Using a GPRS, 3G or HSDPA Mobile with OS X

So I’ve just moved house and I’m without Internet. It seems I have to pay a total of £384 ($729 USD) for the priviledge this year. Unbelievably only £120 of this is for 16mb no-monthly-limit broadband from Sky, but the rest is on an obscene £124…

So I’ve just moved house and I’m without Internet. It seems I have to pay a total of £384 ($729 USD) for the priviledge this year. Unbelievably only £120 of this is for 16mb no-monthly-limit broadband from Sky, but the rest is on an obscene £124 activation cost to get a BT line set up in this place (I was told it has been 7 years since one was active), the rest is line rental for said line from BT. So that’s all going to take at least a month, because living in a town of several hundred thousand people counts as being “in the sticks” when compared with London, and they just don’t make enough phone engineers…

Either way, I’m currently using my mobile phone with my laptop as a stop-gap and I’m documenting the process as there wasn’t enough information online to get it sorted quickly.

My phone’s HSDPA connection is labelled as “3G+” apparently giving download speeds of up to 7.2mbps. Totally unrealistic, but it definitely feels a lot faster than a 56kb modem, and individual file downloads are certainly in the tens of kilobytes per second.

I found a site containing modem scripts for OS X for a variety of devices (thanks to Ross Barkman for his work). These are very well written, with plenty of automatic re-attempts and checking to save you the hassle of trying out many combinations of dialing numbers, CIDs, access point names, usernames and passwords.

I’m using a Samsung Z720 via USB, although bluetooth works as well. So I opted for the “generic HSDPA script”. There are of course scripts for Nokia, Motorola and other manufacturers as well as a bunch of generic scripts like the one I am currently using. Then I ran through the Network settings in System Preferences, establishing a dial up connection over USB with the following entered into OSX’s Internet Connect wizard:

username: web
password: web
telephone number: internet

Also all header encryption/compression is turned off, and I’ve not specified a proxy server, even though one is specified on the mobile itself.

Normally you see people enter something like *99# or even *99**3# for the telephone number, the latter variation is for people entering a CID (the 3 in this case), but the modem script I’m using takes care of that for you, trying out several combinations, and leaving the telephone field free for you to enter your access point name, which you can get by looking at the settings on your mobile.

On one occaision I had to attempt the dialing a few times before it authenticated. A quick “tail” on /var/log/system.log showed the reason, Vodafone wasn’t happy with my hopping on so frequently and using up a bunch of “config requests” which were apparently maxed out, but a few minutes gap saw to that.

3 (Three) in the UK offer a broadband USB 3G modem for a one off cost of £99, plus £10 a month for a 2Gb limit (also available pay as you go), I think they have other plans with more and less of a limit which varies by price. Vodafone on the other hand offer a less friendly limit of 120mb/month when using your mobile phone, or £1 uper day for 15mb both available on contract or pay as you go. If you go over the limit you start paying by the day. Archaic but do-able.

For now this will do but I wanted to include one quick tip… a freeware application called SurplusMeter. You may remember these from the days of dial-up, you specify your monthly limit, the day the month starts on and it monitors bandwidth, archiving and reporting it to you so that you can keep tabs on usage. All in all an essential app if your operator is still enforcing capped monthly limits or operating a rather strict “fair usage” policy.

Update:

I’ve also got this working on my eee PC (Xandros Linux).