Computer Tips and Tricks
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Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Setup Mobile Broadband on Dell XPS M1530

A couple of years ago I bought my Dell XPS M1530 Laptop. At that time I had the chance to include mobile broadband with the package. Unfortunately if I had I would have been tied to a 12/18 month contract etc. With the amount I was already paying for the unit, I decided against the extra cost.

This resulted in the laptop coming without a HSDPA module.

It was a good job I did, as I found out the other day that the modules that are factory installed are "locked." Fixed to the Vodafone network.

Time passed and a friend of mine introduced me to his new USB T-Mobile 3G dongle. 3.6 Mbits of highspeed, wireless broadband awesomeness. Then came along smartphones and the ability to use them connected to your PC for access to the internet, via 3G networks. All this is great and works very well, but having an extra piece of hardware dangling from your laptop can be annoying if your moving around. It was time for plan B.

It took a while, but eventually a friend of mine tracked down what I needed. Up until then all I knew was that I needed a MiniPCI 3G Card. Turns out I needed a Dell Wireless HSDPA 5520 Mobile Broadband PCI Express Mini-Card.
As you can see, from Dell the card is a rather hefty $169.99. I found it on too for around £149.48. A bit pricey I thought, so I checked out good old ebay. An ebay shop called Justopeshop stock them for £34.99. Genuine Dell products and even better, they are "unlocked" to any network. They do do a cheaper card for around £25, but for the sake of a tenner I opted for the genuine article.

Installation was nice and easy, althrough a little fiddly. Removing the bottom plate on the back, it was easy enough to slot the card into the WWAN slot and screw it down. The aerial cables were very small and hard to push into place. In the end I had to re-route the cables for the wireless card and then to push the connectors on to the new card with the head of a screwdriver.

The card installed, the back plate back in place, I switched on my laptop and entered the BIOS. At the bottom under 'Wireless' I enabled the Cellular Option, saved the change and let my laptop boot up.

Windows 7 Enterprise 64 Bit found the card immediately but failed to install the drivers. However I was prepared. After some research into how to get these cards functioning I found a download on the Dell site for a Dell Mobile Broadband Utility. This is a 2009 release for Windows 7 and for some reason is very hard to find if you don't know it exists.

When this downloaded it was labelled as a Vodafone utility (DELL_WIRELESS-5520-VODAFONE-_A07_R216764). Ignore this regardless of which network you choose to use and install the software anyway. This will install drivers for the 5520 wireless module and a utility to setup your 3G service.

Once installed a new network connection appears in the "Network and Sharing Centre" under "Change Adapter Settings" called "3G Connection."

There is also a new entry in the Start Menu - All Programs called "Dell Wireless," and an icon in the System tray that launches at startup.

Following this, I then switched off my wireless card to prevent confusion (I have had issues in the past, the faster connection usually takes presidence) and loaded the software. You get a nice small interface (almost like that of a mobile phone) that is initially setup to use AT&T, NOT Vodafone. Weird eh!

This software is used to setup your connection and choose when to connect/disconnect. It can also be used for SMS text messaging.

The next thing to do was to slot in a SIM Card . The slot is behind the battery. I had to shut down and reboot to do this.
Upon loading the software again, the SIM was immediately detected, just like in a mobile phone. Displaying the network name. In my case I was testing with a contract O2 SIM.

To setup the connection I had to create a new profile. I called this O2 Active and used the following settings.

Username: o2wap
Password: password

With my wireless still disabled and my Internet Explorer connections set to automatic as usual, I took the plunge. I hit the connect button in the utility and away I went.

It took only seconds for google to load and before I knew it I was surfing the web over the O2 3G network at 3.6 Mbits. Woo hoo, broadband freedom.

Be aware if you are not familiar with HSDPA technology, your speed is limited to the area you are in. Some areas are yet to get the full high speed mobile broadband from the mobile networks. You can also be hindered by trees and tall buildings etc. If the HSDPA signal is unavailable then the SIM will opt to use 3G at around 368 Kbps or GPRS, running around 32 to 48 Kpbs. Not so impressive, but it is fine for checking your email on the go and updating facebook. Besides it takes you on nostalgic trip back to the days of 56K modems.

I ordered a free T-Mobile pay as you go SIM from their website and used it with Web n Walk.

I am using the following settings in my "T-Mobile" Profile and it seems to connect and work pretty well:

Profile Name: T-Mobile Web n Walk
Username: t-mobile
Password: tm

TIP: Mobile broadband from T-Mobile is usually around £10-£15 per month with a USB dongle. Or you can buy credit (much like a mobile top-up) that lasts only for a certain period of time. If you don't use the majority of it you lose it. It's the same with a lot of providers.

With Pay as you go Web n Walk (usually used on a mobile phone) it is charged at a maximum of £1 per day, providing you download enough for you to be charged that amount.

T-Mobile also offers Internet Boosters for Pay as you go, which lasts a limited amount of time (depending on which you choose) but works out cheaper (£2.50 for 5 days.) The bonus is that whatever credit is left on your SIM will be there for up to 365 days after the last charge to the account, without being removed or swallowed up by hidden charges. This makes your credit always available, providing you use it at least once a year.

A dedicated T-Mobile Pay as you go SIM with an unlocked HSDPA module works out cheaper, more efficient and there are no tie-ins or obligations.

Whichever network and method you choose, remember to check your data charges before you start.


I have found out that the Dell 5520 card also includes GPS. This is hidden by default and has to be enabled in the registry. This adds an extra button to the Utility.

To enable this feature:
  • Load Regedit
  • Navagate too: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node\Novatel Wireless\NextGenCommon
  • Change the change Value "GPSHWStatus" from 0 to 1
  • Reboot

To sum up, I now have 3G internet access wherever I take my laptop (depending on HSDPA availiability) and GPS, all for around 35 quid + Data charges.



Anonymous said...

Wonderful Thank you, just what I needed, mines all working now. Good Job.

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