Spitz Wireless Router Brings Wi-Fi to Country Roads
If you have Fast internet in the US is probably because you live in the good part of a big city. The rest of us get it, well…this WIRED title from 2007 sums it up nicely: “Rural America will never have access to fast internet.” Here we collect the leftovers. These days, with 3G pretty much shut down, it’s either nothing or, if you’re lucky like me, 4G service.
Rural 4G service is essentially your phone plan, except you have to use it for everything. It’s still metered (Google Fi offers 50 gigabytes per month “unlimited,” which I’ve been using lately.) It’s generally slow, compared to something like cable or fiber internet available elsewhere.
One thing that I’ve found can really squeeze a little more out of those poor quality connections is a good 4G modem. I’ve tested half a dozen now and am working on a guide, but Gl.inet’s Spitz 4G LTE Router is one of the best. At under $200, it’s relatively affordable.
Alone with a phone
In rural South Carolina, many of my neighbors are content with their phones, either as their primary computing device or using it as a hotspot. The phone as a hotspot works, and for some it might work quite well, but in my case, my phone doesn’t get much reception indoors. I’ve come to rely on 4G routers, which usually have bigger antennas and better reception.
Gl.inet’s Spitz 4G Router Looks Like Many Others routers in our guide, although smaller. Only when you open it and find the SIM card slot will you even know it is a 4G router. There’s also a slot for a microSD card (up to 128 gigabytes) so you can use it as a media server if you want. The slot is suitable for a micro SIM.
I tested the Spitz using a variety of SIM cards from different carriers and MVNOs (which you’ll need, if you’re serious about connectivity here in the sticks). I first tested with a T-Mobile SIM and an AT&T SIM, but also got it to work with a Google Fi nano SIM by carefully lining it up in the slot. I don’t recommend this long term, but it works while you wait for your SIM card adapter kit ($4) to get there, you’ll need to use a Google Fi or other nano-sized SIM chip. Gli.inet has a guide to setting up Google Fi on the Spitz.
The included LTE antennas manage to pick up the signal that my phone can’t, but it would be nice to have MIMO ports to connect an external MIMO antenna. Otherwise, however, the hardware is simple and small. There are five LEDs on the top indicating power status, WAN connection, 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz activity, and LTE connection status. On the back is a power port, as well as LAN and WAN jacks for wired networking.
Once you insert your SIM card, you connect to the Wi-Fi network and point your web browser to the Spitz administration page. This is a big part of what makes the Spitz very powerful. Behind the scenes, Spitz uses open source OpenWRT modem firmwarewhich lets you use some access tools and features normally only found on much more expensive routers, like network-wide VPN access, ad blocking, parental controls, time controls, and much more.
Gl.inet uses a custom skin, so if you’re familiar with OpenWRT, what you’ll get with the Spitz will be slightly different. All the features are there – and you can install whatever you want – but things might be in slightly different places than you’re used to.