Using the Virgin Mobile 2200 as a USB modem

Hardware Tools


I recently purchased the Virgin Mobile 2200 MiFi device. You can read about the device all over the ‘net, and reviews are generally favorable.


The device is primarily advertised as a wifi hotspot for up to 5 devices, but I’ve discovered that I can also tether it to my laptop. Why do that? Well, the device doesn’t have the best battery life. Connecting it to you pc or mac os x laptop will disable the wifi functionality, but it does charge the device. Sometimes you need to be online and charge the device simultaneously, and if you’re the only user, you may not really care if the hotspot wifi is disabled. In this situation, you can tether the device to your laptop, using it as a USB modem.

I used the short ~13-15″ black USB cable to connect the device to my Mac OS X laptop. When I first connected it, my laptop recognized the device and installed drivers. Once the drivers were installed, I rebooted the laptop. The installation added a Novatel Wireless Modem device in my Network settings

NewModemEntry.jpgThe “default” configuration installed the modem as an “Other” vendor, and selected the EVDO support for me.

Using the default settings, I simply clicked on the “connect” button, and I was connected to the internet. I’m typing and posting this blog using the modem functionality not the wifi connection. In fact, you can see that my settings (to the left) show that my only connectivity is my Novatel Modem.

Of course, all this functionality assumes you’ve gone through all the first steps to activate and enable your device. Don’t skip that. Instructions for initial setup are included in your purchase, so I won’t cover those instructions here.

The part that I find interesting is that NOTHING in the included documentation or online documentation will tell you about this USB modem functionality. The only thing said is that your wifi connectivity is disabled when you connect the USB cable to your laptop, which I did find out is true.

I’m generally pleased with the device so far. And it came in particularly useful for me this weekend, when my DSL service was disrupted. The $150 price tag is a bit steep, but the $40/mo unlimited data without a contract is very attractive.

In case I’ve diluted the point of my post, here’s the gist:

  1. Attaching the USB cable to your laptop will disable the wifi hotspot feature of the device, but does recharge the device’s battery.
  2. Although you can’t connect to the device wirelessly, you can use it as a USB tethered modem.
  3. My laptop (and probably yours too) recognized the device and installed appropriate Novatel Wireless Modem drivers.
  4. Nothing in the docs tells you that you now have a USB modem, but it does work and allows simultaneous recharging of its batteries while using it.


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