Mobile Proxies & 4G Proxies

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Are you looking to buy mobile proxies? Here’s everything there is to know before making your purchase.

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What Are Mobile Proxies?

To define mobile proxies, we’ll have to start with a more general definition of proxy servers. Namely, a proxy server is an intermediary between the user and the Internet. It forwards the user’s web requests and handles data exchange between its users and the Internet.

Nowadays, anonymity is perhaps one of the primary reasons for using a proxy. Aside from anonymity, Internet security and privacy, proxy servers have other uses as well. They can improve speed and save bandwidth. Moreover, proxies can also control or limit Internet usage within a company. But, beside anonymity, data mining and marketing tasks come in second, with proxies heavily used for these tasks.

A mobile proxy acts as a gateway to the Internet, similar to how a residential proxy does it. Essentially, it’s a single IP address that providers get from mobile Internet operators, such as Sprint, T-Mobile, or Vodafone. In contrast to residential proxies, which use home Wi-Fi and broadband ISPs, a mobile proxy uses mobile data from mobile ISPs.

What are 4G Proxies?

A 4G proxy is one of the few names we use to refer to mobile proxies. Proxy services rent them from certified mobile operators that provide 4G proxy IP addresses.

You can use these proxies to emulate access the Internet through mobile devices, like your smartphone, for example. The connection speed depends on the mobile ISP and the device through which your connection is forwarded.

Most proxy providers out there give the user a data center IP address. However, depending on how you used them, these IP addresses are likely to get banned or blocked by Instagram, Amazon, and other similar websites. Of course, other providers offer data center IPs that are harder to detect and block, such as dedicated virgin IPs for custom packages, such as Instagram proxy or Craigslist proxy packages. But the ISP-risk (a risk caused by the ISP advertised by a proxy) is inherent in datacenter proxies. 

Because some ill-intended users have found ways to abuse data center proxies, certain Internet services had to resort to high-level scrutiny of such IPs. With the help of specialized software, they can block a variety of subnets when they detect “suspicious behavior” originating from one IP from that subnet.

Fortunately, 4G proxies aren’t scrutinized as thoroughly as a data center or residential IPs. Besides, it is more expensive to set up a 4G proxy infrastructure, which is why proxy providers rarely offer that option.

How Are Mobile Proxies Created?

As we’ve mentioned earlier, using a commercial IP to collect data or simply access a website can often result in the IP getting banned. Proxy providers can help us overcome this problem by offering mobile residential IPs.

Creating a vast number of mobile proxies is not easy, as we’ve discussed above. However, a proxy network can do that by working with app developers.

Basically, an app developer makes the following deal with a proxy provider: to provide online devices to the proxy network’s IP pool. Whenever a user downloads the developer’s app, they agree to a particular TOS (terms of service). They may download the app for free, but they become a peer in the proxy network and provide their IPs to the IP pool.

Then, the proxy network can use these users’ devices’ actual IP addresses as a residential or mobile proxy – depending on if the device is connected to WiFi or mobile data.

It’s worth mentioning that this is in no way harmful to the user, as the network only uses idle devices with enough power and connected to the Internet — as specified by Luminati.

The app developer monetizes his app and generates revenue from this partnership, while app users (the downloaded and used the app) can enjoy a free app without interruption.
On the other hand, the mobile proxy provider gets a massive pool of non-proxy, real IP addresses. These IPs can then be used as mobile proxies and offered to the network’s clients.

3 Key Features of Mobile Proxies

1. Mobile ISP

mobile-proxy-feature-4g-isp

Even though we get residential and mobile proxies from the same residential proxy providers, there is a subtle difference. As we’ve mentioned earlier, mobile proxies use mobile data to operate instead of Wi-Fi. Therefore, mobile carriers such as AT&T, Vodafone, and T-Mobile can offer us access to an almost endless number of IPs.

2. Rotating IPs

mobile-proxy-feature-ip-refresh-rotating

While the proxy’s back-connect IP doesn’t change, the mask-IP (IP displayed to other websites) changes on every request. The back-connect IP receives requests and then forwards them to the mobile IPs. As a result, your real IP address is masked behind a mobile ISP’s connection. Thus, there is less chance of your IP getting banned. Furthermore, you can avoid website limits and access to geo-blocked content.

