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Thread: Vodacom SA K5008-Z aka ZTE MF825 3G/LTE stick with Afrihost (MTN) SIM and Linux

  1. #1

    Lightbulb Vodacom SA K5008-Z aka ZTE MF825 3G/LTE stick with Afrihost (MTN) SIM and Linux

    It is so simple that I asked myself if I should post it at all but there is no information on this device on the board and it took me some time nevertheless to figure out how it is done.

    Some technical stuff first: The K5008-Z is a rebranded ZTE MF823. This is no modem in the common sense but it is a small standalone Linux running modem/router combo which connects to the host computer by ethernet over USB. It has also a data storage section presenting itself as CD ROM drive on USB. With a sufficient modern kernel the device switches automatically to the ethernet connection. Who wants to use this on an older kernel can message me for what is needed to make this possible, it would go to far to explain this here.

    I am running ChakraOS whats an ARCH Linux derivate on a ACER laptop, but this is of no importance.

    The configuration is as simple as it gets:
    - insert stick with SIM of choice into the USB port at any time.
    - device will as long it is not a Vodacom SIM blink steadily along, the color tells if it is trying to get LTE - purple, 3G - blue or EDGE - green. With a Vodacom SIM it will connect and stop blinking just shine along.
    - open a browser and put 192.168.9.1 in the address line and you will get the Vodacom dash to manage the dongle.
    - I was completely perplexed to find out that the Vodacom dash allows to use other SIMs and connect to any network available. I suppose thats a result of the SA legislation making SIM locks illegal - hey now, thats one thing what is really helpful and exceptional, well done South Africa!
    - go to "Connection" choose "custom" put in your APN what is "Afrihost" in my case and then the number as *99# and save. "Connection mode" can be left at "automatic" - this doesnt work anyways.
    - go to "network" choose "4G preferred" and "preferred network" can be left on "automatic" as long in "Connection" the automatic connecting when roaming stays disabled.
    Back in connections "connect" and thats it.

    Despite automatic connection is choosen I have to visit the dash and connect there, but thats so trivial and only needed when booting fresh.
    Attention!Dont click the "connect" button on the first page showing up on the dash! This will reset the dongle to Vodacom settings! Go to "Settings" and use the connect option in "Status" or the one in "Connection" to connect to your custom set network.
    I would like to use the generic ZTE dash with more options and no branding. We will see. I have seen something....

    I am pretty satisfied with the performance of the dongle and it is with R1129 a real bargain, the parts are sold unlocked (this here is unlocked obviously) for not less the $230 (+shipping, +VAT and tax if unlucky).
    Those who want to play with the Linux on board - I have ripped the relevant information from a russian forum (autotranslated/understandable) PM me for it. This might be for those who want to use the 8TA LTE network for as a standard the frequency is not supported but it seems it can be activated by some simple serial terminal voodoo strings to the right internal address.
    It is a router and with the option of connecting two external antennas it might be well worth a closer look for thosewho want a ultramobile vest-pocket device which can be put on any stick and raised as it weighs nothing.

    So easy. If I had not spent hours over hours to hunt down two stupid details, first the IP address for the dash which was given wrong in most places I looked first (life is a copy, you are Xerox!) and Afrihost just told the APN but one cannot save the custom settings without number. Which I finally lifted here from a old post on some old device and what probably everybody knows but me.

    Be warned! British Vodacom K5008-Z are told to be locked down with all digital meanness imaginable.


    hope this helps somebody
    any suggestions to enhance this posting in any way are highly welcome.

    /P
    Last edited by sovielenamen; 25-12-2014 at 05:51 PM. Reason: It is MF823 not MF825 cannot change it in the headline.....

  2. #2

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by sovielenamen View Post
    It is so simple that I asked myself if I should post it at all but there is no information on this device on the board and it took me some time nevertheless to figure out how it is done.

    Some technical stuff first: The K5008-Z is a rebranded ZTE MF823. This is no modem in the common sense but it is a

    /P
    Hi Sovielenamen,
    I see that there seems to be a ZTE MF823 and a MF825. The difference seems to be that the MF823 does not cover RSA 1800 LTE band. You were possibly correct with your heading..

  3. #3

    Default

    No it is most probably the MF823 and not the MF825 albeit there is conflicting information on it.
    MF823 supports LTE-FDD: 800/900/1800/2600MHz whilst MF825 additionally has TDD 2300/2600MHz.
    What would be of course great as that is the Telkom LTE in South Africa.

    I had no opportunity to check if it offers me Telkom LTE but will do so when I am in an area where there is sure coverage.
    However, even if it is a MF823 it might be possible to get connected to Telkom LTE as I suspect the devices are identical but for the numbers. Frequencies can be directly addressed by Telnet though.....

    /P
    Last edited by sovielenamen; 28-04-2015 at 09:14 AM. Reason: misspelled MF823 as MF 832

  4. #4

    Default

    After opening the Router it was found to be a MF823 as expected. If this can technically work on the other frequencies like the Telkom 2300Mhz band and if it is possible to convince the firmware to do it? Probably not with reasonable effort taking into account the MF825 which can do this is available too.

    Interesting find was that after removing the housing the signal reception almost doubled and is as far I can tell and compare excellent and on par with other 4G router/modems which use an external antenna (which could be fitted additionally to the MF823/K5008-Z, two antennas actually but one usually suffices.

