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back to article Huawei E5 Wi-Fi/3G modem

Huawei's E5 is one of a growing line of compact, standalone HSDPA 3G modems that double-up as impromptu Wi-Fi hotspots. You may have heard of it as 3's MiFi. Rather than hook the E5 up to a single device - your laptop, typically - the built-in access point means you can share its 3G link among all your gadgets: phones, tablets …

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Grenade

Not surprising

In order to simulate PPP towards the computer and do GPRS/3G proper to the network a modem has to run firmware that closely approaches a basic embedded OS in its complexity. Moving one step further and killing the stupid PPP emulation is probably is a jolly good idea.

This allows the modem to go away from the 3GPP spec which as all ingenious 3GPP things has no clue about cost/performance and does everything in the most complex and convoluted way possible.

That spec mandates that 3GPP/GSM modems are to present themselves as serial or USB over serial and emulate an "early 1990-es" Hayes modem to the computer converting PPP to IP over GPRS/3G on the network side. At HSDPA speeds this ingenious idea means that the computer spends half of its time handling interrupts from serial and the modem firmware has to burn power like crazy doing all of the conversions. Any expectations for battery life at that point are pretty much in the realm of technodelusion.

It may actually require _LESS_ combined power to run the modem and WiFi on both sides than handle the 3GPP mandated modem interface.

I am surprised that they have not gone away with the dongle mode "as we know it" either. Ethernet over USB is way more power efficient for combined computer + modem power consumption. Actually they may have done so, it is just not clear from the review if that is the case.

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Silver badge

Quite pricey for a small paperweight

...which is all it's good for in a large proportion of the UK land mass. Could some provider start providing 3G outside the middle of the big cities?

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What an odd verdict

Strange verdict - its asking why you would ever need it - but hundreds of thousands of 3G dongles have been sold, and all the points made in the verdict would be the same as for those.

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3?

fine if you have a decent 3 signal not so hot if you live outside the towns

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WTF?

Hotel Rooms

Buying just 24 hours wifi from most hotels would be more expensive than having a months worth of contract 3g dongle action.

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Alert

hmmm

I have one of these and it only cost me £50 from Three just after Christmas... I'm using PAYG as well so that was to buy the unit, not a deal as part of a contract as I'm not on one.

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Mi-Fi

I use one of these on the road with an iPod Touch. Generally it works well. Thanks for highlighting the settings screen - perhaps I can now change channels to avoid conflicts with The Cloud venues.

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Me2!

I also use one with an iPod Touch and generally find it to be very good. The only issue I've had is when the signal occasionally drops out, although the unit re-aquires the signal, it doesn't seem to join it to the Wi-Fi. A quick re-start resolves that though.

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The price is not too bad if...

you already have a normal Three data contract for a USB dongle, you can just pick up a PAYG version for £50 and pop your existing SIM in - it works fine ;-)

Shame it's so fiddley to switch on & get going, you have to press 3 seperate button, to power on, switch on wi-fi & connect to the network. Would much rather have it simply switch on and off, but that does not seem to be an option.

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Go

Good device

I've got one of these and it cost £69.95. It has a lot going for it - my iPod Touch can use the Internet wherever I am and it boosts the speed of my non-3G BlackBerry. It's better than relying on wi-fi hotspots, it's cheaper and much more readily available. I mean you don't get wi-fi on buses yet. Three's 3G coverage is also pretty good, I haven't had any problems yet. It's big plus point is its agnostic, it works with almost any device (through the management software is Windows-only).

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3G Data

Looking at plans here, you seem to need two, one for voice, and one for data. The problem with this is that I have a number of devices (Local phone, UK phone, laptop, iPod touch...) all of which I use with the WiFi at home or a local hotspot. If I get a 3G data plan for my local phone, I can't use it with any of the other devices.

This type of device would be perfect for me. I could have one data plan but use it on any of my devices. The only problem is with certain smartphone apps that refuse to use a WiFI connection for data, and insist that they must use a 3G data connection :(

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Anonymous Coward

E8530 Replacement Batteries Unobtainable

Warning: It is is impossible to buy replacement batteries for the Huawei E5, E8530, and E8532 modems, unless you live in China. Neither "3-UK" nor "T-Mobile UK" sell replacement batteries (model number HB4F1, which is the same battery as the one used in the "Pulse" mobile phone). No one sells this battery on ebay. No one sells this battery anywhere on the planet, except in China.

