This guide is for setting up USB ADSL modems under Ubuntu 6.06 (Dapper Drake).


USB is far from the ideal medium for network access, there are so many problems using USB modems compared using ethernet based solutions that some claim that USB could stand for Un Suitable for Broadband.

If you have a modem that can connect both via USB and ethernet, you should use the ethernet connection. If you can get your hands on an ethernet modem or a router you will save yourself some trouble.

It is possible however to get USB ADSL modems to work with Ubuntu, although getting some models to work can be quite demanding. By following this guide you should be able to get most common USB ADSL modems working, but some still have slight problems and others do not currently work at all.

Often parts of ADSL USB modem drivers are propriatary, closed source software, with a restrictive licence, and so the whole driver cannot be supplied with Ubuntu. To get a modem to work with these drivers, you will need to download files from Internet with a computer having a working connection, then transfer the downloaded files to you Ubuntu installation.

Why USB modems are not ideal

For those it would surprise that getting a simple modem to work can be so complicated, we will try to explain why most USB ADSL modems don't work out of the box with Ubuntu. If you want to start installing your modem straight away, you can jump to the next section.

a. Ubuntu and probably all other Linux based operating systems assume that the network connection runs over an ethernet card (or other standard network card) in the computer. This is based on very old, tried and tested, standards based technology, which tends to be very reliable and easy to set up. Most home computers and business PC's have an ethernet card, as one is usually supplied on the motherboard nowadays, otherwise one can easily be picked up and installed very cheaply. An ethernet port is an allmost universal way to provide network access, and apart from the advent of wifi, has been for decades.

b. When you choose an Internet provider, normally you also get the hardware to set up the internet connection. Half the time you will get an ethernet modem, and maybe even an ethernet card, in the other cases (often the more economic contracts) you get an USB ADSL modem. Most of the time the driver needed for the USB modem is supplied by the manufacturer, and only available for certain specific versions of MS Windows.

c. All hardware that you connect with your PC through USB needs hardware-specific driver software. The driver is usually proprietary closed source software, with a licence legally protecting it from being used in any way the manufacturer does not see fit. This usually prevents anyone from inspecting the driver to see how it works, or from adapting the driver to work on another system. In Ubuntu, drivers that are freely licensed are usually included in the standard installation (e.g. the Alcatel speedtouch USB modem driver). However, the drivers for many USB ADSL modems cannot legally be included (e.g. modems with a 'Conexant AccessRunner' chipset, whose driver is 'commercial' and restrictively licensed).

To get a USB ADSL modem working, two things need to be achieved:

  1. Linux must be extended with software to control the modem, you need to install and setup software called drivers.
  2. The ethernet 'talk' of Linux needs to be bridged to the modem and its connection to the network

Installing your USB ADSL modem

The first step towards getting a USB ADSL modem working is to identify exactly what type of modem you have. Depending on your modem type, you should follow the guide specific to the driver your modem needs.

To identify your modem, you should start by noting the make and model, which is usually printed on the front. Occasionaly you may have to look for a label to discover the exact model. You should then consult the list of USB ADSL modems to see which driver your modem requires, and if it can be made to work with Ubuntu.

Depending on the driver you found in the list of USB ADSL modems, consult one of the following guides :

Other modems, no guides yet available:

See also

CategoryNetworking CategoryUsb

UsbAdslModem (last edited 2010-10-09 23:18:48 by jimlepp)