One of the things on our list has been to setup a proper dedicated cellular backup system setup here at the office. This was harder than it seemed due to the fact that T-Mobile here uses the 700 Mhz band for LTE. This is really an odd frequency and 700 Mhz is not supported by any 3rd party hotspot device we could find. T-Mobile offers no USB thumbsticks or devices which supported ethernet, either.

ZTE Falcon Z 917 smallThis meant we were limited to their only offering: The ZTE Falcon Z-917 WiFi hotspot. Our initial plan was to use another dedicated WiFi-to-ethernet device to connect to the hotspot and then patch that into our pfSense box via Ethernet.

Much to our surprise the T-Mobile ZTE Falcon Z-917 Hotspot comes up as a USB Ethernet device under pfSense and FreeBSD when it is attached to the system via USB directly!

ugen0.3: <ZTE,Incorporated> at usbus0
cdce0: <CDC Ethernet Control Model ECM> on usbus0
ue0: <USB Ethernet> on cdce0
ue0: Ethernet address: 36:4b:xx:xx:xx:xx

Running DHCPd on the interface gets an address and it JustWorks™. I’m writing this post so others in the same situation know that the Z-971 will work great under FreeBSD and pfSense, spread the word!

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5 Responses to “ZTE Falcon Z-917 via USB with pfSense and FreeBSD”

  1. Bob

    I’d be interested to hear if you are still pleased with this device + PFSense after a few weeks into using it…

    • Adam Strohl

      Hey Bob,

      We are, though I haven’t had cause to use it extensively.

      It does seem to need to be periodically reset as it becomes unresponsive after a week or two of just sitting there. However this might be my fault too, I just fixed a few issues and will monitor it.

      If it persists I am likely going to work on a way to automate rebooting it and if I do I’ll post it here. There appear to be no ports open other than DNS and the web port/UI which is extremely locked down.

  2. Jo John

    Appreciate the info, I was wondering about this too. Please let us know how it goes. Thanks!

  3. p thomas

    hi, did you happen to use/setup the firewall for the falcon? i’ve been looking for a tutorial or example but haven’t had any luck. thanks and nice to know about the usb, seems like a fine back up plan.


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