Learning Uruguay

Every day brings ????

Live – from atop San Antonio

Posted by urufish on March 1, 2008


This is part 2 of Mobile Inernet in Uruguay (the previous post).  I said I’d write about what happened with our new mobile internet service on Monday.  But guess what?  It worked and here I am, sitting on the terrace (above) writing about how it went last night. 

We chose the USB modem instead of the PCMCIA modem.  We did that because with Mobile Internet, the exact placement of your antenna is critical.  With the USB, you can move it, not your laptop, around to get a good signal.  Personally, I prefer the PCMCIA because it becomes part of the laptop.  You dont have to lug peripherals around, no matter how small they are.  The other reason I preferred PCMCIA is power.  The manual indicated the USB requires 2 connections.  We only have 2 USB ports on our Dell.  That means while you’re using this thing, you can’t connect an external modem or keyboard or HD without adding yet another periphal, a USB hub AND a big, clunky power supply, which is only available here in single voltage, (which means buying another transformer or hub when we’re in Canada/USA.  I haven’t seen an electronic powersupply here that comes with a USB hub.   However, the good news is that (at least on this laptop), it works with a single USB connection only.   Some USB ports put out more power than others.  The modem’s needs exceed some laptop USB port’s power output.  My single ports seem adequate for this modem. 

The modem we got was exactly the same model that was advertised.  I asked the girl if the instructions were in English.  She said yes.  She was partially right.  The cover does say ‘Quick Start’ but that’s as far as the English goes.  I had to download a manual from the internet.  It’s a Huawei E226.  Had no problem finding Huawei’s website, but there was no E226 to be found.  There was an E220 which is identical for all intents and purposes.

When we got into the house last night, I first had to bring in the LCD TV and hook it up to my wife’s J-Win portable DVD player.  Got a chuckle out of that.  The video does work fine with the TV, but the audio is another story.  The volume control on the portable controls the output to the TV.  Even at full volume on the TV, it’s still louder on the portable unit.  Have to troubleshoot that back in the lab in Montevideo.  Dont have all my goodies with me here on the mountain :).

After the TV/DVD was done, it was time to try out mobile internet.  I did some Googling before I left Monevideo and all of the posts on the Huawei modem were positive.  One post in particular was great to know.  The poster detailed the entire bootup process.  That’s good for someone like me who would have been freaking out with the real boot process if I hadn’t read that post. 

When you’ve been around computers as long as I have, this process is always met with anxiety prior to starting it.  I long ago gave up having a stiff drink before I did this.  Had I not, I’d be a hopeless alcoholic by now 🙂   You get burned so many times, you figure the odds are against you and here I am, sitting on top of a hill, without any of my diag equipment.  But my wife was desperate to get to Latinchat, so I just bit down and started. 

The manual says you should turn on your computer first, then plug in the modem.  I read the instructions several times, to make sure I wasn’t missing any nuances.  There were two cables.  One normal cable with mini on one end and regular on the other.  Then there’s another cable with one mini on one end and 2 USB’s on the other end.  The picture and manual talks about the cable with 2 USB ends.  Based on comments from the first post, I’d say the single cable is used with a desktop unit, which has more power available per USB port than a laptop.  The one that I didn’t get the first time around was which of those 2 plugs goes in first.  Dont know if it really matters, but I followed it exactly as printed.  The plug that is part of the main cable goes in first.  I waited a few seconds, then plugged in the 2nd connection.   The sequence was exactly as the other post described it (and as Wilbur confirmed in the previous post’s comments).  The first thing it does is pick up the mass storage device.  That’s because there is a mass storage device built into the modem.  That’s where the software is located that it uses to install the drivers from.  That was kind of a neat thing.  Why have CD’s when you can put your software inside the device itself. 

It then installs a few more devices.  I believe one says it found a CD drive.  It doesn’t matter because it’s all automatic.  You just sit there and watch.  Eventually, it says it’s done, (which it really isn’t but who cares).  You agree to everything and it seems to be finished. 

