I started using the AT&T Home Base after my “Verizon Grandfathered” rental went slow as molasses and I was searching for an alternative.  After finding that AT&T has at that time released some “temporary” Unlimited plans that were labelled the 250GB and 500GB Rural Plans — only available in select locations — I jumped at the chance to actually OWN my own box and test out the system.   So without having to be locked into a 2 year contract for a box that may or may not work, I found the model ZTE Z700 or the ZTE Z700A.  I found my box on ebay for $25.00 shipped to my door, vs paying $200 plus tax with NO contracts or $0 for the box with a 2 year agreement.  Well I’ve been using this box now since a good part of 2017, since I think around January 2017, and it’s been pretty good most of the time.  Granted I did have to call customer service a few times over the months when there was an extreme slow down — i’m talking less than 0.5GB down or up with was noticeably slow.  After calling customer service after diligent searching for a good number for the wireless technical support divison, they somehow — reset/reprogrammed my box over the air and in a hour I was back up and streaming my favorite shows in HD on my Amazon Fire box, so I could finish binge watching the last season of Longmire!

So fast forward to about 1 month ago.  Middle of October/November some of my Youtube fans said there was a NEW box.  — an NEW UNHEARD of ATT Home Base box that wasn’t announced anywhere… unless you may have happened to walk into a ATT Corporate store in the right combination of locations that offer this special Unlimited Rural Plan.

The Unlimited Rural Plans have been modified from the original 10x plans, that is the original 25GB, and 50GB plans for most markets around the USA, if you happen to be in a rural market where ATT is NOT being served to your home or through UVerse– you probably will have this plan available to you.  The ONLY CHALLENGE is you have to go to a FULLY CORPORATE ATT STORE, not an Authorized Representative, or Authorized Retailer — those are RESELLERS of the ATT Brand.  They will look at you like a Deer in headlights… and will NOT know anything about what you’re talking about.  Also any changes once you have this plan — will need to be done at the ATT CORPORATE STORE, as the yahoo’s on phone support — are clueless about this plan as well.

So the GREAT NEWS…. I’ve been researching the NEW BOX and we drove to Branson IMAX to watch STAR WARS – The LAST JEDI — and while we were in the area visited the Corporate ATT Store.  I desperately wanted to get my hands on a box with the EXTERNAL Antenna that are on this box and I’ll be doing some technical explaining on what’s inside.

So ATT Wireless Internet Router – is the EVOLVED home base release.  The OLD box I had — was already 2 generations of LTE Technology out of date.  Is it worth upgrading?  And are there any options?  First of all the box I had the Z700 is now discontinued.  The two boxes the OLD and NEW ones have the same basic features, they have an ethernet port for connecting to a laptop or desktop, or if you have more devices like I do, you can run the ethernet to a switch, I have 8 additional hardwired ports for my Amazon Fire, My Apple TV, My 27″ Imac, My PC workstation where I work on friends/customers PC’s, My Drobo 14TB Hard Drive NAS, My Apple TimeMachine, an extension ethernet to connect to a laptop, or other device, and not to mention, the wireless side of the box where I connect my apple ipad pro, my wife’s ipad, my Amazon Fire Tablet, My Android Tablet, and our Nook, My wife’s Macbook 12″ and my Macbook Pro 17″.   So needless to say I need more than 1 ethernet port.   You must use a switch, and not an additional router or that will cause DHCP (addressing problems)– unless the additional router is setup correctly and not in DHCP mode.

The MF279 modem, now has a Gigabit LTE Qualcomm x16 modem chipset used in the Netgear Nighthawk so this should be capable of much faster peak speeds.  The biggest upgrade is the device now supports MORE LTE Bands: 2,4,5,12/17, 29, 30, verses just 2,4,5,17 in the OLD Home Base.

It also has upgraded WiFi – to Dual Band 802.11ac WiFi.  The old home base only supported 2.4Ghz WiFi and only 10 connected wireless devices.  The new box can support 2.4Ghz Wi-Fi at 802.11n and 5Ghz 802.11ac, and upto 20 connected Wi-Fi Devices (10 max devices per band).

The Antenna Ports:  the original was completely lacking external ports.  All the literature I can find on the NEW modem says that the dual antenna ports are TS9 ports.   THIS IS  WRONG.  I ordered ts9 connectors and they do not fit,  SMA MALE CONNECTORS fit so I can safely say the ports on the Modem are are FEMALE SMA PORTS.  Of course you could hack the old Z7000 or Z700a one like these videos…  also if you tried to order any paddle type antenna for it the probably wont fit if the screw ends are too thick.  You need slide on paddles, or tiny screw on sma male connectors.

Or you can do what I did.  Since I purchased my Original Z700 from ebay and activated it IN the store, I asked them If I could pickup a NEW ZTE MF279, agree to a 2 year agreement, and they offered me the box for FREE.  They did say there would be a $45 activation fee for the new box.   However there was a special to get DirectTV Now (the streamed version) for only $10, with NO contracts to try it out.   If I opted for this trial, they would WAIVE the $45 Activation fee, or should I say they’ll charge me $45, and give me a credit of $45 on my next bill.    Then I could cancel the DirectTV Now package and it was only a NET cost of $10 to “try it out”.

Ok getting back the Antenna issue.  The new device has two ports, allowing for an external MIMO antenna to be used to Boost the Signal.  I’ll be playing around with this option to see how fast I can get on my download and upload speeds.  And the Sim card has now been changed over to a NANO-Sim, which makes sim-swapping somewhat more difficult.

Wireless Internet Device or Nighthawk?

The Netgear Nighthawk is AT&T’s brand-new flagship LTE mobile hotspot.

Unless you have a particular need for the hardwired land-line phone jack, there really isn’t a compelling reason for users to pick the Wireless Internet over a more typical mobile hotspot like the Nighthawk.

The one exception is for those who have scored the special 250GB or 500GB/mo rural plans. According to AT&T support, you should be able to upgrade your Home Base to the new Wireless Internet device and still keep the rural plan active.  THIS IS WHAT I DID.  When I got home my OLD box was OFFLINE, and the NEW box worked perfectly.

It will require provisioning a new SIM card, as the sizes are different.

But even the rural plan is no longer particularly special, at least as long as AT&T continues to allow regular hotspots to be activated as truly unlimited devices on the Unlimited Plus plan.

NOTE: The AT&T Wireless Internet device is manufactured by ZTE, and though AT&T never mentions the model number – you can find it on ZTE’s site here: ZTE MF279