On the Huawei spec sheet for this modem, Huawei claim "the battery life can reach 18 months" (FAQ question 13). I expect I will have to bin my E8530 modem within two years!

If replacement batteries were available, I would give this modem a five-star rating.

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Replacement title

The battery in mine also says GB/T18287-2000, which isn't hard to find on Google for about £16.

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Anonymous Coward

Battery Model Number?

"GB/T18287-2000" seems to be a Chinese national standard for recharging Li-ion batteries.

What is the "model number" of your battery, if you don´t mind me asking?

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Anonymous Coward

Bbut is it secure!?!

I played with a D100 and found it insecure in one particualar area that still amazed me. I havn;t played with this but I know other who have and guess what, its in need of a firmware update.

Another gripe was the only way to charge it was to not have it in use, not sure as I aint played with one myself but it did seem to be a bit of a oversight.

That said kit like this has alot of potentual, indeed the sooner we overload mobile broadband so it becomes faster to use a 2g connnection as 3g is saturated the better :) (joke btw).

Once all kit becomes as flexable and versatile and robust as lego bricks; THEN and only then will I feel were going in the right direction.

I would also add that you do check out the mobile network you intend to use in your area as contention ratios are based upon who else is using it and not what can ever be advertised. Also the backend of Three is spazmotic alot of the times to be called a 2G network.

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Disagree with your verdict

I've been using one of these for a few months, after many years with a Vodafone USB dongle.

It is, quite simply, brilliant. Mind you, I only paid a touch over £60 for mine, unlocked, from eBay, not the £180 you quote - I think I would have been a bit more reluctant to buy at that price.

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Jobs Horns

missing the point?

I think the review misses the point - I have a MiFi and find it invaluable for occasions when the hotel WiFi isn't free (how many times have you logged in to find that they want £10 a day for internet) or when free WiFi hotspots aren't up to scratch.

But the really handy feature of MiFi is that it works with devices that have WiFi but don't allow you to attach hardware - namely the ipod touch and now of course the iPad. For the price of a Mifi (£50 and £10 a month on pay as you go) you can turn your ipad/ipod into something that approximates an iphone, and for those wanting to pay even less there are pay as you go deals that don't run out after a month.

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The best reason to use a MiFi...

With so much bundled data access on phones these days you'd wonder about the need for a personal hot spot. That point certainly comes across in the article.

But there are specific circumstances where they make sense, they are just not the obvious ones that the advertising promotes.

I've found that the best reason to use a MiFi, or Zoom or any other portable 3G WiFi router is when roaming abroad, it concentrates data access from several devices into a single carrier which can then be managed cheaply.

Unfortunately this is also when you need to have an unlocked 3G modem part of the router. But that's another story.

When I'm abroad; with two iPhones in the family and a laptop. Data usage could easily exceed £50/week just reading news and keeping up with emails.

So my first reason to have 3G Router is to save money. Here's how.

Whenever I travel to a new foreign location I get a collection of local free PAYG sims, one for each network carrier. Of course you could just pick a favourite and stick with it.

I try each of them in the hotel/beach/meeting/park/car/wherever to see which has the best coverage where I'm likely to be that week. Then pay for a week of local mobile broadband access on your chosen carrier.

This reduces the bills to either around £10/week or £15/week depending upon how much data I expect to use and how long I need to keep access to the 3G network. After three weeks of trips the router has paid for itself.

My second reason for using one is to provide fexibility.

Its useful if you find yourself in a dead spot for your usual carrier at home and want to switch to another for data access.

For instance in my case I find O2 coverage on the M6 above Birmingham pretty patchy. I put the 3G router on the dash using battery power. My iPhone detects the WiFi signal and switches automatically from the O2 data connection. Now its data connection goes through the "3" network. I know that the CoPilot SatNav can now get all its traffic updates. You can also use this setup to access real time traffic updates when roaming abroad, another expensive data use if you stick to normal roaming rates.

If you setup the same security settings that you use in your home network you won't even need to reconfigure any of the connecting WiFi client devices.

