May 4th, 2010

Fedora and USB Mobile Broadband

Outside the US I use a USB stick for Internet access. It is a Huawei E161, similar enough to other sticks like E160 etc.

Inserting it into a standard Fedora 12 system causes only the simulated CDROM to be mounted. This dual-mode is the root of the problem.

Looking for a solution one comes across many different solutions. The provider I use, Fonic, has something to download for Linux (a plus, even though they don’t provide any support for it). This seems to be an NDIS driver. There are several other ways (including wvdial and some KDE programs) which are documented.

It’s all much simpler with recent Fedora distributions. Just make sure you have the usb_modeswitch and the accompanying usb_modeswitch-data package installed. Version 1.1.2-3 is what I use. Make sure you reboot before trying to use it.

The usb_modeswitch package contains a program which switches the USB stick from mass storage mode into modem mode. It also contains appropriate udev rules to make this automatic if the device is known in the config files. If it is not known it’s quite simple to add.

Anyway, when inserting the stick the mode should then automatically be switched and then NetworkManager takes over. It recognizes the modem and the built-in rules for wireless broadband providers guide you through the rest of the installation process. You only need to know the provider and possibly the plan. That’s it.

Now when I insert the stick all I get asked is the PIN which has to be provided every time. Why, I don’t know, it should IMO be stored in the keyring just like all the other access information.

Anyway, for everybody with wireless broadband devices on Fedora, make sure usb_modeswitch is installed. There is an open bug in the Red Hat bugzilla to make NetworkManager depend on this package so that everything just works for more people.