After a while, this process starts all over again.  This is actually the important part.  This is where the modem itself is installed.  Then the software that runs it fires up.  The name of the software is Mobile Partner.  It’s equivalent to the wireless manager software you can run separately with most wireless cards.  The only difference is that this doubles as that and as your modem drivers.  Turn this thing off and you turn off your connection. 

I find Mobile Partner interesting.  In the image below, you can see most of what it does.  It tells you how fast you’re able to upload, how fast you download, and it tells you how much data you’re moving per session.  It also tells you how much data you’ve used in the calendar month.  I suspect this is how you audit the bills from providers like Movistar, that charge you by how much data you move.  CTI is ‘unlimited’.  I was surprised by the very slow rate it shows for upload.  Something must be wrong with the numbers because I’m writing this post and uploading images, and I see very little difference in the time it takes to upload an image between here and the 128 or 256 upload speeds I have in Montevideo. 


When the modem installation completed, it takes you to a configuration screen.  The first option is language.  It defaulted to English and that was fine with me.  The next option asks you which service you want to connect to.  The options are CTI, CTI Uruguay and CTI Paraguay.  The girl back at CTI told me to choose CTI Uruguay.  She said you can choose CTI Paraguay if you are there and for Argentina, you choose CTI period.  I guess Argentina/Uruguay is like USA/Canada.  The big guys think they’re the centre of the universe, so there is no country distinguished.  The rest of us are foreigners :).   After that, the little bubble came up in the bottom right corner (Windows users), that said I now had a 7.2mb Intenet connection.  Dream on dude.  Now I have no doubt that someplace on this planet, this puppy can handle 7.2mb, but not here atop San Antonio.  But that’s neither here nor there.  The important thing was that it got connectvity and it just ‘felt’ OK. 

After that, I punched up IE and away I went.  My wife was drooling on the other side of the table, waiting for me to be finished but I managed to divert her attention by turning on her favourite soap, (Canal 7).  That bought me an hour.  It turns out I needed it because on my computer, Yahoo Messenger wasn’t installed.  I had to download it.  First big test of the speed.  Worked flawlessly.  About 15 minutes later, we were in the Yahoo world.  Then I updated Windows Live Messenger and setup a shortcut for Latinchat.  The soap finished and that was it for me.  I was banned to the bedroom 🙂 

To sum it up, I’d say that it works as advertised as long as you’ve got a decent signal.  That’s a big if.  RF is always a big ‘if’ and the the greater the distance between the tower and the receiver AND the obstacles inbetween, the bigger the ‘if’.  Adding the experience last night with my experience using this technology in Toronto, I really believe that the key is the placement of the modem.  In Toronto, I had to park my laptop within a foot of the Western wall of my cousin’s apartment to get decent speed.  While I was using, I watched the speeds go up and down like a yoyo.  Reminded me of the early years of the cellular industry.  I will know more about ‘obstacles’ when I try this at home on Monday. 

In my own little piece of this planet, I have no idea if CTI’s tower is atop Pan D’Azucar or 60m behind my house atop San Antonio, but whatever it is, it works fine.  The installation went without a hitch.  They’ve got my UYP1800 by now from my NATIONAL credit card (jajajaja) and I’m sure the autodebit will kick in next month on that credit card.  For UYP500/month, I honestly have to say this is a serious altenative for anyone who is fine with this speed and UYP500/month.  If you’ve got a laptop, travel around Uruguay and want to use your laptop in Colonia, MVD, Atlantida, Solymar, Piria or Maldonado/La Punta, I’d say this was your only option. 

If Arrancopelito ever answers my request from last week, I’d love to take this over to her place and see if it works there.  She’s not close to the Punta tower(s), but she may have line of site and that may just be enough. 


30 Responses to “Live – from atop San Antonio”

  1. tony said

    there’s a CTI tower on the San Antonio hill, is the one just before you get to the top, and not exactly on the top, IIRC. One thing : do you know if CTI’s USB thing works with Linux?