I agree that there's a limited market here. But if you are in the market for a 3G modem, you could do a lot worse than buy a 3G Router just to allow yourself some extra flexibility later.

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Expensive? It isn't as bad as it sounds...

It might sound expensive on a first glance of this review, i.e.

"£180 Sim-free or £0-50 (Contract)"

which gives the impression, as with most mobile phone purchases, that you either pay a lot up-front with no contract, or you pay little and get tied into a long contract, which might not suit occasional users.

But this is not the case. The Three site's contract can be as little as 1 month, more like PAYG (pay as you go), so for occasional users, you can pay £50 for the device outright, along with £15 for 1 month's PAYG 3GB data allowance. Then the next time you need it, say you are away from the office in a few month's time again, you then buy just another month's data allowance PAYG for that month.

Three call all of their plans for this device 'contracts', even just the 1 month plan, which most of us would class as PAYG.

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Go 3UK unlock and save!

Rather than pay £180 for a E5, get 3uk one on PAYG and go to one of the unlockers or on EBay buy one ready unlocked for about £70.

But it's a nice unit - mine is now on Vodafone

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Grenade

Pointless crud...

Most modern mobiles support 3G and Wifi.. I dont see why we should have to buy a seperate devicwe and contract with a mobile provider.

Oh yeah its 'Business' aka Capitalist shite.

what no fat cat icon?

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WTF?

Request for clarification

You talk about setting up a WPA key, then you refer to the wifi network as ad-hoc. These two statements are incompatible - the only kind of WPA you'll get on ad-hoc, to the best of my knowledge, is what they call WPA-NONE. I forget the details but this is not much better than WEP in its level of security.

Why in the world should a device like this be ad-hoc? It's a dreadful nuisance, many wifi cards have rotten support for it on Linux (sad to see you didn't bother discussing Linux support, but no big surprise) and it limits the strength of security that can be used. If it's managing all the outbound connections it should be operating in master mode like a proper AP, end of story.

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Request for clarification

'Ad hoc' as in 'use it now and then when you need it' rather than the Wi-Fi network type sense.

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WTF?

Tethering

How does this compare to tethering your wifi (or bluetooth) enabled device to a suitable 3G phone?

Surely everything the mifi offers can equally well be achieved though tethering (assuming the 3G phone is unlocked). Such a 3G phone offers the added advantage of being able to make and receive phonecalls.

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Been using one for months

Turns an iTouch into a very handy device indeed.

Rubbish startup procedure though, you should just turn it on and go, instead of those bloody buttons and waiting for various lights to show up.

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How do you get to that web console?

My 3G model only came with a executable program that offers many options, but not the big one you mentioned: auto connecting.

Doing the 3-button dance on startup is a tiresome routine i want gone!!

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: How do you get to that web console?

Connect to the Huawei's Wi-Fi and go to 192.168.1.1 in your browser.

RTFM!

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Anonymous Coward

192.168.1.1

Doesn't work on my 3 Mifi. The browser just gives a 'Unable to connect' message; the connection to web sites is fine

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Re: Re: How do you get to that web console?

Hi Tony; I've tried this and it doesn't work. I've been trying this since October. I can get three's crappy management console which pops up when you plug in via usb, but no usual access to a web console via 192.168.1.1. Any ideas how to switch the web console on? I've got the E5830 on three PAYG.

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the price is more like £80 not £180

i concur, i bought my one in november to use with my archos 5 android and the machine has been flawless since i payed dc unlocker 15 euros to unlock the device. 3 were doing this device for £39.99 before christmas so it turned out to be a bargain. i already have an excellent dataplan with tmobile so that sim card dropped straight in.

the machine is basic on features because it just gets the job done as advertised. we dont need any more of the fandangled settings just the connections with encription... job done.

75% is a little low imho for a device that does as advertised, maybe your rating was affected by the too high price that was reflected in the article?

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Alert

Wep key

Any luck getting the mac to accept the wep key if you preceed it with a $?

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Anonymous Coward

Mac

My 3 Mifi connects happily to my Macbook Pro and to Win 7 running on Parallels

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: the price is more like £80 not £180

We have to go with the standard price because that's the only one we can be sure is consistent.

I've no need to worry about Reg readers' ability to spot cheap offers on eBay and the like, so I figure that, whatever the price we quote, they'll find it cheaper somewhere.