    An interesting option for those looking for a device for comparable cheap for a permanent installtion is to put this tiny thing into a small plasticbag together with such a little bag of silicagel to prevent condensing maisture ruining it, plug in a 10m or 20m active USB extension and put all together up on a 5m or 7m fibreglass stick or a quite thin steeltube. Two ropes or wires fixed at 3/4th of the height and down to put the installation under tension similar to 12V halogen cables (where one gets all the parts from) and voila'!
    An almost invisible, asscheap 3G/4G antenna which should have line of sight if there is any to get and if not - mine works well insides so waht? No need for special fixtures, masts heavy things on the roof.... no, the weight and the windload on the thin tube and wires is not so big to make this necessary the sticklike thin mast needs three clamps at most and a third wire eliminates this too and it can be just shoed.

    Don't forget the silica gel, the little bags come with every electronisc and many other things, put in the oven for 50minutes at 150 deg. Celsius to dry, without condening moisture will unavoidably kill the router. To fix USB cable and the rest to the mast: Cable ties. A 3m over top extending 4,5m overall fibreglass stick was fixed to a antenna stump already on the roof with good cableties and shows after re-tightening them once no fatigue or corrosion. You must take UV resistant cable ties special for outsides here or the sun will rot the plastic. Fast.

    I would believe this is the most economic, easy to set up, least optically disturbing and portable solution to get to a pretty high antenna for wireless broadband. Due to the router being directly at the antenna there are no cable losses, no line amplifier is needed and the reception is excedptional despite it being omnidirectional. What saves all the issues and work coming with directional antennas and allows the whole thing to sway in the wind without problems.

    On this russian forum in this thread one finds more in depth information about hacking the MF823/K5008-Z. In russian of course, nothing Google translate cannot fix, it is pretty comprehensible when translated rest assured.

  5. #5

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by sovielenamen View Post
    On this russian forum in this thread one finds more in depth information about hacking the MF823/K5008-Z. In russian of course, nothing Google translate cannot fix, it is pretty comprehensible when translated rest assured.
    On this forum one guy messed up with a command AT + ZCDRUN = F and result was not recoverable. The other guy messed up previously with other unknown commands (I didn't trace on previous pages) and in result RSRP dropped from -74dBm to -117dBm. It was explained that modem could lose calibration data for radio channel - it should be saved before trying.

    Be careful when trying these commands without confirmation that it actually works without side effects.
    Last edited by sajunky; 02-05-2015 at 01:33 PM.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by sovielenamen View Post
    It is so simple that I asked myself if I should post it at all but there is no information on this device on the board and it took me some time nevertheless to figure out how it is done.

    Some technical stuff first: The K5008-Z is a rebranded ZTE MF823. This is no modem in the common sense but it is a small standalone Linux running modem/router combo which connects to the host computer by ethernet over USB. It has also a data storage section presenting itself as CD ROM drive on USB. With a sufficient modern kernel the device switches automatically to the ethernet connection. Who wants to use this on an older kernel can message me for what is needed to make this possible, it would go to far to explain this here.

    I am running ChakraOS whats an ARCH Linux derivate on a ACER laptop, but this is of no importance.

    The configuration is as simple as it gets:
    - insert stick with SIM of choice into the USB port at any time.
    - device will as long it is not a Vodacom SIM blink steadily along, the color tells if it is trying to get LTE - purple, 3G - blue or EDGE - green. With a Vodacom SIM it will connect and stop blinking just shine along.
    - open a browser and put 192.168.9.1 in the address line and you will get the Vodacom dash to manage the dongle.
    - I was completely perplexed to find out that the Vodacom dash allows to use other SIMs and connect to any network available. I suppose thats a result of the SA legislation making SIM locks illegal - hey now, thats one thing what is really helpful and exceptional, well done South Africa!
    - go to "Connection" choose "custom" put in your APN what is "Afrihost" in my case and then the number as *99# and save. "Connection mode" can be left at "automatic" - this doesnt work anyways.
    - go to "network" choose "4G preferred" and "preferred network" can be left on "automatic" as long in "Connection" the automatic connecting when roaming stays disabled.
    Back in connections "connect" and thats it.

    Despite automatic connection is choosen I have to visit the dash and connect there, but thats so trivial and only needed when booting fresh.
    Attention!Dont click the "connect" button on the first page showing up on the dash! This will reset the dongle to Vodacom settings! Go to "Settings" and use the connect option in "Status" or the one in "Connection" to connect to your custom set network.
    I would like to use the generic ZTE dash with more options and no branding. We will see. I have seen something....

    I am pretty satisfied with the performance of the dongle and it is with R1129 a real bargain, the parts are sold unlocked (this here is unlocked obviously) for not less the $230 (+shipping, +VAT and tax if unlucky).
    Those who want to play with the Linux on board - I have ripped the relevant information from a russian forum (autotranslated/understandable) PM me for it. This might be for those who want to use the 8TA LTE network for as a standard the frequency is not supported but it seems it can be activated by some simple serial terminal voodoo strings to the right internal address.
    It is a router and with the option of connecting two external antennas it might be well worth a closer look for thosewho want a ultramobile vest-pocket device which can be put on any stick and raised as it weighs nothing.

    So easy. If I had not spent hours over hours to hunt down two stupid details, first the IP address for the dash which was given wrong in most places I looked first (life is a copy, you are Xerox!) and Afrihost just told the APN but one cannot save the custom settings without number. Which I finally lifted here from a old post on some old device and what probably everybody knows but me.

    Be warned! British Vodacom K5008-Z are told to be locked down with all digital meanness imaginable.


    hope this helps somebody
    any suggestions to enhance this posting in any way are highly welcome.

    /P
    Your apn is afrihost which means you are using a mtn sim . Is this a contract mtn sim which enables you to have afrihost data on it. How does it work?

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