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Intel 5350 WiMAX FAQ: What's Real, What's Fake, and How You Can Find the Real Deal

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1.
I've decided that I want to install an Intel 5350 WiFi/WiMAX card in my laptop or netbook. Why can't I find the card at websites that sell other WiFi cards?
2. I've installed an Intel 5350 card in my Lenovo or HP laptop/netbook, but now the computer won't boot. What's wrong?
3.
I've installed an Intel 5350 card in my laptop/netbook, the label on the card indicates it's for Lenovo or HP computers, and the card doesn't work. My computer is NOT a Lenovo or HP model. What's wrong?
4. I see an Intel 5350 card for sale that's an "Engineering Sample." Is that just as good as any other Intel 5350 card?
5. I bought an Intel 5350 card on eBay, and it works fine as a WiFi card, but it won't let me log onto my local WiMAX network. The seller specifically said that the card was NOT an "Engineering Sample." What's wrong?
6. How can I make sure that the Intel 5350 that I plan to buy is NOT a relabled "Engineering Sample?"
7. I'm having trouble connecting to my local WiMAX network using my new Intel 5350 card. If I indeed have a relabled "Engineering Sample" version of the card, what error message would I expect to see?
8. My laptop/netbook can only use half-height mini PCIe cards. Is the Intel 5350 available as a half-height card?
9. Can the Intel 5350 be used in any mini PCIe card slot?
10. My laptop/netbook doesn't use an Intel chipset. Will the Intel 5350 work in my computer?
11. Do I need to connect three antennas to the Intel 5350 card?

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QUESTION: I've decided that I want to install an Intel 5350 WiFi/WiMAX card in my laptop or netbook. Why can't I find the card at websites that sell other WiFi cards?

ANSWER: Intel is discontinuing the "generic" version of the card. So the inventory within most normal distribution channels for the 5350 has dried up. See:

Product Change Notification:
Intel® WiMAX/WiFi Link 5350 Generic SKU: 533ANXMMWG, PCN 109447-00, Product Discontinuance


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QUESTION: I've installed an Intel 5350 card in my Lenovo or HP laptop/netbook, but now the computer won't boot. What's wrong?

ANSWER: Lenovo and HP have their own version of the card (in fact, the two companies use the same version). So you instead have to buy the card directly from those companies. They usually charge several times the normal retail price of the card. You may also find such cards sold by third parties on sites such as eBay.

This has its downside and its upside. The downside is that it costs you more money. The upside is that it's almost impossible to find "generic" 5350 cards that are legitimate (and that work with WiMAX) for sale right now. That's because Intel is discontinuing the "generic" 5350. So the only Intel 5350s that are still available through normal channels are those that are specific to a particular laptop manufacturer.

Does the Lenovo/HP-specific 5350 have some special capability that the generic 5350 cards don't have? No. Nothing other than the fact that they work in Lenovo/HP computers.

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QUESTION: I've installed an Intel 5350 card in my laptop/netbook, the label on the card indicates it's for Lenovo or HP computers, and the card doesn't work. My computer is NOT a Lenovo or HP model. What's wrong?

ANSWER: Intel 5350 cards designed for use in Lenovo or HP computers don't work in other computers.

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QUESTION: I see an Intel 5350 card for sale that's an "Engineering Sample." Is that just as good as any other Intel 5350 card?

ANSWER: No. It won't let you connect to WiMAX networks.

When you try to log onto a WiMAX network, the network recognizes you by something called your WiMAX MAC address. This address is a number that's absolutely unique to the individual 5350 card in your computer. No other 5350 card, and no other WiMAX device on Earth has that same MAC address.

However, MAC addresses can be faked, or spoofed. So each WiMAX device also has an associated security certificate. This certificate ensures that you haven't faked your MAC address. The problem with the "Engineering Sample" cards is that their certificates have expired, and Intel doesn't intend to renew them. So your "Engineering Sample" of the 5350 card can not log onto a WiMAX network, due to the expired certificate.

An engineering sample card will work fine as just a WiFi card however, under Windows. But in some versions of Unix, it won't work due to lack of support for its older microcode. So the card essentially behaves like an Intel 5300 WiFi-only card under Windows, but behaves more like a block of wood under some flavors of Unix.

Note that each 5350 card has one MAC address for WiFi operation, and a different MAC address for WiMAX operation.

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QUESTION: I bought an Intel 5350 card on eBay, and it works fine as a WiFi card, but it won't let me log onto my local WiMAX network. The seller specifically said that the card was NOT an "Engineering Sample." What's wrong?

ANSWER: eBay has recently been flooded with "Engineering Sample" 5350 cards that have been relabled to make them look like they aren't engineering samples. Note that the label on engineering samples specifically says "Engineering Sample - not for resale."

These "Engineering Sample" cards work normally as WiFi cards under Windows, but will not let you connect to a WiMAX network (for an explanation, see the question above this one in the FAQ). These "relabeled" cards appear to exist in both "generic" and Lenovo/HP-specific versions.

But first check with the tech support of your WiMAX provider, to make sure that you're not having some other problem with your WiMAX connection.

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QUESTION: How can I make sure that the Intel 5350 that I plan to buy is NOT a relabled "Engineering Sample?"

