The desperate Microsoft Surface 3G Dongle situation


For a sophisticated user tethering a Microsoft Surface tablet to a WIFI hotspot or phone is pretty simple.

For everyone else however there are multiple obstacles, including needing to keep two devices charged, not having tethering on your data plan and of course draining your phone battery when using your Surface.

In theory the perfect solution is a USB 3G dongle or stick.

Unfortunately WindowsRT devices like the Surface can not install desktop software, and it seems all of the USB dongles need their own drivers and apps installed to make them go.

As Vodafone writes:

Windows 8 contains a driver for devices that use the NDIS 6.3 interface. The first Vodafone USB Sticks with NDIS 6.3 will be the K4305 and K4305-Z. For all other devices, it is necessary to install Vodafone Mobile Broadband 10 to get the driver.

This would be all fine and good, but it seems Dongles using the NDIS 6.3interface are near non-existent, and even the ones Vodafone refer to are not available on their website.

In  fact, there is a very long list of 47 dongles which Microsoft says are NOT compatible with Surface, and none that are.

Until Microsoft offers a tablet with built-in 3G, or more compatible dongles appear, the Surface it just not really ready for use outside of the home by unsophisticated users.

Do our readers know of any dongles that work? Let us know below.

Update: The Huawei e355 mobile wi-fi smart-3g dongle may be the solution. Read more here.

  • Not Steve

    Curious, how many “unsophisticated” users would want to user their Surface away from home? With the increasing number of Hot Spots, I don’t think this is such an issue. I bet this is what Microsoft was thinking. When I’m at home, I have Wifi. When I’m at work, I have Wifi. If I want to use it in between, I go to a coffee shop that has free Wifi, since I rather not waste my data plan (and would never trust my kids with it).

    • surur

      In my specific use case, my wife would love a surface – the ads won her over, but she often use her 3G iPad out and about – its simpler for her to not have worry bout wifi.

      • Bugbog

        Dependent on what City you’re in, there are city-wide WiFi broadcasts that you can access in between your local hotspots. They normally have a wide range of price points; from daily charges to monthly or yearly.

    • JohnCz

      I fit in that mold as well. The only device I expect anytime access is for my Lumia smartphone.

    • Wanderlei Santos

      Same with me, but if I had an hour long commute by train, this might interest me.

    • Severeheadcase

      You have to remember that their are “unsophisticated” business users out their that would like to use their Windows RT tablet when they are in the customers premises where the only wifi available is a corporate network with no public access. A dongle is really the only option in this situation.

      I grant you we could reconvene in the local coffee shop (which I wouldn’t complain about) but I can’t see my customers doing this plus the coffee shop owners would soon get p**d off with my mobile office being in their shop.

      We desperately need a solution especially if Microsoft are to compete seriously with Apple et al.

      • Flavio

        Come on, as I already wrote this is a non issue. Instead of a USB dongle get a wireless MiFi device and it works.

        • vivanteco

          some would prefer not to dick around carrying yet another device that you have to keep charged. I want the sim inside the device whether its my laptop or tablet. It should at least be an option

    • vivanteco

      Yeah…because like, no one catches trains or buses…

  • zednem

    If you have a smartphone that supports Wi-Fi tethering, then that MAY be a better option than having a separate cellular plan for Mi-Fi or USB cellular modem.

    Regarding cellular dongle support for surface, this is not specifically about the surface, it’s about lack of support for Windows RT.

  • Tishawn Fahie

    Yeah I’m currently in the same situation but I use my Lumia 900 and now 920 as a hotspot for my surface. Pretty good experiance especially on my 1 hour bus ride to and from work.

    • nbean

      I have the same phone, how do u do this?

  • Gunzta

    Oh come on, just how difficult is it to tether it to your phone.. I mean, it’s not rocket science is it.. 😉

    • tt

      USB tethering is not supported for some unknown reason.

  • Flavio

    Why not buying a MiFi dongle that doesn’t require to be plugged in and therefore doesn’t require drivers or software? Just turn it on and connect to the WiFi network it makes.

    • JohnCz

      I agree, MIFi is extremely useful for those extended road trips. I’ll admit my mobile needs are limited but I rarely have difficulty finding a WIFI hotspot these days.

      My only complaint with Surface RT is that it does not have a stylus like Surface Pro. If it did, I would bring it with me far more.

      • NarcoSleepy

        When I spoke to MS reps, they verified that the stylus for the Pro will also work with the RT, it is just not for sale yet.

