Hardware

Fixing Three: Solving connectivity issues with the Huawei E220 and Three Mobile broadband


Over the last few months I've tested several of the new HSDPA mobile broadband solutions on the UK market and have been pretty impressed. One of the most competitive packages is offered by Three Mobile--while their top speed and Internet coverage can't match that of Vodafone, for an average user their service was more than adequate and running the costs are much lower than any of their competitors. Unfortunately, I experienced some frustrating connectivity issues while using Three's Mobile Broadband with my Windows notebook. I would find the connection appeared to be established but would not route any data to or from the Internet. The only thing that seemed to enable me to reconnect was a reboot which very quickly became tiresome. Starting with a simple process of elimination, I ruled out the computer, antivirus, and any firewalls. Finally, after trying everything else, I could be 100% sure that I had narrowed the problem down to either the Windows drivers and/or connection manager application. Connecting with my Mac proved there was definitely nothing wrong with the modem or the mobile network.

After spending a few weeks scouring Google, searching through forums, and reading page upon page of newsgroup archives, it became clear that I wasn't the only person suffering from this type of problem, but there didn't seem to be a solution. Three's support site had no mention of an issue and no driver updates. One forum user revealed that after a lot of installing/uninstalling and no fix, he'd been offered a refund. I was still convinced that this shouldn't be too difficult to resolve; either the driver or connection manager were to blame and I wondered whether I would be able to find an updated driver or generic connection manager on the Web.

Following a thread of comments on the mobileconnected blog, I found one post by a Vista user who had unwittingly flashed his ‘Three' E220 modem with a Vodafone firmware update in an attempt to add Vista compatibility; unfortunately for him, doing this also replaced Three's connection manager with Vodafone's VMCLite software, which wouldn't let him connect to the Three network. One helpful chap had suggested that he looked at Three's Australian website. I decided to take a look too and bingo--updated firmware and an updated connection manager for the Huawei E220!

Before I go any further, I must point out that updating your modem with software not directly provided by Three (UK) is risky. If anything goes wrong ,you may find yourself unsupported by any warranties--so, if you're not sure or don't feel comfortable applying firmware updates, then I wouldn't advise you to continue. As Three (UK) don't supply firmware or application installers it will not be possible to reverse this update.

Okay, now that I've warned you, let's get down to business:

  • 1. Download the Firmware update and Mobile Manager Software update.
  • 2. Plug in the USB modem and wait for the Mobile Manager to start--then close it (exit, don't minimise).
  • 3. Run the Firmware update.
  • 4. Once the Firmware update has finished, you need to unplug the modem, leave it for a few seconds, and then plug it back in.
  • 5. Again, wait for the Mobile Manager application to launch and close it.
  • 6. Launch the Mobile Manager Software update and follow the installation through.
  • 7. After installing the software update, unplug the USB modem and open up Add/Remove Programs in Control Panel.
  • 8. Uninstall the ‘3 USB Modem' software.
  • 9. Plug the modem back in and allow it to automatically install the new version of Mobile Manager.

As you might imagine, it's not quite that straightforward and although the new Mobile Manager will show a 3G network, it fails to connect. This is due to the different APN name in Australia but can easily be rectified:

  • 1. Start the mobile Manager (Start > 3 Mobile broadband).
  • 2. From the toolbar, select ‘Settings > Network Connection Settings'.
  • 3. Create a new profile; I called mine ‘Three UK'.
  • 4. Leave everything as Default apart from the APN--this needs to be set to Static and ‘three.co.uk' entered in the textbox.
  • 5. Save the profile and click on ‘Connect'.

You should find that a HSDPA connection to the UK network is initiated without any further problems!

It's been a few days since I updated my modem and the Mobile Manager; so far, so good. I've tested the service in a few different locations, tried connecting and disconnecting and coming in/out of standby. I haven't seen a repeat of the connection issues I previously encountered--the modem connects first time, every time, with no need for annoying reboots! On a side-note, I noticed that the Firmware update increased the maximum connection speed of the modem from 3.8Mbps to 7.2Mbps, although this will have no effect on the connection speed as Three's UK network only goes up to 2.8Mbps.

I hope this quick guide helps a few people who have had the same kind of problems I had. I know how frustrating it has been for me and have informed Three's support outfit with the hope that they'll address the issues with an officially supported update on the UK Web site.

If you've experienced similar issues, found a different solution, or have any questions about the update process, then leave a comment.

29 comments
tharindusj
tharindusj

Ok.. I'm facing somewhat a similar prob it seems... My dongle is Huawei e220 an unlocked one from Three Mobile and using it with Airtel Sri Lanka. It worked all ok for a while ,like a month, and now i get disconnected continuously and now i cannot connect at all! I get the error msg ''NO SIM/USIM OR SIM/USIM ERROR''. I wonder whether this is a driver prob or a firmware prob? Please help me sort this prob out...

