Mobile networks should support Linux

Why don’t mobile operators support Linux on their mobile broadband networks.

What would they have to do

List the dongles and distributions that work. That’s all, the community is delvoping everything needed. It all works now.

Perhaps they could add some guides to installing and using dongles on the common distributions. Most distributions use the NetworkManager to manage all network connections. This is supported by default in Ubuntu, SUSE, and Fedora.

From a investment return basis the investment to support Linux is minuscule, the returns will not be major, but could be significant.

Market segment

Although numbers of Linux users are are small they are quite often influential. Accurate numbers of Linux users are hard to come by, as most users will have purchased a system with Windows installed and upgraded their system to Linux. There are well supported estimates that rate Linux desktop usage at around 2%. These numbers are biased toward the large amount of usage in North America as as such probably underestimate the true number.

Still 2% represents a seizable segment of the market to ignore.


The support pages mostly don’t mention Linux, only giving instructions for setting up dongles for use with Windows variants and Apple MAC. A search for Linux on shows only one hit.

The 3 Linux users have discussed their issues on open forums.


Vodafone support the betavine project. The key element of this has been the Vodafone Mobile Connect client. This is small application that manages the establishing connections and sending and receiving SMS messages.
This client can be used to connect any compatible modem to any operators network.


There is no official support from o2, but there is user generated help on their forum pages to help users 1 2 3


There is no official support for Linux on T-Mobile. Though they were selling the Xandros Linux version of the Asus eee netbook with there web and walk offering.

T-Mobile supplied dongles for this review of using using 3G mobile broadband on Linux that was published in Linux Format


Splashtop is a fast booting Linux distribution that is stored in ROM on the motherboard. It is being shipped with many laptops and PC motherboards. This allows a user to use the laptop for some quick email or web activity without waiting for the full OS to boot. Typical boot times for splashtop are around 2 seconds.

Users of these laptops would expect network connectivity from the splashtop environment, and it will work. But it would be good to assure customers of support.

The netbook revolution

Asus started the netbook revolution with the eee PC, and although Asus have abandoned Linux, but the idea of a small computer running a Linux based
operating system is developing. Especially with the use of lower powered CPUs like ARM. Freescale are calling these smartbooks.

FOSS is coming to phones

Nokia has recognised the importance of FOSS in that it spent €264 million acquiring Symbian only to immediately open source the entire software and
release it under the LGPL licence.

Google is putting significant resources into their android project. Although there is only one android phone (the G1 offered by T-Mobile) this is set to be joined by many more soon. Already the application store for android is showing that the open model can deliver new innovations like access to spotify.


5 Responses to Mobile networks should support Linux

  1. Ashley Carvalho says:

    Hey Stuart,
    I just wanted to give you a head’s up about HyperSpace, another Linux-based instant-on computing platform. While Splashtop still requires users to click to get connectivity, HyperSpace automatically connects to the Internet so users don’t need to do anything to get online. Also, HyperSpace’s developer, Phoenix Technologies, recently announced its alignment with Moblin…Thanks.

  2. […] Mobile networks should support Linux August 2009 2 comments […]

  3. […] Mobile networks should support Linux August 2009 2 comments […]

  4. […] I formally worked for Three, and I tried very hard to get the marketing bozos to recognise that they could easily support Linux all they had to do was list supported devices, and that this was a good thing to do, but without any success. […]

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