EE 4GEE Home Router Review Update: New Huawei B618 router; even faster speeds!
Last week, I posted my review of EE’s new 4GEE home mobile broadband service after having EE’s professionally fitted 4G antenna installed.
This week, I replaced the EE-supplied router with a Huawei B618 LTE router, which has given a further speed boost to an already impressive service.
The difference between the EE supplied Alcatel router (£99 on a 30-day contract or free on an 18-month contract) and the Huawei B618 (£250, ‘SIM-free’ only) is a Cat 11 modem in the Huawei, versus an older Cat 7 one in the Alcatel.
The Huawei router uses a different set of antenna connectors (TS-9), meaning I had to also buy two adapters at a cost of around £5.
Specs wise, the Alcatel is capable of 300Mbps down and 100Mbps up. The Huawei meanwhile can do 600Mbps down, but only 50Mbps up. As you’ll see later on, the slower uplink speed wasn’t a problem at all.
I was unable to find any routers supporting Cat 16 (1000Mbps/150Mbps) or higher, although I am confident that we should see some coming later this year.
As said in my original review, the Netgear Nighthawk M1 Gigabit router is not really suitable for home use because it lacks the power to cope with multiple devices. It’s designed to be used as a hotspot to take with you as you travel. Sadly, Netgear is yet to produce a home/office version (even after showing off a 2Gigabit prototype portable hotspot at Mobile World Congress last month!).
The newer chipset on the Huawei B618 supports more advanced 4G technology, including better data encoding, which has resulted in a speed gain in both directions.
The downlink speed has increased in the day to around 130Mbps (while overnight, I noted a peak of 170Mbps), but the biggest boost comes on the uplink, with speeds leaping from an average of 10Mbps to almost 40Mbps.
I’ll ignore the peak speeds at 3am and concentrate on the ‘real world’ speeds you might get in the daytime, such as the ones below – each carried out on a weekday.
EE did originally suggest a higher uplift on the upload speed, but with the Alcatel router it failed to materialise. With a near-30Mbps boost, the time taken to backup files or upload video will be massively reduced, and you now get a further advantage over many fixed broadband alternatives.
The router isn’t cheap at £250, but if speed is important to you then it will probably be worth every penny. Especially if you need faster upload speeds.
It might be possible to get the router cheaper on eBay or imported direct from China, but make sure you get the B618s-22d variant for the correct LTE band support, as well as establishing what warranty you will get.
Now it’s worth adding that with a Cat 18 enabled Huawei Mate 10 Pro (1200Mbps/150Mbps), I can get upload speeds (outdoors and slightly further up the road) of almost 110Mbps. As such, the Huawei B618 supporting only 50Mbps up is limiting the potential speed on offer.
However, until a newer router is released that’s a limitation I’ll have to put up with. And as I’m seeing a boost of around 30Mbps over a router that claims to offer twice the speed, it proves that things are not always as they seem. Real world experiences will always win over those ‘on paper’ specifications.
It’s nice to know that there’s still room for improvement, as both the hardware and EE’s network continue to evolve.
On the back you’ll find two Gigabit LAN ports, a USB port for hooking up a storage device or printer, power socket and the two antenna connections that can be hooked up to your EE-installed antenna with simple adapters.
There’s also a connector for using a standard telephone with VoIP services, but with little to no information in the manual on this, I was unable to figure out how this would work. I also have little incentive to investigate as, frankly, I don’t have any need for a landline at home. Chances are you don’t either.
The router itself is quite significantly taller, which boosted the Wi-Fi range slightly but not so much that I can call it a true benefit. It’s still fair to say that routers with external, adjustable, antennas will perform better. If you need more range, you’ll want to consider using another router, or investing in one of the new mesh networking kits.
Switching router was nothing more than the time to unbox the router, plug it in, swap the SIM (the Alcatel uses a nano SIM and the Huawei uses micro SIM, so you might need an adapter), swap over the antenna cables and switching on.
