Using an unlocked USB 3g dongle on a mac

The cellular telcos regularly have deals where they give away 3g/4g usb modem dongles for free or very cheap. I seem to have collected one from every network over the last few years. I also tend to churn networks pretty regularly, in an effort to keep data costs down.

At the moment, Optus Connect4Less gives me blocks of 500Mb for $5. Annoyingly, it bills in 1Mb increments, so I am flying through my quota pretty fast, but it is otherwise ok.

I have also recently come into a MacBook Air. Nice laptop, but since I haven’t use MacOS since about the end of last century, it is taking a bit to get used to.

One issue was getting a 3G connection working. The optus branded dongle sticks straight out , I much prefer the old Telstra Turbo stick with a hinged USB plug that points up. Fortunately, these are easily unlocked to take any SIM, and the drivers are available at ZTE’s site – as it is actually a ZTE MF626, specifically a MF626i to indicate the Telstra branded model. It includes dialling software with Telstra NextG logos that helpfully hides almost all useful config options. Don’t use it.

Instead, head to Network Preferences in the OS, select the ZTEUSBModem entry and enter *99# as the calling number. In advanced, under “Model” select GPRS (GSM3G). Now you can enter your network APN. For Optus, it is usually “internet”, for Voda it used to be “vfinternet”. Whirlpool has the latest details if you are not sure.

That’s it. Click apply to save the settings then Connect to try it out. Mine takes a minute or so before it is connected and the DNS is properly applied, so be patient. You can select “Show modem status in menu bar” to have a little phone icon to easily connect/disconnect in future.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.