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3G (Mobile Broadband) Modem: How to configure and use 3G on a Dell computer using the Ubuntu operating system

Summary: This article takes you through the various issues and uses of 3G (Mobile Broadband) on a Dell computer using the Ubuntu operating system. We take you through identification, setup, and use. ...

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Article Content


Table of Contents:

  1. Introduction
  2. How to get information about your hardware?
  3. Setting up your Connection?
  4. Using 3G on Ubuntu




While this is a general guide, some specific commands are suggested. These commands are current to the latest LTS distribution.

Note: Dell supports the hardware that we ship with our computers. Software support for Ubuntu is limited to aid in reinstalling the operating system. For any other software issue, we suggest you use the links in the additional information section at the bottom of this article. Use of this guide is at your own risk.

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How to get information about your hardware?


Many types of modem are installed internally on laptops. The modem cards come in different models with different capabilities. I have included some steps on how to query your modem to find out manufacturer details, modem capabilities, vendor, and product IDs.

Finding the bus type and device IDs for your modem

  1. Most 3G modems are presented as USB interfaces. (This includes mini-PCI-E and mini-PCI cards.)

    1. Before running any other commands, ensure that the details are up to date by running the following command:

      sudo /usr/sbin/update-usbids

    2. To find the modem, use the command:


    3. Ideally your looking for a result such as:

      Bus 002 Device 002: ID 413c:8138 Dell Computer Corp. Wireless 5520 Vosa I Mobile Broadband (3G HSDPA) Minicard EAP-SIM Port

    4. Sometimes you do not see that much information displayed. If that is the case, use the following command:

      sudo lsusb -vvv /temp/usb_info

    5. You can create a script to search for the CDC ACM device category. Save the following script as Searchusb.txt on your Desktop:

      /^Bus/ {
          curdev = $0;
      /iManufacturer/ {
          curman = $2
      /iProduct/ {
          curprod = $2
      /bInterfaceNumber/ {
          curiface = $2
      /CDC ACM/ {
          printf "%s iM=%s iP=%s if=%s\n,curdev,curman,curprod,curiface;

    6. In order to use the script, run the command:

      sudo lsusb -vvv | awk -f ~/Desktop/searchusb.txt

    7. This does not detect most Dell built in modems. The example shown in step c does not use the standard CDC ACM descriptors. Use the following steps for these modems:

      1. You can get hardware information from these modems using:


        From the gsm-utils package

      2. If you are still having issues and must file a bug with Ubuntu, consider attaching the results of these two commands:

        gsmctl -d /dev/MODEMDEVICE ALL



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Setting up your Connection?


Warning: Some cellular providers are expensive when it comes to Data Connections. Ensure your provider's charges are reasonable before you attempt to connect to their network for data services.

It is easiest to configure the connection from the Network Manager user interface:

  1. Open the Network Manager by clicking the Network icon on the menu bar next to the clock.

  2. Select the New Mobile Broadband Connection option.

  3. Press Continue in the windows which opens.

  4. Select your Country.

  5. Select your 3G Service Provider from the list provided.

  6. Press Continue and Apply. (You may want to give the connection an easily recognizable name.)

Using 3G on Ubuntu


  1. You can connect to an existing connection from either the user interface or Terminal:

    1. The user interface method:
      1. Open the Network Manager by clicking the Network icon on the menu bar next to the clock.

      2. Select the appropriate Broadband Connection name from the list.

      3. You are now connected.

      4. You can disconnect from the same menu.

    2. The Terminal method:
      1. Open Terminal with the shortcut (CTRL + ALT + T)

      2. You can connect using the command:

        nmcli con up id '<Broadband Connection Name>'

      3. You can disconnect using the command:

        nmcli con down id '<Broadband Connection Name>'

      4. There are various automatic scripts that can be run with variations of these commands, by experienced Ubuntu/Linux users to automatically start, or reconnect connections. These types of instructions are far outside what Dell can support. You can use the Ubuntu community forums to build on the basic information we have supplied.

Assorted Service Provider Information


Note: You may find that your provider information is not in the following links. The modem may not work for you straight out of the box.

Consider raising a bug against the mobile-broadband-provider-info package with the Ubuntu community. You can take it further using the link below:

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Additional Information

Canonical/Ubuntu provides software support through the following methods:
Dell provides Technical Support:

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Article Properties

Affected Product

Inspiron, Latitude, Vostro, XPS

Last Published Date

04 May 2023



Article Type