Thursday, 9 January 2014

Well. my 3G router now works ...

As I’ve said before, I’ve invested in a 3G router as a possible alternative to our flaky ADSL service.

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When I first set up the router it wouldn’t recognise the Huawei E173 3g modem or connect - it did know a modem was attached, but that’s all - and this is despite the fact that the unit is clearly labelled as supporting the E173.

I raised a support ticket with TP-Link who replied with a set of helpful links to their troubleshooting documentation.

Essentially, their solution was, inside the configuration tool, select the country to be Other rather than Australia and hand configure the settings.

VirginBroadband, my 3g supplier publish all these online as part of their BYO modem program, so it wasn’t a big ask.

The first problem I hit was that my router didn’t have an Other option in the country settings. To be fair, TP-link did suggest upgrading the firmware first and I hadn’t done that, principally because the unit was on a fairly recent version already.

So I thought laterally. I knew that the router explicitly supported the E173 for Turkcell in Turkey, so I reset the router, told it it was now on the shores of the Bosphorus, manually changed the APN settings to VirginBroadband, and to my utter surprise it just worked.

The modem connect light turned a solid cerise. No fanfare, just a solid data connection.

I must confess I was actually concentrating on my netbook setting up some other features, and didn’t notice the light go solid, but I only realised when Skype suddenly popped up to say that my old friend, Bill Parod at NorthWestern, was online.

Some more tests checking various newsites to confirm the dates and using to confirm I was connecting via Virgin, and we were away.

The router reconfigured itself at some stage to say it was in Australia and not Turkey but everything kept working.

My guess is that inside the router firmware is a table of countries, isp's and supported modems as part of the automated setup process. So if you select Australia you get the Australian cellular isp’s they support and the modems they use, and neither Virgin or the E173 was on the list. Forcing it to Turkcell let it correctly identify the modem, and hey presto, it could connect once I manually changed the APN settings.

So, onto stage 2 - I’ve 8Gb of postpaid data on the modem for testing purposes, so I guess the next thing is to transfer the ‘serious’ computers over to it to see how fast/reliable it is in practice …
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