3. Bandwidth Pricing

mobile-proxy-feature-bandwidth-pricing

Mobile proxy users have an entire proxy network at their disposal. Because of that, you can use as many IPs as you want. However, such a commodity comes with a price. Namely, the pricing is based on data usage. That means that the more data you transfer, the higher the rate you have to pay.

How Do Mobile Proxies Work?

mobile-proxy-scheme-explained

1. Connect to a Back-Connect Proxy

Essentially, a back-connect proxy is a server that uses a group of residential proxies. It uses one, then moves to the other after some time. That way, the masked IP is much harder to detect, and the user gets a more private and anonymous connection.

2. Mobile IPs Refresh on Every Request

When you access a specific website, the request first goes through several mobile proxy devices. Of course, you are free to choose the location of these devices. With each new request made, the IP changes. If you wish, you can hold onto the same IP for a longer time, but usually, not longer than a couple of minutes (this is a feature called “sticky IPs”).

3. Gateway Country or ISP Control

In the above paragraph, we briefly mentioned that you could choose the location of the proxy devices (your gateway IPs) that you want to use. That means that you can use proxies from different countries. Not only that, but you also have the choice of different ISPs. That way, you get granular control over the IPs used.

6. Difference Between Data Center, Residential, and Mobile Proxies

To understand the difference between these three types of proxy IPs, we first need to define dedicated and shared IPs. A dedicated IP is tied to one user only, which means other users don’t have access to it. Moreover, a user with a dedicated IP has full control over its reputation. On the other hand, a shared IP is, as the name suggests, an IP that multiple users can access at the same time.

In that sense, data center proxies are dedicated IPs. And, if used correctly, websites can never block them – thus, becoming a great asset for anybody knowing to use them. However, if a particular website flags a fixed IP, it will block it and render it unusable. Another critical difference is that data center proxies are in full ownership of proxy providers (they are not rented like residential or 4G/mobile).

Unlike data center proxies, you get a residential proxy from your ISP. And similar to residential proxies, mobile proxies are also ISP-owned. However, the ISP is a mobile carrier, in this case.

The significant difference is that residential and mobile proxy IPs are not own by the proxy providers. Whereas, dedicated private proxies are fully controlled by their proxy manager. In essence, residential and mobile proxies are “rented” from other users.

The setup is as follows:

  1. Users install an app on their device (such as Hola VPN – or other apps)
  2. This app acts as a  proxy node, accepting connections from the proxy network
  3. The customers of the prox network send requests to a back-connect proxy
  4. The back-connect proxy receives the requests and forwards them to any available device that has a proxy node on it
  5. The request reaches the device on which the app was installed and forwards the requests to the desired websites. Hence, websites see only the IP address of the device (proxy node), not the IP address of the proxy’s customer.
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7. How to Test Your Mobile Proxies

If you bought your 4G mobile proxies and now you’re looking to test them, you must know that this is an easy process and you can get down with it in less than 5 minutes.

During the testing period, the number of IPs in the proxy network is not important because it’s almost impossible to test all the IPs.

Instead, you need to check only a few random IPs.

And you can do this with a few tools. These are MaxMind, ARIN and RIPE .

  1. MaxMind is an IP Geolocation and Online Fraud Prevention service.
  2. ARIN is the American Registry for Internet Numbers – this is the organization that manages and distributes IPs in America.
  3. RIPE is ARIN’s European counterpart – they do in Europe what ARIN does in the US and America.

