How to Use Mobile Broadband With Linux

Written by quinn marshall
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How to Use Mobile Broadband With Linux
(Chad Baker/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Linux is an open-source operating system that is available as "distros," which are specific window managers, utilities and software collections added to an underlying Linux kernel. Though each Linux distro varies in appearance and function, most of them have the inherent capability of using a mobile broadband Internet connection. Some Linux distros can use mobile broadband via a USB device or PCMCIA card, while others lack the necessary drivers and instead require the use of a mobile broadband router.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • Mobile broadband router
  • 3G mobile broadband modem
  • PCMCIA mobile broadband modem

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    USB Device

  1. 1

    Purchase a USB mobile broadband modem from the service provider with whom you have a mobile broadband account. If you do not have a mobile broadband account, register with a provider that has strong 3G coverage for your city or the location you will be using the broadband, as well as Linux drivers and support.

  2. 2

    Download the appropriate Linux driver for your USB modem and install it onto your computer. Some 3G USB modems require the driver to be installed before the modem is plugged in for the first time; consult the instructions that came with your modem for specific directions. Be sure to download the driver for your specific distro. For example, Ubuntu and Debian Linux require DEB drivers, while SUSE and Fedora require RPM drivers. Mobile broadband modem drivers are usually available either as a download from the provider's website, on a CD or DVD included with the device or on the USB modem itself.

  3. 3

    Download any software the modem may require. Many mobile broadband providers have specialised software that allows users to monitor data usage and control the connection. The software is usually available in a CD or DVD that was packaged with the modem, on the modem itself or located as a download on the provider's website. Consult the instructions that came with your mobile broadband modem for specific information.

  4. 4

    Plug the USB mobile broadband modem into one of the USB ports on your computer. Wait for your computer to recognise the modem, then launch the software you installed in the previous step. Select "Connect" to make a connection with the mobile broadband network.

    PCMCIA Device

  1. 1

    Purchase a PCMCIA mobile broadband modem. A PCMCIA card is ideal over a USB modem if you plan on leaving it connected to the computer at all times, or if your computer is not equipped with USB 2.0 ports. Make sure the device you purchase has Linux driver support for your specific Linux distro.

  2. 2

    Install the Linux driver for your device. It may be located on the provider's website or on a disc included with the device.

  3. 3

    Download or install any software provided by the ISP. Some providers offer software that allows users to monitor their data usage and control connections. The software may be available online or on a CD or DVD shipped with the device.

  4. 4

    Insert the PCMCIA card into the PC slot on your computer. Wait for Linux to recognise the device. Launch the software if it doesn't automatically launch when then card is inserted. Select "Connect" to create an Internet connection.

    Mobile Broadband Router

  1. 1

    Purchase a mobile broadband wireless router. Some mobile routers are designed only for mobile broadband modems, while others are equipped for both Ethernet and mobile connections. Make sure the mobile router you choose has a PCMCIA slot if you are using a PCMCIA card, or a USB port if you're using a USB modem. A wireless mobile broadband router is necessary if your mobile broadband provider doesn't offer Linux driver support.

  2. 2

    Place the router in a central location where it's not obstructed by walls or other electronic devices, which could cause a weak signal. Plug the mobile broadband router into a wall outlet. Plug your modem into the appropriate slot on the router. Press the "Power" button to turn the device on.

  3. 3

    Click the "Network" icon on your distro's taskbar or dock. Select the new wireless network for your router and choose "Connect."

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