Caveat emptor etc.

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Boffin

Differences with the Three version

I've also got a Three-branded E5830, and there are a couple differences between the unbranded version and the Three version.

Unless I'm missing something, the Three version doesn't have the web-based setup system.

You also don't have the auto-connect option, unless it's in the management software that refuses point-blank to work on my netbook. Which is a pain, as I have to leave about 20 seconds between switch on and enabling wifi, and enabling wifi and starting the data connection.

I've used mine with a Nokia N800 and 5530, an iPod Touch and a couple of netbooks. It works very well sat still, but seems to get confused easily if you're moving.

Alan.

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Also as a Home router

Good little box, I have been fed up with my up and down unfixable broadband. So I cancelled the landline contract and got this instead on '3". Now I have 2 Macs and an iphone /ipod all connected together on the same network. The wi fi signal is pretty good across 2 floors in my house. Yes it is a bit fiddly to start but I just keep it running all day on a power plug.

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This is perfect

For my car-PC setup. I have no connectivity on the move, but this will be ideal for planting below my rear parcel shelf to provide connectivity for my car-PC on the move rather than a fixed dongle. :-)

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WMWifiRouter

[I have no association with the company that developed it other than as a customer]

If you have a Windows Mobile phone, then consider WMWifiRouter. It's a neat piece of software, providing the same function of one of these for less money and a reduced device count! Likewise JoikuSpot if your phone runs Symbian.

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Wep key

It's WPA not WEP, BTW. But, no, the '$' prefix didn't work either.

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Happy

Use Joikuspot on wifi-enabled phone

This seems to work well although it is WEP only - not really an issue for the way I use it (short sessions out & about).

i can use my ipod touch for decent browsing etc and have a proper phone with real qwerty keyboard (E71).

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Boffin

Incredible

I can't believe I'm almost at the bottom of the page before somebody has mentioned this. Just goes to show the number of idiots out there will buy a piece of technology for hundreds of pounds when they could just buy Joikuspot for a tenner.

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Heart

cupperty I Love You!

Joikuspot is brilliant! Thats just saved me about a million quid.

Joikuspot Needs more attention!! El Reg you listening? review required!

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Home connection without the landline

I know someone with no landline (rented house/BT 12 month rip-off!), two laptops, and two separate USB dongles and price plans.

This widget would neatly halve that (apart from the initial purchase cost).

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cheaper, better alternative to the 'MiFi approach ?

@Simon Edwards:

You say can use any form of 3G WiFi Router: I want a fully WiFi-N compliant 'hotspot'- i.e a full 300Mbps and 90m range of 'N', or at least the 150Mbps of 'nLite' for use 24/7. I looked at the original Novatel 'MiFi' and the Huawei E5, but they both fall far short of this, very poor range (acc to other reviews), not even meeting the old 54Mbps spec, many issues related to being battery powered, and not giving the user the full hardware firewall protection that was a key feature of older DSL/Router products. Also need the 3G-Hotspot to work in whichever HSPA country I visit, simply by, as you say, slipping a local SIM in, so unlocked ownership needed.

Heard one may achieve 'MiFi' functionality, by combining a 3.5G USB Modem (already bought, but told need to unlock it), and a cheap '3G WiFi-N Router', eg the £40 Edmimax 3G-6200N - i.e £60 contract-free, as opposed to £180 or £50 for a E5 MiFi.

This solution using existing dongle, unlocked, plugged into USB socket of a '3G WiFi Router' if by being unlocked from a carriers 'lockdown', is now compatible with all HSDPA ISP's globally, then a) its performance is FULL WiFi-N 24/7, not restricted by battery or carrier, and b) it is much cheaper than a current 'integrated MiFi'http://www.reghardware.co.uk/Design/graphics/icons/comment/thumb_up_32.png

Doe you know where I can get confirmation of this ?

Does anyone know of any website/forum specialising in these issues and discovering the UMTS frequencies/modem/router user settings used by ISPs in foreign countries ?

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FAIL

Makes little sense

Why would you want -N wifi capabilites if the uplink is less than 10Mbit/sec? It would also severely bite its compactness and its battery life, so I doubt manufacturers will build one to your liking anytime soon.

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Dead cheap

Maplin sells these and they're no where near £180!

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