Tag Archives: mifi

mifi good and bad with the huawei e5830

so, I’ve been using the E5380 for 6 weeks now. The experience has been mixed, at times, it works great and flawlessly, and at times, it’s just horrendous.

So, would this be a device the I recommend, yes definitely; but know it’s limitations. To be fair, I’m using Singtel here in Singapore, and the device Singtel sells is the e5832. I could be that the e5830 is not totally well compatible with Singtel.

Before I get all too technical here, this is what I have experienced….

The situations are 2 extremes…

  1. the device works flawlessly and delivers uninterrupted internet access
  2. the device connects to the internet, works for a few mins and then loses connection, but thinks it’s still online

So far, I don’t have a clear clue on why exactly this is happening. From my observation and numerous internet posts, plus comparing some specs, I believe there are 3 possibilities

  1. what I do notice is that connection tends to be very flaky when signal strength is weak. But if I switch the device to force it to connect only using GSM (and never 3G) it will work smoothly, just slow. So here, I question what’s wrong that is preventing the device to switch network automatically… very much like what the E220 USB dongle can do.
  2. Reading from some aussie forums, it appears that there are users with the E5830 that encountered the same symptoms as I have. ie, the device works very well and consistently in some areas, and in others, flaky. What they have observed but unable to confirm is that it could have been a carrier network issue. So for many of them, without doing anything to the devices, all of the sudden at the areas where the device worked bad, it was performing fine already. The conclusion there is that there was some operating issue with their mobile provider and it was fixed at the carrier end.
  3. Singtel does issue the E5832 with the high end post paid plans, and comparing the difference between the E5830 and E5832, is that the E5832 supports WCDMA 2100/900MHz where the E5830 only supports WCMDA 2100MHz. Could it be that to work well with the Singtel network, I need the WCDMA 900MHz also? I don’t know, so far I’m not able to find any details online about what frequencies does Singtel 3G network operate on. In addition, my friend has the exact same model as me, just that he’s using Starhub. Starhub has the E5830, and his experience has been all much better than mine. In areas where I have dodgy signals, his still works smoothly. Will need more testing to see how well it performs in areas of weak signal strength.

There are alternatives out there for 3G pocket router solutions. The Novatel MIFI is definitely discouraged from the stories I’ve heard. But now, manufacturers like Aztech and Dlink produce 3G routers which you can plug your good ol 3G USB dongles to. I’ve read that some of the newer routers are USB powered, but have yet to be able to validate that. If true, it could be a viable alternative, BUT with a heavier baggage. The E583x models are still the slimmests and most portable around.

mifi world!! pocket hotspot on the go!

huawei i moa week ago, I picked up my newest gadget, the Huawei E5830. This is a personal wifi hotspot, something similar to the Novatel MiFi, available with Verizon (US) or M1 (Singapore).

My sister has the MiFi from M1 and she complains the same issue that many users have; the unit overheats. When it gets too hot, it just shuts down without warning! For my sister it seems to get to that point in 5mins of usage.

So, together, we picked up the Huawei E5830. In Singapore, there are 2 ways to buy that device. 1, with a contract with Singtel (one of the major telco), or 2, from 3rd party resellers.

The Singtel option is costly, and also did not apply for us as we have existing contracts for our data plan. The alternative is 3rd party resellers. Just about all of these 3rd party resellers sells the unlocked model from 3-UK. So it seems that the 3 UK could be the best provider in the world that offers the device with a nice pre-paid data plan. This makes the device available at a pretty reasonable price. In addition, some people have got their hands on the unlock code for the device and managed to unlock the devices and even change the firmware.

With the unlock and firmware upgrade, this device becomes usable with any 3G telcos in the world. It’s easy to find many people trying to sell this on eBay. For us, we found someone in Singapore who have brought in a large quantity of these devices and selling them at a slightly higher price than we can find in eBay. For the higher premium, at least we’ll get a better chance of some sort of “warranty” if we find any problems with the units.

The Huawei E5380 is slighly bigger than the first generation HSDPA USB modem. As it has a rechargeable battery inside, it weighs a little bit more, but still fairly light to carry around easily. Opening up the unit to slide in the SIM card is very similar to most mobile phones. To operate the unit, there are 3 buttons, power, wifi & 3G connect.

  • Power – toggles the unit on and off
  • wifi – toggles the wifi served on and off
  • connect – gets the unit to establish a connection to the internet

The unit is pre-configured with WPA encrypted wifi out of the box. The WPA key is on a sticker next to the SIM card slot, so make sure to take note of the key when inserting the SIM card.

Once we power up the unit, give it about 30s to 1min to boot up, and when the “W” icon lights up, the WIFI is on and you can get your notebook, iPad, etc.. to search for the signal. Follow the standard way on your device to connect to a wifi.

If your unit has the firmware that has web management capabilities, just launch your favorite browser and point it to http://192.168.1.1. Login with the default credentials and it will take you to the web administration portal. For Starhub users, there’s actually nothing much to do, the unit will just work straight away. If you are a M1 or Singtel user, you’ll need to make some changes to the APN profile. Likewise if your provider requires some unique APN setup, this will have to be done.

One nice feature is that you can configure the unit to connect to 3G manually or on demand. Manually, means you’ll either need to press the button, or get into the web portal and click the “connect” button. On demand means that the 3G will auto connect once there’s a request from a client device to access something on the internet. It can have a time out setting which will disconnect the 3G connection after some time of inactivity. This probably can extend the battery life since the unit don’t have to maintain a permanent connection. On the similar note, the wifi signal can be set to auto-off after a period of inactivity also. This further saves power, but to re-enable wifi signal, you’ll have to press the wifi button on the device.

I’ve been quite happy with the performance of the unit, by specifications it is capable up to 7.2Mbps downstream. In reality, with Singtel as my provider I have reached up to 3Mbps, which for me is very much good enough for internet access on the go.

In addition to the wifi connection it provides, you can use the unit like a USB dongle as well. It has a standard mini-USB jack, and once plugged in, you’ll get the usual virtual CD-ROM drive that contains the connection manager installer. If you’ve used 3G USB dongles before, this will be a familiar ground for you. I have read before that some units will disable 3G when the USB is plugged in. This is not the case for my unit. So, this means that if you are sharing the device with others, and the battery goes low, you can just connect the device to your notebook to charge it up.

In the overall, I’m very pleased with this little investment. It is the perfect companion for iPad users, for people who work on the go, and to share with peers.

If you’ve read about my exploration of MyWi before, I’ll rate this unit to be a much better choice for a few reaons

  1. on top of the list – this device operates in Infrastructure mode (which mywi only works in ad-hoc)
  2. the E5380 offers many more features than MyWi, which one can argue is not critical just to get some internet connection on the go
  3. Since this unit works independently, it takes away the strain from my iPhone
  4. I can easily pass the unit to my wife for her usage, which otherwise I would not be able to do so with my iPhone

True, there’s a higher cost involved compared to just buying MyWi, so, it really comes down to individual situations and preferences.