Once connecting my devices to the new Wi-Fi SSID (I could have modified the Wi-Fi network names and passwords to match the old if I’d wanted) I was up and running immediately as the EE broadband settings were detected automatically.
The only thing I’ve noticed is that with the new router I am not being served an IPv6 address. The documentation with the B618 is pretty limited and the user interface rather basic, although you can monitor certain things from a smartphone using the HiLink app (Android).
Overall, the router does exactly what I want – gives me the fastest possible speed. For now at least!
Still more improvements to come?
As I said in my original review, I hope EE releases a new router of its own soon. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the Alcatel one, and it’s far cheaper than laying down a further £250, but the Huawei router proves there are further gains to be had.
It also proves that the antenna you get installed today will still work fine, so there’s no reason to hold off. You can sign up today and wait to see what’s offered later this year, or, if you can’t wait then get yourself over to Amazon now!
More info: EE 4GEE Home Router Review
8 thoughts on “EE 4GEE Home Router Review Update: New Huawei B618 router; even faster speeds!”
https://polldaddy.com/js/rating/rating.jsGreat review and it proved very helpful. I’ve now moved to 4GEE with the Huawei B618s-22d, a Fastband omni directional antenna attached to the chimney using 10m of very low loss cable. I started my investigation using my phone (iphone 7) with the Open Signal app (free) and an EE sim to locate all the EE masts near my home.
My house is in the country and roughly equi distance to 3 EE masts (about 1.5 miles away) but I don’t have direct line of site to any (trees and contour of land getting in the way). I guess having the ability to connect to 3 masts provides me with a little redundancy that a directional antenna might not provide. My land line is connected to a Fibre cabinet, but it’s over a mile away.
With the land line I was getting 8Mbps down / 0.5Mbps up. Using EE’s home router I managed 30Mbps/15Mps, which was a massive improvement. The Huawei has increased it further to 60Mbps/ 30Mbps. The fastest I have noted is 92Mbps down and 48MBps up. EE have recently dropped the 200Gbyte package to £50/month. I’ve now dropped the land line completely and only use the EE network and subscribe to Yay pay as you go voip service. Overall my cost is similar to my BT package. It’s transformed working from home because I can now upload information really quickly.
The Huawei does provide some useful 4G (LTE) specs (RSRQ,RSRP and SINR) which was great for helping set up the antenna and choosing the right cable. It’s not important to understand what they are, just what size the numbers should be to improve the signal quality.
I have an older router with only 150Mbps download capability. My only problem with it is the drop in speed during congested periods (week-ends and holidays). Would the B618 help increase speeds during these periods?
If there’s congestion causing slow downs then it may not make any difference, although if there’s a chance to aggregate carriers you may benefit.
Great write up Jonathan! I contacted EE to purchase the router, but no one was aware of it, and there is no mention on the website. Where did you buy – amazon? Andy
I’m keen to use the Huawei (or indeed the EE-badged Alcatel) as a modem connected to my existing Ubiquiti infrastructure (USG router/firewall, switches and APs).
I can’t figure out how to put the EE lobotomised box into bridge mode, which I’ll probably abandon if the Huawei is better anyway. Do you know whether the Huawei can be used in bridge mode, or am I going to have to faff with double NAT?
Thanks for this review – very informative, and really useful – I hadn’t come across this product and it’s already so much better than the fixed options I have available out here in the sticks!
Thank you for producing an informative review update. Given my dreadful 1Mbps download speed in my area, I have made the leap to an EE4G Home with antenna installation. I am still awaiting the antenna, which should arrive some time this week, but so far, tests have been quite positive. The only issue I have encountered is its integration with the Philips Hue system. The bridge relies on an internet connection. However, the bridge cannot obtain an internet connection from the EE router since the EE network uses CG NAT, which unfortunately clashes with the Philips Hue system. All in all, this means you can only control the Hue system from within the confines on your home network, not from the outside world. This will no doubt have ramifications for other smart home devices. I’m still trying to find a solution to this problem. Your thoughts would be most welcome.