George MacKerron: code blog

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O2 mobile broadband on a Mac: tips for you, suggestion for O2

Until Monday, O2 is offering a half-price USB dongle for pay-as-you-go mobile broadband. Buy it via Quidco, and you get not only the dongle but also a month’s access (or 3GB, whichever is the sooner) absolutely free.

So: free modem. No further commitment. And the opportunity to buy access a day at a time for £2, on a train journey, for example, or in an airport lounge, where the cheapest paid-for WiFi option is rarely less than £5, and often nearer £10. Handy.

Update. O2 is no longer doing the modem at half price, but the Quidco cashback has increased so that it still fully covers the modem and a £15 top-up.

The dongle

The dongle, a Huawei E160, is a fairly pretty white thing, and it supports my Mac. So far so good. Unfortunately, the software and instructions have crack-smoking hobos written all over them. Huawei “Mobile Connect” is ugly, crash-prone, writes logs to the console like there’s no tomorrow (literally thousands of messages per minute), and has never yet successfully connected me.

Luckily, you don’t need to use Mobile Connect: once the drivers are installed, you can connect using the menu item for the modem. Or rather, once the drivers are installed and you’ve taken the following counter-intuitive and undocumented step you can.

Making it work

When it installed, my dongle was configured as Vendor: Other, Model: Huawei Mobile Connect – 3G modem (this is under System Preferences > Network > HUAWEI mobile > Advanced…). This sounds good, but it doesn’t work: there’s nowhere to enter your APN.

System Preferences screenshot (before

Instead, after much fiddling, I found I had to switch Vendor to Generic and Model to GPRS (GSM/3G). Although confusingly less right, this does seem to do the trick.

System Preferences screenshot (after

I also ended up downloading new drivers from the Huawei site. (Not for the E160. That would be too simple. The ‘Mac’ drivers for the E160 turn out to be a Windows .exe file. The drivers I’m using are supposedly for the E220). I’m not sure if this step was necessary or even well-advised, but it might be worth trying if you’re not having any luck.

Listen up, O2

Which brings us to the suggestion to O2. O2: I have an iPhone. It’s on your network. It supports tethering. I’m not about to pay you an extra £15 a month for the once or twice a month I want to use it. Let me use it for pay-as-you-go mobile broadband!

In this case you’d have saved yourself the full cost of a modem dongle — and generally, you’d be saving yourself the support costs and return costs associated with everyone who can’t get the horrible thing working. You’d have saved the world the cost of the resources and pollution required in manufacturing it. And you’d have saved me the pain of several hours fiddling with System Preferences, the inconvenience of another gadget to pack for every trip, and probable future kernel panics associated with Huawei’s flaky drivers.


Written by George

August 1st, 2009 at 1:52 pm

Posted in iPhone,Mac

  • Trev

    At last snow Leopard with 02 BB but i didn’t enter anything in the APN box, thanks George.



  • I found that the easiest way to get the thing working under Snow Leopard was to insert the dongle and copy (just drag ‘n drop) the driver files into the applications folder and run the application script from there: this was the only way that I could get an install to work on Snow Leopard (incidentally, the install process works fine on earlier builds of OS X).

    Once that’s done, pretty much follow George’s directions: it’s a little erratic in the way that it works, but it does work every time – so far at least! I also left the APN field empty with no apparent side effects.

    iPhone tethering had also occurred to me as an iPhone user – guess it’s just another way that service providers use to get more cash from the end user – at least my son got a laptop from the deal :)

  • Natalie

    I am having problems for just instaling this mobile connect! Everytime I try to open the application I get an error message: mobile connect quit unexpectedly…..
    What shall I do?


  • Siddif

    For the installation on Snow Leopard i found if you Right Click and select Show Package Contents

    Contents > Resources > Mobile_connect_Drv_app.pkg

    double click the pkg file and this should do a successful install.

    My problem is im using a borrowed Dongle and i dont have the phone number to top it up and as we dont have the proper o2 connection manager i cant find the number via software, Any ideas?

