The pain-free guide to using Huawei modems on Mac

This post was made a very long time ago and the process below has not been tested with recent versions of OSX.

Note: I have updated this guide for Snow Leopard. If you use OS X 10.6+ then make sure to follow step 3.

Huawei E220

The following is a guide for setting up a Huawei *cellularUSB modem on a *Mac. **It will work with any cellular network, any APN and does not require any third-party connection software. Just your Mac, OS X Leopard or Snow Leopard (10.5+ or 10.6+), and a Huawei modem with an active SIM card for the network you are connecting to.

Huawei provides a range of modems allowing users to connect to cellular networks and the Internet using GPRS, EDGE, 3G and HSPA technologies. I use the Huawei E220, but this setup should work with any Huawei USB modem.

The network I use most regularly is Vodacom in South Africa that provides special software, provided by parent company Vodafone, that facilitates connecting with the modem on a Mac.

However, being a tech journalist and someone who travels a lot, I have a container full of SIM cards for international networks and other service providers I am testing out including MTN, Internet Solutions and Wireless-G’s GConnect service.

The basic settings for all the networks I have tried are the same, but they often use different access point names (APNs) which require specific software for specification. Apple OS X Leopard has drivers and all the required settings built-in. They’re just buried.

The following are the steps I have used to set up the modem with my Mac. This will only work with OS X Leopard – earlier versions, such as Tiger, will not work.

  1. Remove the SIM PIN.* This requires putting your SIM card in a phone and finding the setting to remove the PIN. If you are using an iPhone this setting is under Phone -> SIM PIN. This step is required as there is no way for OS X to send a PIN to your modem. If you are worried about security and don’t want to remove the PIN then stop here. You’ll need special software for your modem and this guide is not for you. Once you have removed the PIN, put the SIM card back in your Huawei.*
  2. *Uninstall third-party software. *This may not be necessary, but some software will force settings for your modem and interfere with your setup. Uninstalling it makes sure your settings will stick.
  3. *Install drivers for Snow Leopard. *This is only necessary if you use OS X 10.6 or later – Leopard (10.5) users should ignore this step. Download these drivers from Huawei.zip) and install them.
  4. *Plug in your Huawei modem. *It goes in the USB port 😉
  5. Open System Preferences and go to ‘Network’.
  6. Your Huawei modem should be listed in the pane on the left of the window. If it isn’t, click on the + and select your modem from the ‘Interface’ drop down menu. Then click on ‘Create’.
  7. Highlight the Huawei modem in the pane on the left and select ‘Advanced’.
  8. *Change vendor to ‘Generic’. *In the drop down menu, select ‘generic’ as the vendor and set ‘Model’ to ‘GPRS (GSM/3G)’. Now ‘APN’ will appear and you can specify whatever your network needs it to be. For most this will just be ‘Internet’ but it varies, especially with network partners like Wireless-G or Internet Solutions. After entering your APN (and other network settings should they be required) click on ‘OK’.Huawei settings
  9. Set telephone number and credentials. *This step might require some experimenting. Click on ‘Apply’ and then enter the Telephone Number. This will be *99# for most cellular networks, but could also be *991# depending on your location. For Vodacom I find that 991# works in most areas. But there are other numbers available, up to 4 (994#) so try them all to find the one that works best for you. Usernames and passwords are not required on Vodacom or MTN, but are required for other networks, so make sure you have the right details.Huawei creds
  10. *Show modem in status bar. *This is just a preference I have, so that I can easily connect without having to go into System Preferences.

And you’re done. If all went according to plan then you should now be able to just plug in your modem, wait for it to initiate and then connect without any extra software required.

You might also want to grab an awesome little app called CheetahWatch that shows signal strength, provides usage tracking and a bunch of other useful features for Huawei modems on Mac.

I'm a writer and broadcaster who also designs apps and strategies for disruptive startups in the financial world. Find out more on my about page.