  2. Wilbur said

    That is where researching the modem model numbers and then hoping you get the same one comes in. I believe the difference between the E220 and E226 is that you can find linus drivers for one and just questions about the others.

    The one I had my hands on at CTI and a contract signed before their wouldn’t take my mastercard was one that should have linux drivers available.

    The one that was on MoviStar’s website that I ask for in their office also had linux drivers available. The one Movistar actually gave me didn’t (and didn’t function under windows either).

    I would go to the store, see what modem they are actually going to sell you and then research it.

    I’m glad its working for you in Piraopolis… I’ll probably wait till they offer service which matches the modem, ie: 7.2 mb and stop tarnishing Mastercard’s brand.

    Now, one your way home…. let your wife drive and see if you can surf the whole way.

  3. urufish said

    I know that some of their towers support the modem and some dont. I didnt know if it’s the one you’re talking about (80m from our house) or if they have one on top of Pan DAzuar and they’re working from there.

    Sounds like like others have used this modem with Linux. You can Google yourself or follow this link: http://oozie.fm.interia.pl/pro/huawei-e220/

    If it is the tower beside my place, Arrancopelito has a good shot getting service at her place. I’m pretty sure she’s got line of site to this tower.

  4. urufish said

    Not likely we’ll be surfing on the way home. I’m driving and my wife discovered my link to MSN messenger, ICQ and Yahoo on my Blackberry. We’ll find out if that works all the way from Piriapolis to Pocitos. 🙂

  5. Wilbur said

    All the modems should work with linux because they are basically just usb modems. The catch seems to be the flash memory issue… where you get stuck with just seeing the flash memory and not the modem.

    Borrow Irv’s and plug it into your linux machine and see. Then make sure you get exactly the same modem, model, and revision.

  6. tony said

    Thanks for your replies..!! I’ll research on those modems and linux and see what I find.

    This is a link to the tower i *think* belongs to CTI in the San Antonio hill:


    bye bye..!!

  7. urufish said

    Tony… dont know where I’ve been the past year, but I never saw this image on my Googlearth… Yes, that is the CTI tower on San Atonio. The house with the red roof you see above and to the right of the tower ( x is ours.
    This is a recent photo because it includes my neighbours house across the street…. just completed last year.
    This must be a picture from the Jan or Feb because there are several cars parked up there. The house with the pool you see on the opposite side of the street, about 200m downhill from mine is owned by Carlos Menom. It sits on 3 lots. The main house and tennis court is on the lot to the left. In the center is the swimming pool. To the right of it, dark roof, is the guest house.

  8. urufish said

    Tony, you can borrow my modem to test anytime. As long as it’s back to me by Fridays at noon. For now, we only use it on the weekends.

  9. tony said

    some points

    a) Nice spot you got yourselves up there!!! Really hope you are enjoying the place.
    b) Reception should be fine 🙂
    c) I don’t know when the picture was taken. Certainly there are a few boats in the harbor, and seems to be some interesting amount of people by the beach, but I guess that one of the newer apartment buildings being built closer to the harbor, over the San Antonio hill, seems much more “embrionic” in the picture. Maybe I’m looking in the wrong place.

    d) Thanks for the offer for the USB adapter! I really appreciate it. One thing you can do, if you have a couple of minutes, is check your speed say against http://www.speedtest.net . In particular, check against the Miami server (I have ADSL, and at least with Antel-data, I get better results against the server in miami than, say, Brazil or Chile).


  10. urufish said

    I’ll test it on Saturday..
    Since I started using VoIP, I lean towards Visualware.. using their VoIP testing along with bandwidth.
    From my tests on the weekend, VoIP is out of the question.
    I doubt that anyone would use this for Skype..
    And I’m testing within 100m of their tower.

  11. tony said

    So, how did it go?

  12. urufish said

    Speed was OK… was actually higher up than down the 2 times I tested it.. around 160kb.. which is fine for my needs….
    but the VoIP scores were off the chart for jitter. over 100ms..

    there were 3 periods where we couldn’t authenticate… couldn’t log in to the service.. probably the username server was fried somewhere… never more than a half hour.. hopefully it’s growing pains..

