Not long ago, modems were the only reasonable way to connect our personal computers at home to the internet. It was either that or going to a crowded cyber cafe.
Today with the proliferation of fast home networking services (Fibre Optic), wireless 4G speeds and faster devices that can double up as modems via tethering, it’s likely that you’ve long relegated your once lifesaver of a modem to lighter duties – that of gathering dust in some unknown drawer.
I still got mine though it’s been quite unlucky since I’ve never put it down despite these advancements. The reason for that is that I long figured a way to make use of it beyond just connecting it to the internet.
The thing about modems is that some of them can act as phones, it’s just that the network operators lock out this feature. As a matter of fact, it could be argued they are indeed phones, it’s just that they lack a ready interface for interacting with as a normal phones provides through an embedded display.
In place of this, you get the software dashboard that you install on your computer which in turn allows you to connect to the internet as well as send text messages and execute USSD codes.
So while some can make calls, I take it that network operators would rather have us just use another phone in order to maximize our usage or probably so they can brag about their huge subscriber base.
Step 1: Unlocking your Huawei Modem
So the first order of business in turning your modem a phone is unlocking it. You might have already done this already if you’re the type that couldn’t stand being locked to one network. If you haven’t unlocked yours, it’s quite an easy process but all that depends on your Huawei modem model.
Mine is an old (circa 2010) Huawei E160 model from the carrier Safaricom. This model along with other ones in this series are quite easy to unlock. If you haven’t yet unlocked yours, you can read on how to unlock these old and some of the newer Huawei modems here.
Step 2: Enabling the Voice Feature
Having unlocked your modem, it’s time to enable the voice feature. Note however that:
- Enabling voice might disable the CD-ROM (where the dongle software is stored) and SD-Card. This was the case with my E160.
- Not all Huawei modems have voice support. Case in point, my newer Huawei E3131 modem doesn’t seem to support it.
- Internet connectivity will NOT be affected.
i. Using Huawei Modem Unlocker
1. Plug in your Huawei Modem
2. Exit the dongle software/dashboard if it runs automatically after inserting the modem. This also applies for Mobile Partner.
3. Run Huawei Modem Unlocker then connect it to the modem by refreshing and selecting it from the list. If it doesn’t connect, try re-plugging your modem and make sure it’s detected by checking the Device Manager.
4. Click on the READ MDM DATA to check the modem unlock status and enabled/disabled features. The Voice Feature will be disabled.
5. Go to the SERVICE section on the far right and select the Enable Voice button. Click the SERVICE button to apply the changes.
6. In the result section you should get the message: Success enabling voice feature.
ii. Using Huawei Tool
1. Follow the first two steps as explained above.
2. Run Huawei Tool then connect it to the modem by selecting it from the port and clicking the connect button.
If it doesn’t list your modem automatically, you can do it manually by selecting the COM number which can be found in the Device Manager. Just look for Huawei Mobile Connect – 3G PC UI Interface (COMx) under Ports (COM &LPT, where x is the number.
3. After connecting, the tool will query the voice feature status and display it on its window. It should read, Voice: Disabled or Enabled if it has already been activated.
4. Go to the unlock section of the tool and click the Enable Voice button.
The voice feature should noew be enabled.
Step 3: Making and Taking Calls with the Modem
If you’re using the dongle software that came with the modem, then it’s quite clear you can’t make or pick calls with it. The software typically provides just SMS messaging and some restricted USSD (short codes).
To make use of the voice feature you’ll therefore need a couple of things first:
1. You’ll have to use a different dongle software from that of your network operator.
For that we’ll use Huawei’s dongle software called Mobile Partner which includes a dialling page to make and pick calls. In addition to this it has a Phonebook, a call log/history page and full USSD function.
Some of these functions including Voice are however disabled by default in the official version available from Huawei’s Download Site.
I’ve “modded” one for my use (Mobile Partner v23.009.09.01.9830) which you can get here. In the package I’ve also included a USSD codes installer/extractor but it’s only of use if you reside in Kenya.
2. Your computer needs to have a speaker and microphone for making calls with.
Your computer probably has some speakers already (in-built ones, external or headphones). For the mic, you can get some cheap headphones that have a mic.
Some laptops do however have inbuilt mics though I’m not sure they’ll will work with Mobile Partner. You can give it a try; technically they should work.
Install the Dongle Software
To start making and/or picking calls do the following:
1. Install Mobile Partner.
This won’t affect the dongle software from your mobile operator and you can run it any time should you want to. You can’t however run them simultaneously since they can’t communicate with the modem at the same time.
2. Run Mobile Partner and then plug in your modem with a SIM card.
3. With your mic connected, go to the call section and dial a number to call. Also try calling yourself and you should get a ringing notification to pick up the call.
So basically that’s it. Happy calling!