Mobitel 3.5G HSPA + Huawei E220 USB modem on Leopard – Download speeds and experience

Repeated calls to Dialog’s WiMax call centre, meeting them face to face at the Crescat Lobby in December and repeated SMS’s to the General Manager of Marketing failed to get me a Dialog WiMax connection that worked as promised. Clearly, Dialog is too busy giving “wings to equality” to care too much about what must surely be one of the most lackadaisical and essentially useless marketing and customer care divisions amongst telcos in Sri Lanka.


Thought of going with Mobitel’s 3.5G HSPA service today. Walked in at around 10.30am to their shop on Duplication Road with my Macbook Pro and asked them whether the Huawei  E220 USB modem they offered (approx. SLR 22,000 – why are they so damn expensive?) was compatible with it. By the looks on their faces, it was evident that this was first time someone had asked them this question. To cut a long story short, I was told that someone, somewhere at SLT had figured out a way to get it to work (Huawei doesn’t support OS X officially) and that the salesperson I spoke to, a very amicable and helpful bloke, would get back to me with details of it on Monday.

Came home, did a Google search and found this page (link updated on 2nd September 2008 as the earlier one was dysfunctional)  which gave all the details and links I needed to get the E220 fired up on OS X 1.05 Leopard.

Second trip to Mobitel at around 4.30pm lasted around half an hour, in which time I was able to get my 3.5G HSPA connection with a minimum of fuss. My N.I.C was required in addition to billing proof, that I said should be in their system since I am an SLT subscriber as well as an SLT ADSL user. Clearly, their databases aren’t linked. Anyway, drove home, plugged the Huawei USB modem into my MBP, followed the instructions here and was in around 3 minutes flat connected to the internet.

So here are the results of the first test using CNET’s Download Meter Speed Test.

Mobitel 3.5G HSPA – 219.4kbps
SLT ADSL Business Package – 145.3kbps 

Both tests were conducted back to back at around 6.20pm.

Admittedly, this is far lower than what the salesperson told me when I specifically asked him what the real speeds I should expect were. On my connection, which is a 1.5Mbps downlink and 384kbps uplink, he said actual speeds would be around 500 – 600kbps down and 384kbps up.

Haven’t tested upload speeds yet, but it’s been my experience with my SLT ADSL Business Package that uploading happens at a much faster sustained throughput than downloads.

With a measly 1.5Gb for combined uploads and downloads, I’ll still have to use SLT ADSL for the bulk of my media and advocacy work on the web and internet, but the HSPA connection does offer the advantage of higher upload speeds and the ability to connect to the web at “broadband” speeds even when the lights go off (I have a wireless router at home).

Would be great to hear the experience of anyone else out there who uses Mobitel’s HSPA either through their mobile or though a USB modem.

One final link for OS X users. If you get Mobitel’s HSPA connection or Dialog’s HSDPA mobile broadband on a Mac, get CheetahWatch. It’s brilliant.


To set up the Huawei modem under Debian / LINUX check out the post here.

8 thoughts on “Mobitel 3.5G HSPA + Huawei E220 USB modem on Leopard – Download speeds and experience

  1. Hey, thank you for such an excellent write up that answered all my questions and even gave me something more (CheetahWatch). I have been getting the same crappy service from Dialog for their HSDPA service, but will continue to buy thru Dialog as opposed to Mobitel as they have the 1GB plan which I prefer, and will let you know how the speeds compare. Either way, i just wanted to personally thank you for the information in this page! Happy Surfing…

  2. Meaning I have to continue to endure SLT’s bullshit for a few more years before I make the switch? First Dialog and now Mobitel. You are a bringer of bad news, Sanjana – at least when it comes to the state of broadband connections in Sri Lanka.

  3. I too use Mobitel 3G from its introduction , still didnt get any practical download speed pass the 300Kbps, 3.5Mbps is a dream that never comes true .

  4. though thy introduce ths wireless modem, as a person who is dealng with telecommunication i hav tel u guys tht th wire line has more availability thn ths wireless solution. it is a known fact, thy only publish thr theoritical values, whn it comes 2 practic, th story is different. but i hav 2 tl tht both ths SLT n Mobitel connections r better thn thn Dialog (WiMax) connection.

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