Getting Internet in Ethiopia: OSX driver for my MacBook Pro and ZTE MG880+ CDMA modem

In the continuing quest to find some sort of Internet connection in Ethiopia, I have been looking for a good way to have internet.  Ethiopia only had dialup available and high speed internet (256k) which costs several thousand dollars a month. A friend of mine who is a photojournalist (www.guycalaf.com) in Addis Ababa bought a Huawei EC 325 portable USB2 CDMA modem, which comes with a driver for both OSX Mac, XP and Vista.  He reported it worked well and I went to purchase a CDMA modem, which works with the Ethiopian

Telecommunications Corporation (ETC).   I found a ZTE MG880+ at the Demble Mall. There are three models CDMA Modems being sold in Addis. One is the EC 325, the other is the ZTE 880 + and a ZTE EVDO.

I paid a bit less than 1600 birr (150 USD) for the USB modem, and around 370 birr (37 USD) for the CDMA prepaid sim card (Obtainable at the Bole Medaniallan ETC next to the Edna mall). Now the thing I did not know is you have to activate the internet separately.  To activate you have to go to the Bolle ETC and give them a letter requesting Internet on your CDMA SIM.  It will cost you 190 birr (18 USD) to activate the internet and 24 hours before it becomes active (Make sure you ask for it to be activated).

Connections prices are between something like .3 and .8 birr per hour. It is fast (~128k) and cheaper at night. ETC sells special scratch cards but the systems work with the new 0913 scratch cards as well.

To recharge the account dial 903 from any ETC mobile phone, then follow the prompt, which will ask you for the number that you want to recharge first.  It will switch from Amharic to English after a few seconds.

Update:  It looks like ETC may have deactivated the recharge from any phone feature.  You now have to use the CMDA modem to call the 903 number and refill your account.

To access your account balance status call 903 then hit 1 for english then 2 for get balance info a standard pin code: 000000#

Once you install the driver and connect the little device these are the settings to put in for Apple OSX:

Go to System Preferences and select Network. Click on the + sign beneath the list of interfaces to create a new connection. A box will pop up asking for the interface to use for the connection. In the list of interfaces, you should see “ZTE CDMA Tech”. Choose that as the interface to use, and call the service “ETC” or whatever you like; Click the “Create” button in the dialog.

Enter #777 as your telephone number. “etc” is your “Account Name” and “etc” is your Password.” Now, click the “Advanced…” button. In the pane that displays, select “Generic” from the Vendor list box and “Dialup Device” from the “Model” list box.

Make sure that the “Enable error correction and compression in modem” check box is checked. Hit Ok, and hit Apply when you are returned to the Connection Settings pane. You should now be able to hit Connect and connect to the Internet if ETC has activated iternet on your line (which you have to request in writing to the Bole ETC).

Number to dial       #777
Username               etc
Password                etc

When you buy the SIM card make sure you have the ETC sales rep activate it for you. it  should happen immediately. It took me two days to figure out that the problem with my device was that the company did not activate the SIM.

For Apple OSX users, I ended up having to make a driver for the ZTE 880+ to make it work my MacBook Pro. In order to get the ZTE 880+ I used the PL2303 driver as a base (http://osx-pl2303.sourceforge.net/) and updated the Vender HEX IDs to recognize the USB device.  I found Hari Selvarajan’s blog (http://hari.selvarajan.googlepages.com), which got me on the right track and had modified plist for the 880 but the plist was different for the 880+.  If I have time I will bundle the driver and post it here for all ZTE USB modem to run on OSX. I have attached a OSX ZTE MG880 and MG880+ driver, along with a updated plist for many other USB CDMA modems that use the PL2303 chip.

Install then reboot.

Copy the Info. plist to /System/Library/Extensions/osx-pl2303.kext
sudo chown -R root:wheel /System/Library/Extensions/osx-pl2303.kext
sudo kextload -v /System/Library/Extensions/osx-pl2303.kext

The kextload command will update your Kernel to recognize the ZTE USB modem.

Plug in your device, and wait a few seconds.  OSX should show a new device has been installed.  Now edit your network settings.  In the pane that displays, select “Generic” from the Vendor list box and “Dialup Device” from the “Model” list box. Make sure that the “Enable error correction and compression in modem” check box is checked. Hit Ok, and hit Apply when you are returned to the Connection Settings pane. You should now be able to hit Connect and connect to the Internet!

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