Intel WiMAX/WiFi Link 5150/5350 or connecting a notebook to 4G networks

The 4G wireless standard is being widely discussed in Russia even on the top level. But what should I do if my beloved notebook isn’t able to work in 4G networks? We can resort to notorious modernization here. But what should I change and how?! There are several ways: you can connect via an external USB-modem, use a PCMCIA-card or even connect to a WiMAX router via Wi-Fi (either to a portable one or a wired one. However, each of these solutions either demands a bulky external device or occupies a whole port. In our article we would like to outline another way of achieving our goal – using combined internal devices allowing simultaneous connection both to Wi-Fi and WiMAX networks. The examples of such devices are Intel WiMAX/WiFi Link modules 5150 and 5350 for one of which we should change the embedded wireless network adapter.

We’d like to point out straightaway, that the change may only take place with tampering with the notebook, non-authorized modification and breaking or altering warranty seals; consequently, such equipment upgrade may lead to partial or full warranty loss. Thus, anyone starting to perform the operations below must clearly understand the possible consequences of their actions.
We had two ASUS notebooks at hand – X55SV and X5DIJ – both lacking WiMAX modules. We partially removed the bottoms of the given notebooks to get access to wireless network adapters inside. They are very easy to recognize: you should only find where the pigtails going to antennas are connected.

Before installing Intel WiMAX/WiFi Link 5150/5350 you should demount the old wireless adapter. For this you need to carefully remove the pigtails, unscrew the screws holding the board in place and pull out the card. The Intel WiMAX/WiFi Link 5150/5350 form-factor is PCI-E Mini Card, so either your old adapter should have the same form, or there should be a free corresponding slot. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to install the card itself: you just put it into the slot, press it against the board, fix it with the screws and connect the antennas.

If everything has been done correctly, then at the first boot of the notebook, its device manager will have two new network adapters as shown below. It's true for X5DIJ.

Now you only have to install drivers for the Wi-Fi part of the controller and download the software of your WiMAX provider.

However, there is a nuance in such upgrade. Before buying the extension module you’ll have to make sure that your notebook will be able to work with the card with full functionality. The PCI-E Mini Card bus has not only PCI-E contacts on it but of other buses as well, for instance of USB. In our second notebook ASUS X55SV the wiring wasn’t full – there were no USB bus contacts. Thus only the Wi-Fi part of the wireless Intel WiMAX/WiFi Link 5150 adapter was detected as it was connected via PCI-E whereas the WiMAX block was to be connected via the missing USB port.

It’s not possible to determine beforehand what contacts are present in your particular notebook, but if 3G modems support is declared, it may mean that appropriate wiring is present. Also your notebook may have several PCI-E Mini Card slots with different wiring, so if you fail with one slot, it’s worth trying to connect the adapter to the other ones. Good luck with your upgrades!
The author wants to thank ASUS Moscow office for providing equipment for testing.

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