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Updating PRL / firmware on Sprint Novatel Merlin EX720 EVDO card

:: Saturday, January 31st, 2009 @ 12:12:06 am

:: Tags: ,

My Sprint Novatel Merlin EX720 EVDO card has become nearly useless over the past year. It actually seems to work well — I clocked it at 1153 Kb/s down, 295 Kb/s up, ping: 84ms (to Los Angeles) today — but after a few minutes of use, it slows down to dial-up speeds.

Luckily, Roget works with these cards every day, and he recommended that I make sure my PRL (Preferred Roaming List) was current. I discovered that I was running PRL 20224, which is dated 09/18/2006 (!). Roget was surprised that my connection was even working properly, and said that I should be running a PRL in the 6-series instead of the 2-series.

Sprint provides software called SmartView, and using the Mac OS X version, I was able to update my PRL to 20233 (09/30/2008). Unfortunately, my transfer speed here at home in San Francisco immediately dropped to around 400 Kb/s down. Not good! Roget speculated that an update using the Windows version of SmartView might do a firmware upgrade that would kick me over to a 6-series PRL, so I tried running SmartView in Windows XP running in a VMWare Fusion virtual machine. In that environment, SmartView identified my need to do a firmware upgrade (to v145). It downloaded the 10MB update, but failed during the process, telling me: “ERROR: NwUmtsPstResponseDM: ReadFile read 0″.


Updating a Merlin EX720 card’s firmware in Fusion = no good

I sent out a plea to my friends for the use of a Windoze notebook with an ExpressCard slot, and luckily, Warren was able to provide one. Using his notebook, I successfully updated my EX720′s firmware to version 145. Unfortunately, the PRL is still at 20233. The firmware update did not kick me over to a 6-series PRL, and Sprint SmartView now says that there are no more updates to install.

Does anyone out there have information on how to upgrade a Novatel Merlin EX720 to 6-series PRLs?

UPDATE, 3 FEB 2009: We figured it out.

The Novatel Connection Manager comes embedded with the 60711 PRL. Roget warned me not to install both SmartView and Novatel Connection Manager at the same time, so we uninstalled SmartView on Warren’s Windows machine, installed Novatel Connection Manager, did an update… and it worked! My Merlin EX720 had been migrated over to 60711, a 6-series PRL.

I then uninstalled Novatel Connection Manager and reinstalled SmartView (again, on the Windows machine). Unfortunately, uninstalling Novatel Connection Manager nukes the EX720 drivers, and reinstalling SmartView doesn’t always re-install the drivers properly. If you’re going to do this, be sure to reinstall SmartView the right way. I ended up using SprintView on Mac OS X to update my PRL to 60714. For some reason, 60750 is not available at the moment.

So here is a summary of the steps to migrate a EX720 from a 2-series to 6-series PRL:

  1. Get ahold of a Windows machine
  2. Install Sprint SmartView
  3. Do an “application update” (in the Tools menu). After the program downloads a bunch of data and stops, you may have disconnect, remove the card, reinsert, and update again (I had to).
  4. Continue to do application updates until it tells you that there are no more
  5. Uninstall SmartView
  6. Install Novatel Connection Manager
  7. Using Novatel Connection Manager, update your application (it may do a firmware update)
  8. Uninstall Novatel Connection Manager
  9. Re-install SmartView the right way, or switch back to SprintView on your Mac
  10. Do application updates until there are no more
  11. Curse Sprint for making this difficult

On PRL 60714, I am now getting around 1.6Mbps / 370Kbps from my home in San Francisco.

| San Francisco | link | trackback | Jan 31, 2009 00:12:06
  • http://sarcasm.com Kurt Koller

    My sprint EX720 was updated to firmware 159/PRL 60751 about 2 weeks ago, and now I have nothing but problems. When I sleep, the computer sleeps. If I wake from sleep,, work, then sleep again, it refuses to sleep (or restart or shut down) and there are log entries in the system log about the device being removed improperly.

    I have a Dell M1330 with the EX720. When it gets hung up I have to do a hard restart. If I disable the cellular card in the BIOS, I can sleep all day, over and over with no problems.

    Would love to know if anyone else is experiencing this.

  • Marty Morocco

    I came across Eric’s article on the EX720 while trying to find some more speed for mine; on a MacBook Pro as well. I got a PCI/PCMCIA adapter for my WINDOW$ machine and basically did what he did. I started with FW 137, PRI 2xxxx and ended with FW 159, PRI 60751. SpeedTest speeds are not changed a lot but actual page loading seems quite a bit better(?). No other problems, as yet, PC or Mac. Very curious about what Sprint is doing here. FWIW, 3G Store tech(where I got my card and router)was not interested in assisting me on this. Thanks to Eric.

  • Pimphand

    Was able to update to PRL 60751 from 20224 last night using your guide so many thanks for publishing this blog entry.

  • Kent

    Updated firmware to 159 and PRL (to 60752) no problem. Followed instructions to the letter and worked no problem. Maybe a few too many reboots, but worth it. Now to figure out a way to avoid using Smartview altogether. I used to have that ability by just dialing #777 with a “modem” connection and saw connection rates at 460kbp (although that was just what XP was saying) but still very fast when getting a decent signal. No matter – great instructions – worked as promised.

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