Thursday, 16 June 2011

UK SIM cards with static IP addresses

Should you have a need for 3G Data SIMs with "real" fixed public IP addresses (rather than the usual dynamic NATted private IPs), I have found three options...

1) Orange Fixed IP SIMs - As far as I can tell, these are only available via ScanCom - www.scancom.co.uk - as the Orange call centre doesn't seem to know about them. Cheapest deal is £5 per month inc VAT.  Prepaid for 18 months.  500 MB per month.  1.7p per MB for excess usage out of bundle. The SIMs will work on the Orange 2G & 3G networks.  They should also roam freely on T-Mobile, though currently only for 2G.

2) Andrews & Arnold Data SIMs - These come with a fixed public IP address as standard.
  • £ 10 + VAT to buy…   
  • £   2 + VAT per month when activated (you can suspend them)…   
  • 2.5p +VAT per MB.  (No free megabytes - you just pay for what you use).
The A&A SIMs work on the Three network, but don't offer any 2G fallback when outside the Three service area. 

Special feature 1: At no extra cost, the A&A SIM cards can be configured instantly to have not just one fixed public IP address, but also a fixed public IP address block (e.g. for your LAN).  I have tested this successfully using a Linux machine as a router. 

Special Feature 2: The A&A data SIMs can also be configured to use your own IP private addressing scheme using L2TP tunneling to your own Internet endpoint, but to do this you'd need to configure your own LNS router (e.g. using a Linux box with xl2tpd or OpenL2TP).

3) Comms365 Limited can apparently offer static IP SIMs too. "We have interconnects with Vodafone and Three and will be adding in Everything Everywhere shortly. We can provide both Fixed Public and Fixed Private IP Addresses on our SIMs and routed blocks of IPs. A range of tariffs from 2MB to 10GB is available."

Are there any decent 3G routers?

3G Routers tend to be a bit of a pain.  Many of them lack embedded 3G radios, so they have to rely on tatty USB dongles, which usually lack external antenna connectors.  Also, they tend not to support NAT-Free mode (i.e. they assume you want 192.168.1.x addresses for your LAN).

After some searching, I discovered an Alix-based router that looks promising for a work project of mine.  The Alix 6F2 board can be fitted with a Mini-PCI-Express 3G radio card rather than using an external USB device.  Suppliers in Europe are http://shop.varia-store.com/product_info.php?info=p1204_UMTS---3G-Zeroshell-ready-system-with-ALIX-6F2-and-accessories.html (approx cost 319 Euros).  Alternative supplier is  http://www.msdist.co.uk (cheaper but requires assembly, and your own Mini-PCI-Express UMTS card).  Varia's case looks nicer, as the SIM card and CF card are both externally accessible.

UPDATE: The Alix 6F2 boards work very nicely in no-NAT mode with pfSense  2.0 RC3 with my Andrews & Arnold data SIM cards.  Annoyingly, the SIM card only works in the SIM card slot on the 3G radio card (inside the Vario case) rather than in the motherboard SIM card slot!  Presumably there's a magic AT init string command that would tell the 3G radio to read the other SIM card slot, but I don't know what it is.

UPDATE 2: I've belatedly realised that the Novatel EU850D Mini-PCI-Express 3G card, shipped as part of the Varia Store's Alix 6F2 bundle, supports HSDPA but does not support HSUPA.  This means you get nice fast downloads, but your upload speed is limited to 384 kbps at best.  That's a shame since the Three network in the UK offers much faster uploads (up to 2 megabits I think). 

Please post a comment if you know of:
  • any other 3G routers than can work in NAT-Free mode?
  • any Mini-PCI-Express 3G cards that have internal SIM card slots + external antenna connectors + HSUPA support.
If you don't need NAT-Free operation, but you need a 3G router with a high-gain antenna, you might want to look at the Deltenna WIBE which Amazon UK is now offering at about £200. For routine mobile use using WiFi, I would recommend the Huawei Mifi device, e.g. as sold in the UK by Three.   Or use an iPhone 4S on a suitable tariff for tethering (e.g. Three's One Plan).

20 comments:

  1. Do you know of any high street shops that sell fixed IP sim cards? such as Orange?

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  2. High street shops? None that I know of. Generally a high street shop will just sell you a SIM card with a private RFC1918 (NAT) IP address, and a forced transparent HTTP proxy - typically with content filtering turned on by default, with all the false triggering that comes with that.

    I particularly hate T Mobile's mobile broadband system, as their transparent proxy rewrites content to try to save bandwidth. Which is all very well until you find yourself trying to debug a rendering problem in one of your web pages, only to discover it's their proxy messing it up!.

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  3. Hello.

    No chance to use the ALIX board woth an USB 3G modem? I know the miniPCIe modems are very expensive and have only limited HSUPA etc.

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  4. Martin2: Quite possibly. But it's hard to tell which USB modems are supported by pfSense or other router OSes. Also we needed a proper external antenna connection, which is rare on USB devices.

