Hardware suggestions for guest wireless device access to LTE modem

  • We are starting a food truck and want to allow our customers free Internet access.  No login required, but we want to have them see an ad and appropriate small print warning (LOL) before they get access to the internet (which I believe would be easiest through a captive portal).

    I need suggestions to create an implementation for our food truck that will allow guest wireless devices to access the internet through a captive portal supported by an LTE modem (probably using AT&T account).  Thus:

    LTE Modem [1]<–>pfSense<--(captive portal)-->AP [2]<–>guest wireless devices

    I am asking for recommendations as to hardware for:

    [1] LTE Modem - using AT&T wireless account
    [2] Wireless AP? 802.11 (either a/g/n)

    Our motherboard has:

    Two (2) PCI slots;
    One (1) PCIE x2 slot; and
    One (1) existing gigabit Ethernet port.

    Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated

  • I have 4 of these in the field. Some come with Sierra and Atheros modules -so out of the box MiFi. Some only use 3G module and ralink.
    You can see from the IMEI number it uses a Seirra MC7700

    These are nice and cheap. The missing power connector is a phoenix and can be bought cheaply. Smaller SSD.

  • What you are looking for is a custom MiFi.
    pfSense works perfect for the usage, just make sure you use supported hardware. Atheros Wifi module AR5BXB112 or better and Sierra MC7700 work well together. Wireless is not super fast but good enough for browsing.

    This works with desktops nicely for an Mifi build:

    Or this and an external Access Point:

  • You could also use a USB Cellular modem and an external access point. There are many ways to go.

  • Some pfSense users are using a carrier based mifi's as the USB modem(Verizon Jetpack). That solution along with an external access point would probably give the the best speed. Only requires a super small pfSense box with 2 ethernet interfaces or even one interface with a Ruckus AP which offer additional ethernet ports onboard.

    Roughly speaking you would use the cell modem as WAN, your RJ45 as LAN and the Wireless Access Point as an OPT1 interface.

    I have been working on figuring out the GPS function of the Sierra MC7700/MC7355 so as to provide locational data for my "Mifi" via gpsd. For a business use such as yours, Imagine being able to have your trucks location available on a web site with realtime data from the MC7700. That is a dream, but totally achievable. The modem is spewing out NEMA0183 data when enabled, so it is a bonus side feature of using the Sierra module.

    Sierra also sells a professional MiFi, the GX440 with Wifi. These can be found on ebay for under a hundred dollars. The wifi is limited to a single channel and only 2.4ghz, so older technology there.

    I would consider a good antenna for the cell stuff. Once again ebay has good deals. The brand Terawave has lots of good antennas. You really need to look at the specs. Typically for cellular you would look at 700-2700mhz coverage. The omnidirectionals can be had for fifty dollars and up.

    Pretty sweet deal would be a pfSense Mifi with a solar panel on the roof powering the box off a small battery and charge controller.

  • Here is an Atheros based desktop adapter that works with pfSense


  • Here is a good Ruckus Access Point. I bought one of these from an recommendation here and it has worked well.


  • Thanks for all the feedback.  Sorry I haven't been responsive–I've been super busy getting the truck "road worthy" to drive from here (Los Angeles) to Seattle--the step van (Chevy '81 P30) is going to be converted in Seattle, where the business is.

    I'll take a look at what you sent in the next day or two (the drive is 17 hours long without stopping, lol).

    Because it is a custom build, and I already have the pfSense box that has been running fine at my house for a long time (1 yr+), I figured I would just use the same box.  We are open to putting together something else, but my thought was that I would put a 802.11 wireless card so we could have more options for mounting the antenna outside of the van.  As for the modem, I was looking at USB but would it be too slow?

    Lastly, and maybe I should have asked this first, would having a pfSense box be overkill from a security standpoint if we are not running "our own data" through the guess wireless network as we all have cell phones and even the iPad will have LTE access.  But I guess we will need it if we want to customize the access codes (such as printing it on a receipt)?

  • I was looking at USB but would it be too slow?

    Actually even the MC7700 is a USB device internally.

    The speeds will be around 5-6megabytes/sec.

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