JakBurn2009
JakBurn2009

Hi people on 3g :) I would like to point out the obvious and tell you to copy and paste the contents of the 3g modem (Virtual Cdrom)to a folder named "3g modem - Do Not Delete" like mine! then if something should go wrong, uninstall the 3g modem software from add/remove programs and reinstall from the folder named "3g modem - Do Not Delete" and you will be able to start again, (I goofed) apart from human error this was all straight forward stuff and well recomended. 10/10 JakBurn

williamv883
williamv883

This article you wrote really helped me out. I made the mistake of 'updating' my modem firmware. It turned out to be something called MOBILE PARTNER. Needless to say, it didn't go well. I still am unsure of doing this update from the 3 services Australia site with the new 3 dashboard/ firmware though. I have downloaded and installed the new 3 e220 modem firmware to my modem, but have yet to run the setup as per instructions. I am worried that if I uninstall the original silver and blue interface software from my computer and replace it with the downloaded and installed software from the 3 services Australia site, I won't be able to connect again. Am I over worrying? Or should I take a leap of faith and go ahead and do it? The new shiny orange and blue front end looks the business, but I'm still unsure. Please advise...

linkin77paul
linkin77paul

i have a problem after i complete all the steps it doesn,t show me any network.the network sign is all the time grey no matter what i,ve done it can find any network.is there a solution to this problem?

michaelgill77
michaelgill77

This has greatly improved my 3 connection. Intermittent 3G signal now much more reliably sits as HSDPA. Instructions followed as above successfully (a reboot was required). APN set to 3internet and static, other settings let alone. Thanks for your post!

david
david

I have seen this on O2 Dongles too, another issue I am having is when the device is inserted into some (not all) XP systems, the device starts to install, the CDRom appears, the CDROM disappears and then never comes back again as it does so on a working system. It appears to me there is a problem with the hooking of the composit driver, and I have tried everything including clearing out all reg enties for USB devices, uninstalling piles of sofware, yet the problem persists, even rule out my machine by reinstalling a fresh copy of XP, then the device installs correctly and works!!!

lily
lily

Hi Justin Many thanks for this post, I've gone through all the steps above but when the new connection manager launches the 'connect' tab is greyed out so I can't even attempt to connect to anything. I'm able to create a new profile and used the one you suggested but it still won't work. The USB itself doesn't have a solid green light, it flashes twice intermittently. I'd really appreciate any ideas on this? Thanks Sue

terrfic_macho
terrfic_macho

Well the solution provided sounds good apart from that APN, caz the APN three.co.uk may not be proviosned on HLR(home location register), u may need to confirm wat is the APN provisioned on ur number. Three primarily work with two APN, one of them has been mentioned in the solution and the other one is "3intrenet" case senstive. On some of number both may be provisoned.

wgc112
wgc112

My host software in "About" shows version host01.11.18.01.04.156. When I ran the Mobile Manager Software update my version was shown as host01.11.118.01.04.156 with the update HostA46.11.107.01.02.100.b266 I stopped updating. Which version is the latest? My version has connection problems?

andy_baguley
andy_baguley

I must say I???ve read with interest the post, and subsequent thread. Bought my payg on Wed, and problems!! Before I flash I just wanted to confirm I am suffering from issues which the flash will cure? I live in a marginal area. 3g on one side of the house, and 2g on the other. On 3G I can connect, browse the internet, and VPN etc etc. It does drop occasionally, but I put that down to the weak signal. But when I???m on 2G, for some reason I am unable to browse!! I can connect, and even establish a VPN to my server and sync Outlook. I can obviously browse via the vpn, but then that is via my server and it???s internet connection. Disconnect the VPN, and nothing. Website sometimes found, and if so waiting for reply. I???ve never had a page display on 2G. I can ping a site OK but no IE response. Seems to be the same on both Vista and XP. Any similarities to others? Rgds Andy

gareth
gareth

This has just saved my life :) I screwed my 3UK modem up by installing wrong dashboard and firmware but just flashed the new firmware and dash and it works perfect + connects at 7.mbps which will come in handy as 3 are supposed to be upping the speeds this year :) Thank you so much for this post.

simon
simon

Followed these instructions. All went well until I tried to connect. Kept getting a "unable to connect to remote computer, closing port" (err 617). Manually reinstalled the drivers using "C:\Program Files\3 Mobile\3 Mobile Broadband\Drivers\DriverSetup.exe" then all was well. Fingers cross things are ok from now on!

office
office

Justin - Please accept a complimentary bottle of virtual champagne!! I was getting as frustrated as you seem to have been. Followed your instructions and things seem to be 10000% better. (Although only an hour's experience so far...) Also the new application looks a lot less clunky than the last! Thanks a million for your post. Tim

vmo
vmo

I'm a swiss user of a swisscom(vodafone) E220, it's working almost fine while connected on XP. But, as you mentionned the mac, it is simply unusable on a mac (even if it advertised as Mac OS 10.4 and up compatible). The provided software is simply useless... I wondered what software you were using...

