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QMI firmware update with libqmi


One of the key reasons to keep using the out-of-tree Sierra GobiNet drivers and GobiAPI was that upgrading firmware in the WWAN modules was supported out of the box, while we didn’t have any way to do so with qmi_wwan in the upstream kernel and libqmi.

I’m glad to say that this is no longer the case; as we already have a new working solution in the aleksander/qmi-firmware-update branch in the upstream libqmi git repository, which will be released in the next major libqmi release. Check it out!

The new tool is named, no surprise, qmi-firmware-update; and allows upgrading firmware for Qualcomm based Sierra Wireless devices (e.g. MC7700, MC7710, MC7304, MC7354, MC7330, MC7444…). I’ve personally not tested any other device or manufacturer yet, so won’t say we support others just yet.

This work wouldn’t have been possible without Bjørn Mork‘s swi-update program, which already contained most of the bits and pieces for the QDL download session management, we all owe him quite some virtual beers. And thanks also to Zodiac Inflight Innovations for sponsoring this work!

Sierra Wireless SWI9200 series (e.g. MC7700, MC7710…)

The upgrade process for Sierra Wireless SWI9200 devices (already flagged as EOL, but still used in thousands of places) is very straightforward:

  • Device is rebooted in boot & hold mode (what we call QDL download mode) by running AT!BOOTHOLD in the primary AT port.
  • A QDL download session is run to upload the firmware image, which is usually just one single file which contains the base system plus the carrier-specific settings.
  • Once the QDL download session is finished, the device is rebooted in normal mode.

The new qmi-firmware-update tool supports all these steps just by running one single command as follows:

$ sudo qmi-firmware-update \
     --update \
     -d 1199:68a2 \

Sierra Wireless SWI9x15 series (e.g. MC7304, MC7354…)

The upgrade process for Sierra Wireless SWI9x15 devices is a bit more complex, as these devices support and require the QMI DMS Set/Get Firmware Preference commands to initiate the download. The steps would be:

  • Decide which firmware version, config version and carrier strings to use. The firmware version is the version of the system itself, the config version is the version of the carrier-specific image, and the carrier string is the identifier of the network operator.
  • Using QMI DMS Set Firmware Preference, the new desired firmware version, config version and carrier are specified. When the firmware and config version don’t match the ones currently running in the device, it will reboot itself in boot & hold mode and wait for the new downloads.
  • A QDL download session is run to upload each firmware image available. For these kind of devices, two options are given to the users: a pair of .cwe and .nvu images containing the system and carrier images separately, or a consolidated .spk image with both. It’s advised to always use the consolidated .spk image to avoid mismatches between system and config.
  • Once the QDL download sessions are finished, the device is rebooted in normal mode.

Again, the new qmi-firmware-update tool supports all these steps just by running one single command as follows:

$ sudo qmi-firmware-update \
     --update \
     -d 1199:68c0 \

This previous commands will analyze each firmware image provided and will extract the firmware version, config version and carrier so that the user doesn’t need to explicitly provide them (although there are also options to do that if needed).

Sierra Wireless SWI9x30 series (e.g. MC7455, MC7430..)

The upgrade process for Sierra Wireless SWI9x30 devices is equivalent to the one used for SWI9x15. One of the main differences, though, is that SWI9x15 devices seem to only allow one pair of modem+pri images (system+config) installed in the system, while the SWI9x30 allows the user to download multiple images and then select them using the QMI DMS List/Select/Delete Stored Image commands.

The SWI9x30 modules may also run in MBIM mode instead of QMI. In this case, the firmware upgrade process is exactly the same as with the SWI9x15 series, but using QMI over MBIM. The qmi-firmware-update program supports this operation with the –device-open-mbim command line argument:

$ sudo qmi-firmware-update \
    --update \
    -d 1199:9071 \
    --device-open-mbim \
    SWI9X30C_02.20.03.00.cwe \

Notes on device selection

There are multiple ways to select which device is going to be upgraded:

  • vid:pid: If there is a single device to upgrade in the system, it usually is easiest to use the -d option to select it by vid:pid (or even just by vid). This is the way used by default in all previous examples, and really the easiest one if you just have one modem available.
  • bus:dev: If there are multiple devices to upgrade in the same system, a more restrictive device selection can be achieved with the -s option specifying the USB device bus number plus device number, which is unique per physical device.
  • /dev/cdc-wdm: A firmware upgrade operation may also be started by using the –cdc-wdm option (shorter, -w) and specifying a /dev/cdc-wdm device exposed by the module.
  • /dev/ttyUSB: If the device is already in boot & hold mode, a QDL download session may be performed directly on the tty specified by the –qdl-serial (shorter, -q) option.

Notes on firmware images

Sierra Wireless provides firmware images for all their SWI9200, SWI9x15 and SWI9x30 modules in their website. Sometimes they do specify “for Linux” (and you would get .cwe, .nvu or .spk images) and sometimes they just provide .exe Windows OS binaries. For the latter, you can just decompress the .exe file e.g. using 7-Zip and get the firmware images that you would use with qmi-firmware-update, e.g.:

 $ 7z x SWI9200M_3.5-Release13-SWI9200X_03.05.29.03.exe
 $ ls *.{cwe,nvu,spk} 2>/dev/null


qmi-firmware-update now allows upgrading firmware in Sierra Wireless modems using qmi_wwan and libqmi.