OS X 3.1 Mbps EVDO – Sprint Novatel U720 Rev. A USB Modem

UPDATE: Apple updates WWAN support for Intel based Macs – Download.

Sprint Novatel U720 USB Modem

Having previously experienced and tested the EVDO options for the MacBook Pro with the Verizon Wireless Novatel V640 ExpressCard (Rev. 0), I’ve managed to get my hands on the latest offering from Sprint – the Novatel U720 USB modem (Rev. A). Key feature differentiating this alternative wireless broadband solution is a) the modem is a USB device, b) GPS support, and c) operates on the higher speed Rev. A network with current speed bursts up to 3.1 Mbps.

Unfortunately, at the time of this posting, Sprint did not offer an OS X compatible connection manager. Additionally, Apple has not yet provided built-in driver support for the modem as they did with the Novatel V640. The easy solution for getting online with Sprint’s Novatel U720? Turn to Verizon Wireless for a little help with their OS X VZAccess Manager [confirmed on the EVDOforums].

Keep in mind that you’ll need to complete that initial activation step(s) on a Windows machine (try Parallels or Boot Camp). Be persistent as the activation may require you to attempt the process multiple times before being receiving the OTA updates.

Unofficial Sprint Novatel U720 drivers

As previously stated, the trick is locating the correct drivers for your Novatel U720. Thankfully, a lone user know as Mac.Intosh extracted the necessary drivers and packaged them up into a convenient installer which can be downloaded via the forums. Once installed, restart your Apple notebook.

Sprint now offers official driver support for all EVDO USB modems offered to its customers. Visit the Sprint Downloads page and select Mac OS from the drop down menu. Look for the "EVDO Rev A Novatel 720 Devices" download.

Again, Windows is required in order to activate and update the modem as the the above download is nothing more than required drivers. Until Sprint offers an OS X manager, PRL updates will need to be completed via Windows. I ran into a few headaches running the PRL updater via Parallels. If you experience problems with the PRL updater failing to restart the device, the safest route is to load the connection manager on to a real Windows box.

During the activation process, the connection manager may request an activation code, MDN, and MSID. Make sure that you have these figures before parting ways with sales rep.

Activated & ready for installation

Assuming you’ve followed the previous steps (downloading and installing the necessary Novatel U720 drivers using the link above) and are sure that the device is active, go ahead and plug the device into an open USB port on your notebook. The status LED should power on [green] meaning that the device is receiving enough power. If the status LED does not display a light, you’ll need to use the included USB Y-adapter to use two USB ports with the modem.

Sprint Novatel U720 USB Modem - System Preferences

Navigate to System Preferences > Network. If the drivers were installed correctly, Network preferences will prompt you with the above window. Click ‘OK’. If the Novatel modem is not displayed in the ‘Network Status’ view, select the ‘Network Status’ drop down menu and select ‘Novatel Wireless CDMA’.

Sprint Novatel U720 USB Modem - PPP SettingsUnder the ‘PPP’ settings, enter #777 for the telephone number. Select the ‘PPP Options’ button and check ‘Send PPP echo packets’ & ‘Use TCP header compression’. Click ‘OK’ and select the ‘Modem’ tab. In the modem drop down menu, select ‘WWAN Support’ and check the ‘Show modem status in menu bar’ option. Finally, select ‘Apply Now’ at the bottom of the window.

You should now see the dial-up menu bar icon. Click the icon and select ‘Connect’. If you already have a current dial-up account, ensure that the Novatel CDMA modem is selected. You should now be surfing on Sprint’s Rev. A network.

Unfortunately, due to the fact that Sprint has yet to provide a suitable connection manager, there is no way to find out the current signal strength nor current network speed. I’m crossing my fingers for true support rather than relying on the menu bar modem option.

Novatel U720 – Rev. A wireless broadband for the masses?

Sprint Novatel U720 USB Modem

By no means is the Sprint Novatel U720 a compact modem. In a culture where small and compact are synonymous with that idea called convenience, the U720 sits towards the back of the room [as far as size is concerned]. Coming from the Novatel V640 ExpressCard – which protruded out of the side of the MacBook Pro by about an inch – the switch to the U720 meant accepting the fact that the MacBook Pro would have a 3″ protrusion coming out the side. Can you live with that?

While Windows users will definitely enjoy the convenience of Sprint’s wireless broadband Rev. A network as soon as they get home [almost], OS X users are left to do a little research in order to get their notebooks to function properly. Priced at $99 (local) with an additional $50 mail-in rebate at $59.99 for unlimited usage, wireless broadband accessibility just became a little more realistic. Compare Sprint’s $59.99 unlimited data plan to Verizon Wireless’s $79.99 (data only) or $59.99 (with phone service) [10GB capped / mo.] plan and you start to see what carrier to lean towards.