ANSWER: The best way is to buy the 5350 from an established company, such as your laptop's manufacturer, or from an authorized or large commercial parts supplier for that manufacturer. You'll pay more, but spending your time dealing with questionable parts that don't work can cost you money as well. The practice of relabeling is so rampant, that this is the strategy I recommend.

Other than that, one clue is that many of the relabeled engineering samples have mistakes in the format of their labels. They may add or omit information compared to authentic labels. So, BEFORE YOU BUY, compare the label on the 5350 that you're considering buying with the label on a 5350 that you know is legitimate. Note that the versions of 5350s that are specific to a particular laptop manufacturer have their own label format that's different from that of the "generic" 5350 cards.

If you're dealing with an eBay seller, or an Amazon Marketplace seller, then check their customer feedback for complaints from customers who've said they were sold engineering samples. If those customers weren't told they were being sold engineering samples, then don't buy from that seller. Note that, when I say Amazon Marketplace seller, I'm talking about companies that appear when you click on the "Available from these sellers" link on the Amazon product page. I would also specifically email an Amazon Marketplace seller, describe the problem with relabeled engineering samples, and ask specifically what's on the label of the card. The email you send via Amazon will be automatically CC'd to one of the buyers who works at Amazon, which will make a seller of engineering samples nervous. If the seller won't answer your questions, then don't buy from them. If you do get a relabeled engineering sample from an Amazon Marketplace seller, report them to Amazon.

Make sure that you can return the card if you have problems with it. If a seller is unwilling to let you return a relabeled engineering sample, warn them that you'll file a complaint with Intel's legal department about the seller's sale of relabeled engineering samples. Engineering samples of the 5350 specifically state on their original label that they are "not for resale." If necessary, call the legal department at Intel's headquarters and report the seller.

Unfortunately, the only way to conclusively test the card is to try to connect to a WiMAX network with it. Which brings us to the next question in the FAQ.

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QUESTION: I'm having trouble connecting to my local WiMAX network using my new Intel 5350 card. If I indeed have a relabled "Engineering Sample" version of the card, what error message would I expect to see?

ANSWER: First off, if the card and drivers are installed correctly, you should get a "WiMAX is now ready" message in the system tray near the lower right corner of the screen at some point. That should happen whether or not you have an engineering sample card.

And the WiFi section of the card should already be working. That's not affected by a card being an engineering sample.

Also, the WiMAX Connection Manager should show your local WiMAX network (WiMAX service is offered in your area, right?).

If you have an engineering sample card, the problem will occur when you then try to connect to the WiMAX network. You'll get an "Unable to connect" message after perhaps 20 seconds of trying to connect. So you will be unable to go to the signup page. If your WiMAX network supports self-provisioning (meaning that it's designed to allow users to enroll in the network when they connect to the network, without previous interaction with the WiMAX provider), then you should be able to connect if you have a NON-engineering-sample 5350 card.

If you can't connect, then contact tech support for the WiMAX service provider. They may or may not understand what's going on, according to the reports I've seen from users. In any case, the WiMAX service provider will likely ask you to enroll in the service to try to further trouble-shoot your problem. But the evidence at this point has already indicated that you have an engineering sample card. As you escalate up through higher levels of tech support, their engineers should be able to determine that it's a problem with an expired certificate. Telling them to look for that from the onset of the problem may accelerate the diagnostic process.

At some point, the WiMAX provider may ask for your WiMAX MAC address. Note that each 5350 card has one MAC address for WiFi operation, and a different MAC address for WiMAX operation.

Note that this information is based on reports from various users. I'm in the process of installing an Intel 5350 in a Samsung NC20 netbook, and will have to travel out of my local area to test it with a WiMAX network. But I'll report on that, and add to this FAQ, as things progress.

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QUESTION: My laptop/netbook can only use half-height mini PCIe cards. Is the Intel 5350 available as a half-height card?

ANSWER: No. The 5350 is the only card of the Centrino 2 WiFi lineup that doesn't come in a half-height version.

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QUESTION: Can the Intel 5350 be used in any mini PCIe card slot?

ANSWER: No. In addition to the requirement of having a full-height slot, a USB connection must also be enabled for that slot. The WiMAX portion of the card actually shows up as a USB device. Many netbooks in particular, have two mini PCIe slots, with USB signals going to only one of the two slots. It's possible in some cases to add the USB connections to a slot, but doing so definitely requires technical skill with a soldering iron, and is not for the faint of heart.

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QUESTION: My laptop/netbook doesn't use an Intel chipset. Will the Intel 5350 work in my computer?

ANSWER: In many such cases, the answer is no. However, the Samsung NC20 netbook, for instance, instead uses a VIA chipset, and it does support the card.

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decideded against the 5350?
...then here's the Intel 5300 (has NO WiMAX)

QUESTION: Do I need to connect three antennas to the Intel 5350 card?

ANSWER: If you want acceptable 802.11n ("Draft-N") WiFi performance, then the answer is yes. Some people also claim that you need the third antenna for WiMAX operation on the 5350, although I need to verify that (the Intel 5150 WiFi/WiMAX card only uses two antennas and, although the 5350 clearly outperforms the 5150 for 802.11n operation, I'm not sure that the 5350 uses 3 antennas simultaneously to outperform the 5150 for WiMAX operation -- I need to investigate this further).


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