Tom’s Teardowns: Verizon AC791L Jetpack 4G Mobile Hotspot

The saying “time and tide wait for no man” is usually used as a verbal kick in the pants, a reminder that sometimes an opportunity must be seized quickly before it passes by. But it can also be interpreted as a warning about the perpetual march of time and how it impacts the world around us. In that case, we would do well to add cellular technology to the list of proverbial things that wait for no one. Do you need 5G? No. Do you want it? Probably not. But it’s here, so be a good consumer and dump all your 4G hardware in the name of technical progress.

This line of logic may explain how the Verizon-branded Netgear AC791L 4G “Jetpack” hotspot you see here, despite being in perfect working order, found itself in the trash. The onset of 5G must have been particularly quick for the previous owner, since they didn’t even bother to wipe their configuration information from the device. In the name of journalistic integrity I won’t divulge the previous owner’s identity; but I will say that their endearing choice of WPA2 key, iluvphysics, makes for a nice fit with our publication.

A quick check of eBay shows these devices, and ones like it, are in ample supply. At the time of this writing, there were more than 1,500 auctions matching the search term “Verizon jetpack”, with most of them going for between $20 and $50 USD. We like cheap and easily obtainable gadgets that can be hacked, but is there anything inside one of these hotspots that we can actually use? Let’s find out.

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The Satellite Phone You Already Own: From Orbit, UbiquitiLink Will Look Like A Cell Tower

For anyone that’s ever been broken down along a remote stretch of highway and desperately searched for a cell signal, knowing that a constellation of communications satellites is zipping by overhead is cold comfort indeed. One needs specialized gear to tap into the satphone network, few of us can justify the expense of satellite phone service, and fewer still care to carry around a brick with a chunky antenna on it as our main phone.

But what if a regular phone could somehow leverage those satellites to make a call or send a text from a dead zone? As it turns out, it just might be possible to do exactly that, and a Virginia-based startup called UbiquitiLink is in the process of filling in all the gaps in cell phone coverage by orbiting a constellation of satellites that will act as cell towers of last resort. And the best part is that it’ll work with a regular cell phone — no brick needed.

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A Field Guide To The North American Communications Tower

The need for clear and reliable communication has driven technology forward for centuries. The longer communication’s reach, the smaller the world becomes. When it comes to cell phones, seamless network coverage and low power draw are the ideals that continually spawn R&D and the eventual deployment of new equipment.

Almost all of us carry a cell phone these days. It takes a lot of infrastructure to support them, whether or not we use them as phones. The most recognizable part of that infrastructure is the communications tower. But what do you know about them?

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Vaio P HSDPA Mod

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[tnkgrl] has concluded her Sony Vaio P by adding GSM support. We covered the switch to XP earlier, but this should work on Vista too. The Vaio P is sold in the US with support for Verizon’s EVDO wireless broadband, but it uses the same hardware as the European model that uses GSM. This is possible because of the the Qualcomm Gobi radio module. To get GSM support, you trick the VZAccess Manager into loading a different firmware than the stock EVDO. The difficult part is that the Vaio P doesn’t come with a SIM card slot, so you’ll have to solder in your own. When you’ve got the computer reassembled, just change VZAccess Manager to use your carrier.

UPDATE: Wired has an article on the Gobi chipset.

ToorCon 9: CDMA Unlocking And Modification


[Alexander Lash] gave a short overview of what you need to unlock a CDMA phone. He strongly recommended Howard Forums for finding most of the info you need. You’ll probably need BitPim and the Qualcomm PST (product support tools). Using the PST you can flash your new carrier’s firmware and then activate the phone on their network.

Verizon offers two ways to get unlimited EVDO data. $59 for a data plan or $15 for VCast. You’re not supposed to be able to use your VCast phone as an EVDO modem and it sends a different network access identifier (NAI) if you tether the phone. Using the PST you can change the NAI and use the cheaper VCast plan for data access. Here is a forum post detailing the process.