For this test, I used Oxylabs residential/mobile proxies with access to all their IP network. However, I used only US-based IPs.

oxylabs-homepage

1. Copy Oxylab’s US IPs proxy server domain and PORT.

oxylabs-proxy-control-panel

2. Open FoxyProxy Addon settings and Add the proxy details together with your username and password (for user:pass authentication) and click Save.

foxy-proxy-addon

3. Close Mozzila Firefox (to clear any Cache and Cookie ) and now open a Private Window – in this way, you make sure that your browsing session doesn’t have any history attached to it.

mozilla-firefox-private-browsing

4. Access MaxMind GeoIP2 Service to check the IP assigned by your mobile proxy provider, it’s location and ISP.

maxming-geo-ip-location

5. You can see that this is a Miami AT&T IP address. This means that your connection is forwarded through a mobile Internet connection. The next step is to check on ARIN if this IP address is really used by AT&T and if this is its real location. (this is more of a confirmation step).

arin-proxy-ip-check

By now, I think you got the picture on how to test your mobile proxies:

  1. You connect to the residential proxy network through FoxyProxy
  2. Start a Mozilla Firefox Private Window
  3. Access MaxMind GeoIP2 testing tool
  4. Optionally, check the IP in ARIN whois database
  5. Refresh MaxMind to get another IP address and repeat the process a couple of times

8. How to Make Mobile Proxies

We’ve already explained how providers created mobile proxies. The proxy network has thousands of IPs at its disposal. These are the IPs of real users who have become network peers and allow the proxy network to forward requests through their mobile Internet connection (hence the name: mobile proxies). The network uses their phones’ idle resources, thus taking hold of their actual IP. Then, they can use these IPs as proxies that mask your real IP address.

The only way for you to make a real mobile proxy network is to gain access to a vast number of mobile devices connected to the Internet and, at the same time, their users must be willing to allow requests forwarded through their devices. Then a central proxy server manages the requests for the whole network. However, I think you can see how setting up such an infrastructure is an expensive endeavor. That is why, instead of creating your network, you can leverage current mobile proxy providers and use their infrastructure.

F.A.Q.

Are mobile proxies good for Instagram?

When it comes to Instagram management, using proxies for Instagram can be either good or bad. On the plus side, mobile proxies are harder to identify as proxy, which makes them better than data center or residential proxies. However, you have to take into account the rotating nature of mobile proxies. Instagram locks down on accounts where IPs change constantly. It would be best if you looked into dedicated Instagram proxy IPs.

UPDATE: More and more social media marketers started using a mobile proxy network for Instagram with relative success. Moreover, with the help of filtering IPs (basically, you tell your provider’s system to rotate your request only through IPs from a particular country or city), social media management on Instagram became more accessible than ever. While previously, we didn’t precisely recommend using 4G proxies on Instagram and other social networks, now, it/s safe to say that you can use these services to manage social accounts.

Where can I buy dedicated 4G proxies?

Nowhere for the moment. Luminati brought the only innovation in the residential/mobile space by creating static residential proxies. But when it comes to 4G proxies, there isn’t anything on the market… yet. Hopefully, somebody will implement it in the future.

Luminati started offering static residential proxies. This is a first in the industry.

luminati static residential proxies

Are 4G/mobile proxies cost-effective? Are they worth it?

We mentioned earlier that the cost of mobile proxies is based on data transfer and bandwidth usage. As such, it may not seem affordable. However, upon weighing their advantages, we can say that they are worth your money if you need a large IP pool for datamining or scraping.

Can I create 4G proxy IPs?

Yes and no. Yes: Anybody can create his own proxies. But as always, when it comes to creating vs buying, the question is: is it worth it? To put it into context, consider that for creating 4G proxies, you need a connection to a mobile ISP network data. You can get one, usually through a SIM card. But this limits your IPs to the number of SIM card you have (for example, one SIM card can mean one IP address in use at any given time). So, if you need ten proxies, you need ten SIMs – which can become pretty expensive quite quickly. Another method of creating 4G proxies is by routing your traffic through other devices (in which case, one device becomes one proxy server). This is similar to how Luminati acquires its IPs. But with this method, you should take into account that when all your devices (that you turned into servers) are shut down, you won’t be able to connect to them. Thus, you need a large number of devices to make this method viable. So, is it worth it investing time and money into developing a 4G proxy network that can’t access all the time? It doesn’t look like it.

Can I find out if my mobile proxies are not really mobile ones?

Even though you can test your proxies, it is difficult to tell the real and the fake apart. That is because your proxy provider can include fake proxies, mixed with real mobile ones if they wish to do it. These proxies mingle with the real ones, so it is hard to tell the difference. So, the bottom line: it all comes down to how what your provider wants to do and their morality.

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