cam
cam

This may or may not be relevant to UK users, but I had enormous problems with the self installing connection manager that comes with the Australian 3 offering. The software installed correctly and the drivers installed correctly - the device is seen as a modem and the modem diagnostics prove a recognised accessible device... but do you think the 3 software could ever see the modem? 3 times I went through a process of cleaning out and redoing - each time with the same result. How did I beat it? I took the settings in the connection manager and added a modem string to the modem: AT+CGDCONT=1,"IP","3netaccess" I created a dial up connection ala windows "new connection wizard". Create a dial up connection. Call it what you want. The phone number was entered as: *99# I finished the wizard and edited the Networking settings to uncheck File and Print sharing and Microsoft Windows Client. Leave the IP settings to DHCP.... the connection type is PPP, settings are enable LCP extensions and enable software compression. As for redial preferences... I set to 3 seconds and try 10 times...redial if disconnected... but these are personal preference. My 3 connection is as solid as can be...all day last week, back and forth through the harbour tunnel, over the harbour bridge... through the M5 east tunnel, from North Sydney, to Bondi to Bankstown and Marrickville... not once did the connection drop. I run a Terminal Server session using low resolution colour depth...256 colours... and have a software VOIP phone running, to which my office phone was redirected. It costs 9 cents to make a 20 minute call... I didn't miss any incoming calls... I plugged the laptop into a 240volt inverter through the cigarette lighter in the car to keep the thing going with full charge. I had a full time desktop at the office and my office phone with me all day while running between clients... I knocked out invoices and emailed a PDF....any missed VOIP calls from the office are emailed as a wave file to me...caller ID displayed and no waiting for the eternal..."Message...received...today...at..11...42...am" preceding every message. I have thrown the mobile phone in the bin, effectively, have a single voicemail and inbox - always have my data at my fingertips...and the terminal server has a 13 megabit ADSL2+ connection from which the browsing is done. I do no browsing on the laptop directly. I do everything... including remote control client support sessions, through my terminal session. So how much traffic did this use on my 2 gig plan? Well... I spent half the day on the phone and the terminal ran non stop. My total 3 traffic was only 88 megabytes.... so for 22 work days each month, I can still stay under the plan limit. No mobile phone bill... total mobility...$24.50 per month and 9 cent phone calls. Feels like the eighties again... I've clawed it back from the telcos.

casanach
casanach

Hi I had exactly the same problem having unwittingly upgraded firmware to the Vodafone version. Whilst you can't reverse this process, you can do it again with the *correct* patch. It worked for me on XP Pro and the the next day installed itself with no extra downloads on my Vista HP at work. You will need to follow the config instructions, basically: new profile- any name set IP to static and APN to three.co.uk. It's all in the original post. Works perfectly for me and the mobile connection is faster than my landline connection. Good luck, Howard

niko
niko

William, I would go for it, it does work OK if you follow the instructions about the new profile etc precisely. Though how much better is debatable. If you downloaded from the links in line 1 of the download instructios they are from about December07. There are later ones, Sept08, from the Australian site which you will find in the link embedded in the paragraph starting "Following a thread of comments..." I'm about to try those. Good luck. Nik.

Justin Fielding
Justin Fielding

Hi Tim. I'm glad it helped. I prefer the new connection manager too--the old one used to lock up and crash quite a lot.

Justin Fielding
Justin Fielding

I'm using the lastest Mac driver with the standard OS X 'Network Connections' modem manager. I have started using CheetahWatch (http://m.ac.nz/cheetahwatch/) which has a nicer GUI and some data usage functions. Maybe that will help you?

dtalbot
dtalbot

All working fine apart from the my3 button links me to the Australian site rather than the UK one, anyone know where this setting is buried?

niko
niko

3's DNS servers are not the best. Change to the DNS servers at www.opendns.com for another great improvement in performance. Instructions are found on the site. Nik

simon
simon

Well, I not longer get the "Data Modem Invalid" nonsense so that is much better. However, I find that MSN will disconnect at the drop of a hat. Very frustrating, although I guess that is the 3 network rather than the device.

vmo
vmo

Thank You! I also found at Novamedia (http://www.novamedia.de) a nice software able to manage this modem and much more. It's called Launch2Net.

niko
niko

Open sysrest.dat in Notepad.Its found in the 3 Mobile Broadband folder. On the first page, very near the start of the file, you will see this. [EHIDS_HUAWEI_SUPPORT] COMMENT= VALUE=www.three.com.au/mobilebroadband_support Editing that to point to the UK support, if there is any,:) might help. Nik

Justin Fielding
Justin Fielding

I haven't had any problems. Do you get a good signal from the three network?

Editor's Picks