        • tt

          complete bollocks. it doesn’t

        • tt

          complete bollocks. it doesn’t

    • Andrew Lee

      Yeah and that will also free up your USB for other stuff :)

    • Manu

      I think most people with a 3G/4G “card” these days have a MiFi instead. We ditched all of our USB dongles for MiFis about 18mo ago.

    • Donga Jack

      People buy compact thing cause it easy to carry, now add with MiFi, it can’t consider compact and easy to carry anymore. Why didn’t Microsoft just build it own dongle to connect with network. With advance tech added to surface they should be able to build one.

  • The__Truth__Hurts

    Does it matter….?

    I don’t want to say that a 3G/4G tablet is “useless”, but most (if not all) who have a tablet HAVE a smartphone!

    So instead of spending the $100+ more for the 3G/4G tablet and spending MORE to get data for your tablet, why don’t you wirelessly tether to your smartphone?

    That is what I do. When I need internet and I’m not in a Wi-Fi zone for some reason? I just tether my laptop to my (Unlocked) Galaxy Nexus. No expensive data plans required (just pay $10 a month for data) and no expensive hardware.

  • NegLewis

    All the people in the world just tethering already.
    But… what if… I don’t want to do it?
    Being a MS Tablet… people will expect more – like driver compatibility.

    This non-supported can – and I suspect WILL – become the Achilles Heel of Surface. Apple and Google will not miss this.

    People forget and forgive if you fix or replace… but they will always comeback with the same problem: What about driver compatibility?
    This smells like a deal with carriers! I hope this will not last… and MS will allow our existed devices to join W8 World.

  • observer2121

    Tethering on T-Mobile is costing me $5 per month on T-Mobile and it’s works like a charm with my HD7 and Surface RT and I don’t consider myself sophisticated.

  • Alf Lenni Erlandsen

    Doest everyone have smartphones to tether to. Dongles are so 00’s.

    • arrow2010

      Except almost every carrier wants to charge $5/month extra for tethering.

  • TJ Calingasan

    Why have an extra data plan/sim when you can just share your windows phone connection? One monthly bill/pre paid to load/instant hotspot. I have dev preview Samsung tablet and I only used sim port for couple of months. Already too hard to keep track of all my other monthly bills and I get the same connection speed, sometimes even better and my missis gets connected too.

  • textomatic

    Our Surface is for home use and the occasional road trip with the family. Most hotels have wifi so the surface is perfect for us. Plus I already tested our DSLR camera and it communicates perfect with the Surface. Great for uploading pics from the DSLR to Facebook while still on vacation.

  • h3man

    For me the biggest surprise was that the surface doesnt support ad hoc networks. At work I only have a wired connection and when I first wanted to share it with my surface (my usb to lan dongle isnt supported by the surface) I tried to go the easy way with an ad hoc network (win7 btw). The only way to share a wired connection is via a virtual hotspot.
    I dont think a 0815 user is going to command – netsh – wlan and so on just to share an internet connection between two ms products. But on the other hand I had to do the same thing with my Lumia 800. Shame on MS!

  • Alwyn

    I travel abroad, wishing to Skype my family from rented property with no WiFi, I bought my “Surface” assuming I could use my Movistar dongle and travel light. what a waste of money! any suggestions?

  • LuizioX

    In Brazil we dont have many wifi hotspots or MIFIs yet. The alternative is to use a WIFI/3G mini router where we plug mobile USB dongles and connect to WIFI only tablets.

  • Cau Trindade

    Hey guys, if you are those who DO NOT need a 3G dongle, don’t try to
    convince others who
    need, that they acctually don’t need.

    Please, many people want to use tablets far beyond than facebook, email,
    games and other entertaining apps.

    There are many serious professional users. What about having to use the
    tablet visiting dozens of customers per week ? Use their WiFi spot ??? Asking
    for their password when many of them even don’t want to give it ? What
    about on your car when you desperately need to send or receive a
    quote ?? When traveling…many places without a free WiFi Spot ?? Have to
    tether ? Drain your cell phone battery ? And if it is uncharged ? Well…here
    is another issue. My phone is a Windows Mobile 6.5 and there isn’t any software
    for tethering other than one that creates an “ad hoc” wifi spot.
    Guess what ? Surface RT doesn’t see “Ad Hoc” networks. All my
    notebooks and my wife’s cell phone can see it, but not Surface RT.
    So….Microsoft, we desperately need compatible 3G dongles.

  • inexperienced traveler

    Anyone know if any issues connecting surface on wifi in countries using cyrillic alphabet?

  • NGM123

    Sophisticated user? R U serious, it’s a piece of piss!