How to configure USB modem in Ubuntu


Given the speed and virus-free environment offered by Linux distributions, many users are switching to Linux from Windows these days. Out of the several Linux variants available to a user, Ubuntu has seen wide adoption rates in India.

Soon after installing any operating system a user’s first activity would be to configure internet connection! Though wired (ethernet) and wireless (Wi-Fi) connections work fine with the first try, configuring a USB modem can be tricky at times on Linux. This post will throw some light on different ways to configure a USB modem. The instructions are generic and will hold good for different USB modems (like those provided by MTS, TATA Photon etc.).
Also, the steps will be similar for other Linux distributions like Mint, OpenSUSE etc.

Using Ubuntu ‘Network Connections’

This is by far the simplest way to configure a USB modem to connect to the internet. No additional drivers or software are necessary.

1. Plug your USB Modem into a USB port. The LED light starts blinking and after a while, once your modem is recognized you will be able to see an option – New Mobile Broadband (CDMA) connection/New Mobile Broadband (GSM) connection on clicking the Network icon just beside the sound icon on the top panel.

2. Once you click that, you will see this screen which will show your device name. Click ‘Continue’ on the dialog.


3. In the next screen select country as ‘India’. This will help Ubuntu list Indian service providers in the next screen.


4. In the ‘Choose your Provider’ screen select your service provider. In case it is not listed (BSNL EVDO is not listed) enter it manually in the space provided. In the case of EDGE/GPRS/3G connection, the service providers list will be long.


5. The choose your billing plan screen appears only when using an EDGE/GPRS/3G connection. If you are configuring a 3G/4G modem, say BSNL you will be required to select proper zone (Eg. OldSouthZoneA…) to use proper APN settings.

6. The last screen is to confirm all the settings and apply them. Click Apply here.

7. Once you click Apply you will be presented with a dialog to enter authentication credentials and minimal configuration settings. Important parameters are to be entered under ‘Mobile Broadband’ tab. The dialing number would be #777 for CDMA connections. It will be set by default. For GSM connections it would be *99#. The username and passwords should be filled appropriately. Typically for BSNL EVDO it would be a 10 digit number.
You may want to select ‘Connect automatically’ as this would help the connection to reconnect in case of disconnection.


Using Linux version of dialer by Modem vendor

Sometimes the CD which comes along with the modem will have Linux version (.deb package for Debian based distributions like Ubuntu, Mint etc.) of the dialer software. In such cases, you just need to install it and use it.

Using wvdial

Most new Ubuntu versions detect a modem in few seconds. Only if it does not happen follow this procedure. In older Ubuntu versions I had faced the issue where my device was not recognized by Ubuntu network manager. In such situations wvdial can come to rescue. Wvdial package does not come preinstalled and will have to be installed separately (Not sure about just released Ubuntu 12.10 though). You may have to use an ethernet connection to download the packages and install automatically via Ubuntu Software Center or download .deb files manually and get it on a USB stick. If wvdial is brought this way, you will also have to get .deb files of dependent packages. There will be at least 3-4 dependencies which need to installed prior to installing wvdial.

The following instructions are for BSNL’s Capitel CDMA modem but others would be similar.

Once you are done installing wvdial, you will have to edit wvdial.conf file to enter necessary details. In a terminal type
gksudo gedit /etc/wvdial.conf
The file contents should look like this after edits:
[Dialer Defaults] Modem = /dev/ttyUSB3
Init1 = ATZ
Init2 = ATQ0 V1 E1 S0=0 &C1 &D2 +FCLASS=0
Stupid Mode = 1
Modem Type = Analog Modem
Phone = #777
New PPPD = yes
ISDN = 0
Username = 9180****** (your username)
Password = 9180****** (your password)
Baud = 9600

Once you save the file, run the following commands. (You will have to run these two commands every time you connect to the internet. I assume that you boot your PC, log in, plug in the modem, wait for a while and run the commands)
sudo wvdialconf
sudo wvdial

Once you run the second command the modem tries to connect and once the connection is successful, you will be shown the IP and DNS addresses. If you close the terminal window, the connection will stop working. So let it remain minimized. To disconnect use Ctrl + C with a terminal window in focus. To use the terminal for other purposes, you can use a new tab.

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Post Author: gyoby

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