How to use a USB modem with an Android Tablet

Many Android tablets are WiFi only and to get an internet connection they must connect to a wireless access point that’s connected to the internet. It is possible with some builds of Android to connect a USB modem for mobile broadband internet access.

-    We’ve found older Huawei  modems (e.g. E1750) are most likely to work.modem-android
-    Because Android is open source and manufacturers can customise the system there’s no way of telling which tablets will support USB modems.

Instructions for connecting a modem to an Android tablet

Note: These instructions are based on a tablet with Android Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS).  

  1. Make sure the modem has a valid SIM inserted
  2. If an SD memory card is inserted, remove it.
  3. Connect the modem to the USB port of the Android tablet. Many tablets only have a mini USB port in which case an adapter will be required.
  4. Go to SETTINGS > WIRLESS NETWORKS and disable WiFi. WiFi cannot not be enabled at the same time as using a external modem.
  5. Go to SETTINGS > WIRELESS NETWORKS and enable 3G. If the tablet has correctly identified the modem a ‘signal bars’ icon will be displayed in the top left corner. It can take several minutes for the tablet to update.
  6. Go to SETTINGS > WIRELESS NETWORKS > MOBILE SETTINGS > APN and create a new APN profile for the mobile network operator that the modem is going to use.
  7. Save the APN profile
  8. Activate the APN by selecting it

If the settings are correct a data logo (make sure data is enabled in settings) will be displayed in the top right corner and internet access should be available.

If the above procedure doesn’t work then the version of Android being used most likely doesn’t have the required modem drivers.

For many WiFi only tablet users the quickest and easiest way of getting mobile broadband internet access is to use a wireless modem e.g. Huawei E586, Novatel 2352 etc


Disable the modem’s flashdrive (for advanced users only)

From a PC open a terminal session to the modem

DISABLE : at^u2diag=256 or at^u2diag=0
ENABLE:  at^u2diag=255 or at^u2diag=1