Home > Cisco, Network, Telecom, Wireless > Switching Providers With Cisco CDMA 3G HWIC

Switching Providers With Cisco CDMA 3G HWIC

A while back I ran across info on Cisco’s site about their new HWIC-3G-CDMA and HWIC-3G-GSM cards that allow you to connect a Cisco router to the Internet through 3G cell phone networks!  I am glad to see this since I have on occasion wanted a *reliable* way to share my broadband card connection with a small group of computers (i.e. at a tradeshow, etc…).  I have shared broadband cards out through my laptop before but it is a pain, and my general feeling is that the consumer grade “routers” that you can buy now are generally poor quality.

This last week I noticed they have seperate HWIC-3G-CDMA-V and HWIC-3G-CDMA-S versions of the CDMA card that are specific to Verizon and Sprint.  I find this annoying, as if I am going to spend $850 (MSRP) on one of these cards I don’t want to be vendor locked to Sprint or Verizon.  From a chipset standpoint, these cards are using exactly the same technology.

This is particularly problematic as wireless service is so location dependant.  Say you are deploying a bunch of remote site routers across the country and using a 3G card for backup connectivity.  You can’t have any idea at the time you order/ship the devices as to which wireless provider will have the strongest signal available in a given area (i.e. Verizon might have EVDO Rev. A in an area that Sprint only has 1xRTT).

Furthermore, you might decide for cost reasons that you want to move from one provider to another, but the cost of buying new WIC’s makes that untenable.  Can you imagine if you had to buy a different T-1 WIC for Verizon vs. Qwest?

To find out if this was a permanent thing, or if they could be re-flashed over to the other provider, I asked one of my Cisco engineers.  Below is their response which I thought was worth sharing:

Short answer “No”. There is a lot of carrier specific information that gets bundled into the firmware for these modems and the only option is to swap the modems out. The carriers and probably the modem vendors have tools that are able to change the modem parameters to work from one carrier to the other, but we do not have that expertise.

I also asked if the cards required special data plans, or if the “standard” $59.99 plans would work.

In terms of pricing – the SPs have a special pricing plan for these modems that get plugged into Enterprise class networks. Information can be obtained on each of their websites.”

I have heard from reliable sources though that with Verizon you can put them on normal $59.99 data plans and they work just fine.  You just do an ESN swap to get that device activated.  Naturally, they won’t provide any kind of support for your device, but it does work.  Also note that on Verizon if you go over 5 gigs of transfer in a month they will throttle you to 200Kbps.

I am *sure* that with the right equipment you could “make it happen”.  Maybe some day we can hope Cisco releases a tool that let’s you do it.  So I wonder when the WiMax version of the card is available?  That would be cool since I do live in Portland, OR (one of the WiMax test markets).


Categories: Cisco, Network, Telecom, Wireless Tags:
  1. shibata
    December 9th, 2010 at 15:39 | #1

    Yes, I had a problem with this module because this module support specific vendor. Can I use this module with other vendor using other technical way ?

  1. No trackbacks yet.