OLPCorps Tulane University & UC Davis – Sierra Leone

Getting a modem to work… by jamesko
July 6, 2009, 12:19 pm
Filed under: Technology

One of the goals of this project is to provide internet access for the XOs. However, trying to get it has thus far been quite an adventure. When the team first arrived, they spoke with the telecommunications company SierraTel, and they told us that they could provide a modem and internet no problem, but that we would have to wait because it would take them a day or two to get the modem. While we were waiting, tragically, one of their employees died. The staff told us that they would be mourning for the next few days and that we should return on Thursday. When we went back on Thursday, they informed us that they were still mourning and that we should check back the following day to see if they are still mourning or not. So we did. And they were.

The following week we spoke with them again and they told us that they would be unable to get the modem for us and that we needed to get it from Freetown ourselves (but that they could help with any difficulties we might have while setting it up). Fortunately, this was at the same time I was flying into Sierra Leone and Katie and I could pick up the modem when she came to get me. We went to SierraTel and got the modem fine. However, when we went back to the guesthouse, set up the modem and tried it, it didn’t work. We went back to SierraTel and Natasha, our agent, fixed it (it was a simple fix, changing the network type from EVDO to CDMA). Apparently, in Freetown EVDO should be used but while in Kenema we would need to use CDMA.

Since we got to Kemema one of two things has happened while trying to connect to the internet. (1) the modem gets no signal, or (2) we get a signal, but when we try to connect, we get an error message that says that “the remote computer is not responding”.

Last Friday we spent several hours at the SierraTel office here in Kenema on the phone with “tech support” from Freetown. Our efforts were fruitless. The man in charge in Kenema, Ellis, told us that on Monday a man named Christopher would be back and he was the expert who could fix our problem.

Today is Monday. This morning we got a call from Ellis and he informed us that Christopher will not be coming back until Friday. Damn…

So here is where we need some help from all you tech savvy readers out there. As we wait for Christopher, we are trying to answer the following two questions:

(1) SierraTel personnel tell us that only 3 or so computers can get internet at once on the modem that we are using; while in Rwanda for the training, our team was told that due to the server and access points we would be able to provide internet to all of the computers no problem. Who is right?

(2) This is not really a question, and we will know more once we get the modem to work, but does anyone have any advice or comments for us as we prepare to connect the modem to the server? Has anyone tried using this modem before (modem details below)? The setup will be different from the one that our team has done before (in Rwanda, the modem was plugged into the wall, where as our modem here is plugged in using a USB connection.)

For anyone who thinks that they may be able to help us, we would really appreciate your input. Details of the modem that we bought are as follows and photos are below:

4th of July and Beyond 083


Huawei Technologies CO., Ltd.

EC266  USB Modem

CDMA2000 1x

EV-DO Rev. A

Key Features

High speed wireless access with CDMA2000 1xEV-DO Rev. A

Send and receive E-mails with large attachments

Compatible with laptop and pc

Plug and play

Receive diversity


Microsoft Windows 2000, Windows XP or Windows VISTA

128 MB RAM or above

100MB available hard disk space

USB interface


CDMA2000 1xRTT 800/1900MHz

CDMA2000 1xEV-DO Rev. 0 800/1900MHz

CDMA2000 1xEV-DO Rev. A 800/1900MHz


1 Comment so far
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Just saw your post. What you will need is to connect to this modem using pppd. Installing wvdial should get you all the packages you need. If you see a /etc/ppp folder, then you probably have all the necessary packages.

Here are some instructions. Let me know if it works or if you need more help beyond what’s on this page http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Modem

Sameer (sverma@sfsu.edu)

Comment by Sameer Verma

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