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. Derek says:

    I had great luck with the USB Modem for Palm when I had my 700p. It looks like there is a Windows Mobile version here.

  2. dex says:

    Thank u Mac.intosh….you are a life saver!!!!….because of you, my U720 works flawlessly.
    Big up and much respect!!

  3. dex says:

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

  4. Sujan Patel says:

    I need this thing! Derek

  5. Ryan Miller says:

    Big time help! You are the man.

  6. Anders says:

    Hi there,
    I have an iMac at work that isn’t allowed on the corporate LAN. So; instead of doing work on the iMac and then transfering it to a flash drive and then FTP’ing it with a PC (once copied from the flash drive), my question is this:

    – The Sprint Novatel U720 will work on desktop iMacs, too… right?

    I’d just place it into the USB port on the back of the iMac, and be able to get out to the internet, correct? Thanks so much.

  7. Derek says:

    Yes. The U720 will work on the iMac. I use mine with a Mac Pro, MacBook Pro, Mac Mini, and iBook depending on where I am. A great little device to have handy for anywhere internet access.

    Here’s the latest speed test from the Seattle area: http://flickr.com/photos/0401/376026243/

    The network speeds will only get faster.

  8. Derek says:

    Dan, I’m going to try and get a hold of a Powerbook. I think someone in my family has one.

    Ruby, yes the U720 is compatible with Vista. Sprint actually released a connection manager specifically for Vista. I also noticed that when I plugged it in, it was recognized as a Sprint Dial-up connection in Windows. Rather than using the connection manager, I now connect through Windows. That’s one less application to have running.

  9. Dan Anderson says:

    Any luck getting the U720 to work on a Powerbook G4 running 10.3.9?

    Any help would be appreciated.. thanks.


  10. ruby senior says:

    is the novatel 720 offered by sprint compatable with vista?

  11. Derek says:

    Dan, tested and working on a 12" G4 1Ghz Powerbook running 10.3.x. Did you load the drivers and do a restart?

  12. Derek says:

    Thanks for the update… Nice to see Sprint releasing the drivers. Is this going to a be a full connection manager or just drivers?

  13. fini says:

    ok novatel has releases official drivers for the u720, the should be on http://www.sprint.com/downloads on monday or sometime next week, I am using the official novatel drivers right now, and there really is no difference from the hacked drivers provided. I am using a 12″ powerbook G4, works great, but you are still going to need a windows pc for the time being to activate your device for the first time.

  14. fini says:

    its just the drivers, anyway why would u want the full connection manager, its just another app that would be running eating up resources, the only good thing about the connection manager is that it shows u signal strength, otherwise its a waste.

  15. Dan says:

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

  16. Al says:

    Derek, I ended up picking up one of these for myself. I’m based mostly out of Chicago, and I gotta tell ya, the speeds are disappointing compared to Verizon.

    I really wanted it to work well because my girlfriend has a Mac, and it’d be nice to be able to share the device. But, dunno if I can stand the reduction in speed until Sprint gets around to upgrading Chicago. (I guess I expected it to be equal to Verizon’s speed here.)

    If you want to read my take on it, I’ve posted it to my own blog over on http://www.radparker.com/

  17. Derek says:

    Dan, check this comment for the download link.

    Al, sorry to hear that Sprint speeds are not up to competitive levels with whatever Verizon is offering its customers. I guess it’s the other way around up here in Seattle. Here’s hoping that network speeds increase in due time.

  18. Tyler says:

    Anybody know if I can connect my u720 to a a smartphone/PDA running windows mobile and get internet on the smartphone or PDA? Thanks everyone.

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