Namibian Mobile Broadband Settings in Linux

I originally posted this as a Note in the Linux Namibia Facebook group when I still had a Facebook account but I’ve decided to cross-post it here because not everyone uses Facebook and because I still see people having trouble with this. After a few lessons in XML in my Internet Technology course, I contacted local networks and with the cooperation of network staff, I was able to add a little code so that the recent (10 August 2011) update to the mobile-broadband-provider-info package in Ubuntu adds support for Namibian providers MTC, Leo and Telecom. Namibians often seem to have trouble using their cellphones or dongles to get connected on Linux, and the network staff, being unfamiliar with Linux, usually aren’t much help either. This should solve that.

If you’re using the latest version of Ubuntu (11.04 Natty Narwhal) and your system is up to date you should already have this package installed. I believe the update was actually made upstream and is just taking a while to trickle down so if you’re using something else like Debian Stable or LinuxMint then you might not have this update and if you have Ubuntu, but not the latest release, then you definitely don’t have it, and probably never will. If this is your case, read the section below on how to install it “manually”. For now I’ll assume you have an up-to-date Ubuntu system.

Using the Package

Setting up your device once you have the updated package is very easy. When you insert it into the computer, Ubuntu should notice it[1] and tell you a new Mobile Broadband Device has been inserted and probably ask you for a PIN.

You should now be able to click the network icon[2] and select something like “Create New Mobile Broadband Connection”. If you see no such option, right-click the network icon and check the box marked “Enable Mobile Broadband”. You should now be presented with a sequence of screens to set up your device:

  1. Choose Namibia from the list of countries
  2. Choose your provider from the list of providers (MTC, Leo or Telecom[3])
  3. Choose your data plan from the list of plans (e.g. MTC has Tango or Contract)

Your device should connect and woohoo you have internet! Next time you plug it in you should be able to choose “Connect to MTC Network” or similar from the network icon and it just works.

Installing the Package Manually (from “source”)

You should be able to just copy and paste these commands into a terminal to successfully install the package. In recent Ubuntu versions there is probably a terminal icon on the swooshy Unity thing on the side, but if not it’ll be under Accessories in the applications menu or press Ctrl+Alt+T on your keyboard.

Did you know: you can triple-click (3 mouseclicks in quick succession) to select a paragraph of text? It’s useful when trying to select a whole line of code at once!

Download the source code from launchpad:


Extract the contents of the downloaded archive:

tar -zxvf mobile-broadband-provider-info_20110806.orig.tar.gz

Copy 2 files (the code and its schema) into the system folder:

sudo cp -b mobile-broadband-provider-info-20110806/serviceproviders.{2.dtd,xml} /usr/share/mobile-broadband-provider-info/

Clean up:

 rm -r mobile-broadband-provider-info*

And that’s it! You should now have Namibia on your list of countries in the network settings.

Note: the files were backed up when you copied them to the system folder, so if something goes wrong you can restore them:

 sudo rename -f 's/~$//' /usr/share/mobile-broadband-provider-info/*

Installing it Without Using the Terminal

I was writing instructions on how to do this “graphically”, that is, without the command line. But honestly, it’s a lot more complicated explaining different things to click on than to just copy & paste some commands. If you want to do it anyway it’s actually quite straightforward and can all be done with drag and drop.

You’ll need be working with root privileges though, so press Alt+F2 on the keyboard and in the prompt that appears type:

 gksu nautilus

That will start Nautilus (the file browser) with root privileges. Then you basically have to follow the steps above; backup, extract & replace, clean up.

[1]: Your device being correctly identified as a Mobile Broadband Device depends on the usb-modeswitch package, which is installed by default.
[2]: I’ve never used Ubuntu Natty, I don’t know if there even is a network icon any more, please correct me if I’m wrong!
[3]: If you use a Telecom device you might have to edit the settings after the setup wizard is complete. Unlike other networks, Telecom users usually get a unique username and password. Right-click the network icon to add your username and password to the connection; you’ll find it under the Mobile Broadband tab.