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  5. Hi May I know how I can get the IP address

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  6. Presumably you mean, how do you find out the IP address of a SIM card with a single fixed IP?

    Several options...

    1. The SIM card supplier should tell you.

    2. If you're running pfSense, the management GUI page "Status/Interfaces" will tell you.

    3. If you're running something else, visit http://www.whatsmyip.org

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    Replies
    1. Could i run my tp link 3g router with an e220 usb dongle with any sim to veiw my cctv or would i need to get a static ip sim

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    2. I guess you could use a static IP SIM to host a CCTV camera. But it might be cheaper to use a dynamic DNS service, if your router or CCTV camera software supports that. Or you might be able to configure the camera to upload images periodically to a remote server - but that would frequent updates would use lots of cellular bandwidth, so that approach might get pricey.

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    3. I'm in the same situation. MY CCTV provider said I'll need a static IP address. If I'm only viewing remotely every now and then is this likely to be costly? I was going to get a router with sim card slot and attach to the CCTV system and use it solely for that.

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    4. At your owm risk, of course, but should not be too costly if you stick the CCTV device behind a firewall, and only allow authorised IP addresses to connect through the firewall. Or, if your source IP addresses are unpredictable, place the CCTV device behind a properly configured VPN gateway.

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    5. Thank you.

      I will only access the CCTV remotely every now and then to check up, it won't be permanent monitoring. I will access using an App, which I believe has a username and password. Would you go further than this? If so, would you kindly explain what you would do in layman's terms?

      Many thanks

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    6. It depends on your view of risk! Two risks occur to me.

      One: some idiot (or some piece of malware somewhere on the internet) thrashes your CCTV connection (just to be annoying, even though he gets no benefit from doing so), which means your SIM card account will be billed for extra download bandwidth.

      Two: the CCTV system isn't as secure as it might be, and someone on the Internet gains access to the camera pictures.

      Short of installing firewalls or VPN routers, you might address the first risk if the SIM card provider can set a maximum credit limit (forcing an account block after that). As for the second risk, it depends: maybe unauthorised camera access wouldn't be the end of the world, if you just want to keep an eye on premises to avoid physically going there and looking through a fence, for example. You choose your desired level of paranoina according to your circumstances.

      I suppose a third risk is that some thief breaks into the equipment, steals the SIM card, and runs up a massive bill using it for his own purposes: so DEFINITELY make sure the SIM card only allows data i.e. no premium rate calls or texts, no international roaming, no international dialling, no voice calls allowed at all (and ideally get the SIM card provider to set a decent limit beyond which is shuts down). There have been stories of equipment being destroyed just to get to the SIM cards inside - e.g. in traffic light controllers - so that the thieves could make money from sending premium rate SMS messages to numbers that they owned.

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  7. Martin,
    Thanks for your thoughts,i will try the DNS service first.

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  8. Thanks for the reference to Andrews & Arnold.

    I wasted a lot of time with standard PAYG sims, trying to get a raspberry pi webserver online over 3G, but they don't allow inbound access even if the IP address is resolved.

    The A&A sim plugged in and once enabled worked - I'm using an unlocked usb modem in a TP-Link TL-MR-3020 router. Setup port forwarding and bob's ur uncle. The TP-MR-3020 Router is great for this application.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Lord Mungo,

      I have the same set-up as you but cannot access my router remotely. Please can you give me some clues as to how to set up the TL-MR3020 for 3G access?

      Many thanks,
      Martin

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  9. Hi Martin,

    just bought EU850D for an alix pfsense 2.1 but is not working.

    "CHAT: The modem is not responding to "AT" at ModemCmd: label." is the PPP LOG error.

    I've already setup many alix/pfs and many usb 3G so i'm confident is not a configuration error.

    Do you have any idea? have you tested EU850D on 2.1 release?

    Nice Blog

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  10. Hi, sorry to say I haven't tried the combination. I do remember mine only worked with the SIM card in the 3G card, not in the Alix SIM slot. I can't find the Alix routers I built at work - someone has moved them from where they were! You might try asking on the pfSense forums.

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  11. Hi thanks Martin, I used Comms365 to get a fixed IP for my security cam so I could remote access it. They were great!

    I would recommend anyone looking for a Fixed IP to contact them: 01234 865880

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  12. Thanks for your very informative post on static 3G even if this is somewhat of an old post. I have 3 network with Huawei 3G Modem and want to log into my civiCRM site to access the API for thirdb party application linked to the civiCRM via a REST interface. The necessary reqirement for this, in addition to user name and password, is a logon with static IP address of the client. As well as the 3G modem I have a 3G enabled Chromebook and both will work with 3 Network so your post was very interesting to me and A&A wont break the bank even if it doesn't work. I will give them a ring tomorrow and let you know how it goes. Many thanks

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    Replies
    1. I've just got an HP Chromebook with 3G and it's pretty awesome - certainly as a second machine. The A&A SIM card should just work with that - you can order from their web site. It comes with one static IP by default.

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