  13. ant said

    quick question… does your connection show wcdma or gprs?

  14. urufish said

    Hi Ant… for some reason, I didn’t get your question til now.. Will let you know tomorrow or tonight…

    BTW, I have now confirmed I have enough juice in a single USB connection on my Dell laptop to drive the modem.

    That means I can take my USB mouse with me today… yippee…

  15. urufish said

    What I remember about GPRS is that it rides on both CDMA and GSM networks… As I recall, it’s a service, not the network…

    Hopefully, what you really mean is am I seeing WCDMA or HSDPA.
    Now that you asked me to look, after 30 minutes of watching here on San Antonio 50m from the CTI tower, I see it switches from WCDMA to HSDPA and back frequently.
    But it’s not random. It sits on WCDMA when you’re not asking it to do much. If you ask for data, it will switch to HSDPA. When it finishes downloading, after a few seconds of no data, it switches to WCDMA.

    While I was doing this, I was also measuring speed today. Average download is 23kpbs, spread over a 30 minute period. I did a Java update, that took about 17 minutes… around 14mb.

    During that download, 90% of the velocity per second fluctuated between 13kpbs and 25kpbs. Peaks and valleys were 10kbps and for one seconds 90kpbs–WOW!!!.

    Looking at the glass as half full, the good news is it never went dark.. no 0kbps AND, it never dropped a connection. It just plods along as if it were 28.8 modem dialed into a busy server.

  16. ant said

    gprs is gsm only. Its like a 2.5g network. This is what it should drop back to if the hsdpa connection is not available. I asked because the huawei modem that I got hit me with a gprs connection (which is frustratingly slow, like a flaky 56K dial up). I had to force it to 3G only. This seems to have fixed it and the speeds are consistent (mas o menos). Varied from 70 to 110 kBps on downloads and Skype managed a decent outgoing call.

  17. Jens said

    I got mine today. First they told me they did not accept my international credit, but when I could not present a local one, the guy told me “OK. Let´s give it a try” – and, oops, it worked.

  18. Anonymous said

    Ant.. so you went into the modem options and set it for hsdpa only? Even on HSDPA, I dont get any real speed in Piria. but it’s enough for weekend hacking around.
    Maybe I’ll get around to trying it here in Montevideo… see if I can get the speeds you say you’re seeing.
    I said it wouldn’t be any good for VoIP because of the jitter I was recording.. it was all over the place in Piria. Maybe it’s more stable in Montevideo.

  19. Anonymous said

    Jens.. that’s great news.. and not very surprising.. that kind of experience is common here… it’s like the guy telling me I couldn’t use the truck lane at Zonamerica… or today, I called Movistar to tell them I switched credit cards. They said I had to come into Movistar to switch to another card. I said I already did it through the bank. They told me it was impossible. My banks said it was already done. Not only can you not listen to what anyone says here, you cant rely on what happened a few days before. Dont know why Uruguay seems to change things all the time, but they do. I guess they’re making up for all those years when nothing changed.

    Cant wait to see the new law on license plates. Wonder how many times that will change before it settles in.

  20. ant said

    Do try it in MVD and post your results. I think you have a problem with the quality of connection in Piria that you wont have here. A roomie used the movistar connection to stay logged in to a call for about 8 hours. Guess what.. the call didnt disconnect all the way through, but eventually the dongle over heated and stopped functioning!

  21. Mike said

    I live across the river in San Isidro, provincia Buenos Aires, Argentina, and I bought an E226 on Friday with a guarantee — the Movistar salesman said I could bring it back Monday if not satisfied. I am glad to read here that some people are having success. At my home the speed is terribly slow, like a dialup modem or worse. I will get on my bicycle today and see if I can improve it, but if not, the modem is going back to Movistar.

