How To Get An Unlocked USB HSDPA Adapter

These days most 3G operators offer 3G or HSDPA data cards or USB modems that come bundled with a 24 month subscription. In some countries they also sell them without a subscription but in most cases the data cards are still locked to SIM cards of the operator. As I travel a lot this a somewhat unfortunate situation as some countries have started to offer data on prepaid SIMs. I needed to find a different solution.

So here’s a simple solution: Instead of buying a dedicated PCMCIA or USB HSDPA adapter it’s also possible to use a number of recent phones as HSDPA adapters for a notebook. Prices for most of them are even lower than prices for the data cards. I’ve taken a look at the following 3.5G phone models currently available in Italy:

  • Samsung Z560
  • Samsung Z620
  • Samsung Z630
  • Motorola RAZR V3xx

I decided to go for the V3xx as the price of €245.- was acceptable and in the range, if not even lower, than dedicated HSDPA adapters. It’s slightly TIM (Italy) branded but unlocked. Also, it charges over the USB data cable so no need to carry an extra charger while traveling. And the cream on the top: It’s a category 6 device, i.e. capable of HSDPA speeds of up to 3.6 MBit/s.

I’ve tested it so far in three of the four Italian networks in Rome and additionally in SFR’s 3.5G network in Paris. They all worked well except for the TIM network which would just not work with the mobile for data connections. Very very strange as the mobile is TIM branded. And no, I am not stupid the configuration parameters were correct, I double checked with my SierraWireless HSDPA PCMCIA card.

Another advantage of a USB HSDPA device compared to a PCMCIA or ExpressCard device is that it can be put in a spot where network coverage is better than at the location of the notebook. As shown here, good network coverage makes a huge difference with HSDPA.

For more on "HSDPA" click on the right of the date below.