 watt amplifier & an inside antenna. It was 3G only, and while it had an advantage over the Sleek in that it amplified both my hotspot & phone (at the same time) it only covered an area within 3' - 4' of the inside antenna. It also had less gain.

Wilson is now offering a 4G version of the older system, but I still prefer the Sleek. I suspect you will have the same coverage limits for the internal antenna as the older system presented, and it is almost 3X the cost of the Sleek.
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Old 01-25-2015, 05:47 PM   #16
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Wilson is now offering a 4G version of the older system, but I still prefer the Sleek. I suspect you will have the same coverage limits for the internal antenna as the older system presented, and it is almost 3X the cost of the Sleek.
Yeah, that's the one I was thinking of; I was put off by the cost. It's good to know that the Sleek had better gain with the 3G version, it's probably true for this one as well. That's what counts, after all.

I have another issue that I wonder if other Millenicom -> Verizon hotspot customers have had: At the transition last fall my "data usage" meter quit working, both on the "my.verizon" hotspot webpage and the Verizon account page. Both consistently read 0.000 GB all through the month, though the end of the billing period is still shown. Has this happened to anyone else?
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Old 01-25-2015, 05:52 PM   #17
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We got the 4G/3G Sleek for around $99. Not that different from the older model.
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Old 01-25-2015, 05:53 PM   #18
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I meant that the Sleek had better gain *than* the 3G version, not *with* the 3G version. Sorry.
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Old 01-25-2015, 10:03 PM   #19
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Yeah, that's the one I was thinking of; I was put off by the cost. It's good to know that the Sleek had better gain with the 3G version, it's probably true for this one as well. That's what counts, after all.

I have another issue that I wonder if other Millenicom -> Verizon hotspot customers have had: At the transition last fall my "data usage" meter quit working, both on the "my.verizon" hotspot webpage and the Verizon account page. Both consistently read 0.000 GB all through the month, though the end of the billing period is still shown. Has this happened to anyone else?
Just about everyone that made the switch from Millenicom to Verizon and does not already have a Verizon account has had the "0" GB usage problem. While Verizon says they are trying to fix the problem, the consensus of users is it is because the phone numbers used by Millenicom are all tied to a single commercial user & Verizon has not figured out how to make them individuals. I find that hard to believe, I mean they ARE the phone company, but who knows. I've read that you can still go to the their billing website with your hotspot's phone number & find the actual usage there. Don't know for sure - I immediately went on still on "Vacation suspension" when I signed over to Verizon for 3 months (which ends in a couple of days) and was told I can extend it another 3 months until April, when I start traveling again. Unlike Millenicom where you could suspend for as long as you wanted, then pay a small restart fee, with Verizon you are only allowed 6 months of account suspension per year.

The problem with the two antenna & amplifier systems is feedback. Too much gain & the two antennas start oscillating. This can shut down an entire cell tower, so both the phone companies & the FCC frown on it. The newest amps have circuitry to prevent feedback, however that lowers the available gain. The specifications for the new systems show gains as high as 50db, however I doubt they can operate at that level, at least in a fiberglass trailer with a non metal roof.

Since the "inside" antenna for the Sleek is within small parts of an inch of the phone or hotspot, feedback isn't a problem.
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Old 01-25-2015, 10:07 PM   #20
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Thank you once again Jon for the detailed info. Just so it's clear to me, the roof mounted Wilson Trucker connected to a Wilson Sleek with the Jetpack in the cradle- is there an issue with that setup?
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