3G/4G modems - Alternatives?

Hello everyone.

After looking at the Gemalto M.2 modules for modems it seems a lot of carrier bands and frequencies are not covered.

I’ve been searching for alternative M.2 modules and have come across a few that cover more bands and have available Linux drivers.

However, none of the ones I have found are compatible with voice usage.

Has anyone else had luck finding alternative modems?

If you have please list them below and link to where we can purchase them. If that is okay with the moderators?


Yes, it’s okay, no reason not to be.

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I’m also looking for alternatives to the Gemalto modules due to lack of support of my carriers frequencies.
Have you looked at some of the Sierra Wireless options? I’m not any sort of expert so some expert opinions would be appreciated.

Specifically the AirPrime WP7610


Thank you for the link.

That wouldn’t be an option for me, I’m in Australia, but it might be suitable for some other in the US.

Couldn’t tell from the information if it was suitable for voice calling. VoLTE is good to have though. That card appears to use an embedded SIM so I’m not sure if you could change providers.

I found this supplier of a large number of modems but they all say not suitable for voice calling. Maybe it can be a starting point to search for modem models.


I find this a good idea, I was thinking to open a similar post about the alternative modem module for Librem 5; I live in regional Australia and unfortunately none of the 2 modem modules are good for me, they lack the essential B28 LTE band. My wife has a phone that lack this band and it’s a nightmare, she’s always on 3G (a part when we are in some biggish town). So it would be great to find an alternative modem with voice/VoLTE support that is suitable for who like me lives outside the big cities in Australia.

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I’ve come across this / these modems. More research is needed but digital voice and VoLTE are supported. The information is confusing as it refers to both eSim and (U)Sim.

Quectel EM06

They have variants for different countries. They also have a faster model. The EM20.

Hope this helps.


The first module is Category 6 and claims “300Mbps downlink and 50Mbps uplink” which sounds pretty good for someone who might otherwise (PLS8) be trapped on 3G with no working LTE at all.

What’s the marketing speed of the EM20?

Cat 16. 2Gbps downlink and 150Mbit/s uplink peak data rates.

Quectel EM20

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Looks like Cat 20 in fact.

I couldn’t see any regional variant and band information.

Says “EM20 is compatible with Quectel Cat 16 module EM16” but I couldn’t see any information at all about the EM16 !

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It looks as if the EM06-E covers all the LTE and UMTS bands in Australia.

The big question though … is the Linux driver open source? or could be? or is it BLOB?

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PinePhone will use this one:

But I don’t understand if it’s a M.2 compatible module or not and if there is a free driver.

It looks like an LGA module, so not an M.2 module i.e. not physically compatible.

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The modules have a naming convention:

LTE A EM## = M.2
LTE A EP## = Mini PCIe

To start with with have possible hardware to give access to more bands and frequencies. If it isn’t already open source it is something we can work on.

We can’t change the hardware after it’s installed but we can update the firmware.


You are correct. It is Cat 20. My bad.

I couldn’t find anything on the EM16 either. I am going to contact Quectel Wireless Solutions regarding the status of their drivers and firmware. I will enquire about the EM16 as well.

If anyone has any other suggested questions to ask please reply and I will add them to my message.

All the questions that I can think of:

  • what variants and bands for the EM20 (and the EM16)?
  • confirm support for voice (and VoLTE) on each model
  • is Linux driver open source?
  • is there firmware to be loaded into the device by the operating system and if so is that open source?
  • the doco suggests that the EM20 is compatible with the EM16 but what about compatibility between the EM06 and the EM16/20?

I think there might be another pitfall to watch out. The dev board schematics locks to me much like the wwan m.2 port is wired via a usb 2.0 hub only. No pcie, no usb 3.0. If this holds true for the final phone watch out that the modems are usb 2.0 compatible and mind that this limits the bandwidth to 480mbit/s, so no need for high speed lte (like 2Gb/s down) modems to use.

Maybe some one from purism could provide some more information which modems they looked at an why certain ones weren’t chosen. I imagine a table to evaluate a the options internally by purism.

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Ohh and i found this shop giving an overview of the Quectel modems. Seams quiet pricey. EM20 being just a much as the hole librem 5 phone :smiley:

The EM06-A looks like a good option for my needs. USB interface, M.2 package, states 2 x SIM interfaces, supports voice and supports all the bands needed for my carrier.

Would a 2G modem work too? Because 2G uses lower frequencies I believe it’s much healthier than the higher ones.

you can manually set to use prefered 2G networks in the celular connection settings if you don’t want the phone to auto scan and use the higher ones. but 2g is pretty useless when it comes to internet data.

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