  22. urufish said

    Here’s another example of that wonderful english expression, ‘all good things must end’….
    The past 2 weeks with CTI atop San Antonio have been ugly.
    2 weekends ago, we couldn’t connect at all Friday evenings. Authentication kept failing. The following morning was fine. Authentication worked fine on Saturday evening, but my wife is a social user, spending her time on MS and Yahoo messenger. Neither worked.
    This past weekend was a repeat performance.
    I connected to other webites without trouble, but the two messengers would not connect.
    Yesterday morning I needed to do some work. I couldn’t connect to our Tservers in Toronto.
    There’s something amiss with CTI’s service in Piriapolis.
    Over the next month, we’ll document all the problems.
    We’ll return the modem end of May with or cancellation request and cancel payment. If they pursue the matter, we’ll defend with the documentation.
    We hope that courts in Uruguay hold providers to a ‘reasonable’ standard and our documentation should prove that the service we received did not.

    Ant is still a firm supporter of Movistar’s service. We may try them out next. In the meantime, I’m ordering the 10gb service for our summer house.

  23. ant said

    so how’d the movistar experiment go?

  24. urufish said

    Not yet… In Toronto since last week… Will try it this coming Sunday.

  25. Diego said

    Hey… my speed was terrible (about 10 kbps on claro=cti)and i called them cause they said i could work with over 100…. and hours later it started working better… on tuesday the connectionn droped and i couldnt get it back on… and i tryed it again at 5 am an guess what…. i managed to achive constant speed of 200 kbps… im not sure if the speed problem is due to low internet bandwith (they got lets say 1 mb per antena or so to be divided among all the connections) or too many connections just lower the speed cause the antena cant handel them..
    any ways …. its cheep, slow and wireless… wish i could get those 200 kbps all the time 🙂
    if anybody find a way to speed it up please post….
    ahh… forgot… i quited using the movile partner software and setup a connection like you would do with any modem… increased the speed it was set up and played arround with some other option… what i liked about this is that i can connect with just a double click on a desktop shortcut and that you can set up redial if line drop so it autoreconnects if you get disconnected…
    is there any driver update??

  26. ale said

    Diego, where in Mobile Partner did you see the option “redial”?? Cause that is the very big problem that has this software!! You connect, navigate, etc. but each hour or two (even 1/2 hour) it disconnects and you have to redial manually and it makes me crazy because, for instance, if you are chatting you have to ask to your interlocutor to tell you what he said constantly!

  27. Jens said

    Hi Urufish,

    did you manage to get out of the contract…
    I used it in Argentina, only a little first to see what happens, and there was nothing on the bill…now half a year later I got a bill of 250000 pesos. Can you believe it…it´s like a big setup, and i explicitly asked several times and they told me there would be no additional costs in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. Hmmm, dunno what to do.

  28. urufish said

    My nephew asked me if he could take it over and use it in Maldonado. I said sure and haven’t seen it since. I get the bill every month, but he pays it at an Abitab when they cut it off.

    He tells me that if the bill is overdue a certain length of time, less than a month for sure, they cut the service off. He goes in and pays for it and they turn it back on.

    Were you getting regular monthly bills without extra charges on it all this time? And now they send you a bill for backcharges for usage outside Uruguay? First thing you should do is check the advertising to see if it states there are extra fees for usage outside Uruguay. Hopefully, you’re judgement proof. If you used your credit card, better cancel it pronto.

  29. Jens said

    I always got teh 485-peso-bill at the end of each month and thought everything was ok. Actually I still didn´t get the bill of 250000. They just cut off the service one day and when I called them they said I had to pay the 250.000 pesos and they would turn it back on. First thing I did is cancel my CC… We´ll see what happens next…

  30. Ryan said

    I realize this post is getting old now, but I thought I would ask. I need to do some work while in Piria (Punta Fria) and was going to get a modem from Claro (no contract). I am curious if the signal quality as increased at all. I will need to use a bit of Skype but mostly SSH connections.
    And yest the wife will want msn and facebook 😉

    I am in line of sight of San Antonio hill.

    Thanks for any help/suggestions.

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