  • Hannah

    Hi George or anyone else who’s in the know:

    Could you by any chance let me know what to do if I cannot set the Modem to Vendor: Generic because my 10.4.5 doesn’t offer the option? I’m lostâ¦

    Thanks a bunch, I’d really appreciate the reply. The constant hang-ups of the connection are driving me mad.

  • Moethejoey

    Problems installing O2 mobile broadband on Snow leopard ? go to this page,Kb=Companion,question=ref(User):str(MobileBroadband),t=broadband_case,CASE=13645

  • Colin Veysey,Kb=Companion,question=ref(User):str(MobileBroadband),t=broadband_case,CASE=13645
    WILL NOT OPEN to give me assistance. Having bought your USB web dongle for a high price IT WILL NOT WORK with Snow Leopard. FRUSTRATED and ANGRY! Colin V

  • If you’re cross with O2, you should probably get in touch with them directly.

    My dongle is working fine on Snow Leopard. I don’t recall if I had to install a new driver when I upgraded from Leopard. Some of the previous comments sound like they might be of use, though.

    If you could be a bit more specific about the problem you’re having, perhaps I or someone else will be able to help.

  • Ben

    I just bought a o2 webstick.
    I have got snowleopard 10.6.1
    I have installed everything, i have got the best connection, the only problem is although I am connected, internet pages would not open.
    I have changed the APN, I have tried everything out i even installed mozilla but the browser always tells me that I am offline


  • Have you visited the O2 page where you pay for access?
    Once you’re connected, you need to go to to choose and pay for one of the access options.

    If it still isn’t working, open Terminal from Applications > Utilities, type ifconfig, press Return, and copy and paste what you get out into a comment here.

  • Charles

    lo0: flags=8049 mtu 16384
    inet6 ::1 prefixlen 128
    inet6 fe80::1%lo0 prefixlen 64 scopeid 0x1
    inet netmask 0xff000000
    inet6 fdd1:5085:8e9:bc0c:223:32ff:fed9:d0e2 prefixlen 128
    gif0: flags=8010 mtu 1280
    stf0: flags=0 mtu 1280
    en0: flags=8863 mtu 1500
    ether 00:23:32:d9:d0:e2
    media: autoselect
    status: inactive
    fw0: flags=8863 mtu 4078
    lladdr 00:23:32:ff:fe:d9:d0:e2
    media: autoselect
    status: inactive
    en1: flags=8823 mtu 1500
    ether 00:23:6c:88:69:65
    media: ()
    status: inactive
    ppp0: flags=8051 mtu 1500
    inet –> netmask 0xff000000

  • Hi to everyone. Although I find the information really useful,I seem to be having the same problem with O2 webstick as Ben. I followed the recommendations step by step but still it’s not OK. I’ll keep on trying and go to the site George gave.

  • Hi to everyone.

    Although I find the information really useful,I seem to be having the same problem with O2 webstick as Ben. I followed the recommendations step by step but still it’s not OK.

    I’ll keep on trying and go to the site George gave.

  • I don’t have the proper O2 connection manager either and the problem with the phone number appears to be the same. Ideas?

  • steve

    I have 02 broadband (dongle) it says I am connected but when i try to top up with credit there is no way of me doing it, i have a macbook, can anybody out there help? i am not very good with computers so simple instructions would be really appreciated.

    Thanks Steve

  • Have you tried visiting to top up?

  • anish

    thanks a lots
    it’s working veyr well with this way.
    i did it. thank again

  • Gary

    I’m having problems with my mobile broadband dongle, since upgrading to Lion OS, I keep getting the message ‘mobile connect quite unexpectedly’. O2 are being useless at trying to resolve it, all they can say is I need to top up, which I’ve done, still hasn’t fixed the problem though. Can anyone make any suggestions?

    Not impressed with Lion, nothing works properly since I installed it.

  • I suspect this is an issue of the original Huawei drivers being 32-bit only, and Lion switching everyone to a 64-bit kernel. I haven’t switched to Lion yet so I haven’t tried it, but this looks like what you need:

  • I’m having the same issue as Gary, if anyone has a suggestion on how to resolve this I would love to hear about it.

    Agreed Lion is not the best release from Apple,

  • Well, I hope O2 listen to consumers’ suggestion in order to provide better service.