Speed test – OS X & the Novatel U720

Novatel U720 USB EVDO Modem speed test results

Performance specs as reported by Speedtest.net show extraordinary results in comparison to standard Rev. 0 wireless data options for OS X. Speed test conducted outside of the downtown Seattle area (approximately 10 mi. north of Seattle).

Disclaimer & credits

A virtual pat on the back for EVDOforum users Mac.Intosh for prepackaging the required drivers into a simple installation. Sprint Novatel U720 Rev. A USB EVDO Modem was successfully tested on the following machines: a 2.33 Ghz MacBook Pro, 1.33 GHz G4 iBook, and 2.66 Mac Pro. Feel free to leave any questions, comments, or concerns in the comments below.

Discuss - 50 Comments

  1. [...] are various USB-based EV-DO connections for Mac and PC, but I am sticking to the hardware I have and waiting for the [...]

  2. Jason says:

    I tested the Novatel U720 USB modem here in Ontario Canada, using a Macbook Pro Intel.

    Results:
    – Thank god for this site! Nothing works unless you update the drivers and activate the device first on a Windows System.

    – Didn’t work after activation for up to 24 hrs. (?) said connection can’t be established. . . The next day, it worked fine and ever since.

    – I only have 1x network in my area. Speed connected is quite reasonable, with download speeds up to 50k/sec.

    – I notice that speed changes almost hourly. Almost as if it depends on how many customers are using that tower at the given time. Some desolate areas with few local cel customers have faster data speed than areas with higher cel customer numbers using data services. Kind of like the cable DSL ‘shared speed’ problem.

    Anyway great site. Thanks a bunch for getting me started with my new Novatel U720 and my MacBook Pro.

    Jason

  3. Jason says:

    Any ideas on how to get Sprint Palm Treo 700wx to sync to a MBP….their (sprint) support is so pityful!!

    You can’t. Its a Microsoft Windows thing. You need a converter tool, which is lame.

    Try: http://www.pocketmac.net
    Their software is old and don’t work with Windows Mobile 5 yet. I’ve begged them and bribed them with money, but they still haven’t made an update yet. Their other solutions work though, like the blackberry sync. It seems Microsoft has locked up the Mobile OS quite well, making conversion tools difficult to make and pass legal copyright approval. (Copyrights from Microsoft don’t allow modifications of certain code to be re-sold.)

    I have the same problem. I’m guessing the iPhone will solve our Palm syncing issues.

    I love my Treo WX 750 . It can only connect to the mac via bluetooth. itunes is pain in the arse with Windows Mobile. You need to develop a Windows media Playlist in order to able to sort/order your songs. (Lame). Otherwise, you have no control over the huge list of songs. Alphabetical listing only. . .

    as for Calendar and outlook mail. I wold just forget about syncing. I have found other clever ways to manage my work around this issue. You should too.

    Jason

  4. danielS says:

    whats the link to download for driver for U720 to go on 10.3.9?

    thanks…

    Did you figure out how to get u720 to work with 10.3.9 OS/X?

  5. S says:

    Whoever wrote these modem settings is a GOD. Thank you very much for taking the time to help all of us out who didn’t want to go through all the trouble of having to figure out these modem settings.

    I had been trying to get this going for hours and didn’t understand how to connect my “authenticated” u727 to Sprint under Tiger. I didn’t even realize it was only a modem.

    Thanks for the page.

  6. Tomtucson says:

    I have been unable to get my U720 modem to work under 10.5 using the Sprint download. It worked great under 10.4. I have an iBook G4, and i suspect the Sprint download is for an Intel based computer only, and mine is a PowerPC. Do you have any suggestions?

    Thanks

  7. Derek says:

    Hey Tom, I no longer have the U720 so I have no way of testing compatibility. Have you had a chance to check out this thread on EVDOinfo about Leopard / EVDO card compatibility?

    http://www.evdoforums.com/thread6924.html

  8. Derek says:

    Sprint did update driver support for its EVDO modems. Make sure to check the official Sprint download page to ensure that you are running the latest:

    http://www4.sprint.com/pcsbusiness/support/downloads/index.jsp?internalId=downloads

  9. Jenn says:

    I am so fed up with this stuff. I got the Compassâ„¢ 597 by Sierra and after wasting a total of 8 hours (half on with Sprint 2nd level tech support who gave up and told me to get a new one, and in the store where their tech guy just shrugged with absolutely no options.. just I don’t know.. I got pissed and canceled it.

    I have a Sony Viao 650e… its running Vista.. what is the major issue that they cant get ti to work? Seems like an authentication issue to me.. it always said the network wasn’t available but the LEDs were on, they could see the modem through the network. We reinstalled it a few times, rebooted till the batter was done and still.. it would never work. What is the deal? Is there some secret vista fix they don’t know about?

  10. [...] the past 5 months, I have spent a significant amount of time online thanks to the Sprint Novatel U720 USB modem. The modem – which operates seamlessly on both Windows & Apple hardware – is the perfect [...]