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View Full Version : Using a cell phone to connect a laptop to the net


Roadfood
04-17-2006, 08:39 PM
What I want is to be able to use a cell phone to connect my laptop to the internet. I'm an intelligent person (I think), I even work in the computer industry, but I can't for the life of me make sense of this seemingly simple task. I've Googled around and read various articles and "how to"s, but I still don't feel like I know enough to be able to ask intelligent questions when I'm shopping for cell service.

The cell carriers all seem to offer some sort of data mode (as an extra expense, of course), but that seems to be meant for accessing the web directly from the phone, rather than using the phone to enable a laptop to connect to the net. Do I have to use their expensive data service? If I already have an ISP that has dialup service (i.e., I can hook a landline to my laptop's modem, call their number, and I'm all set), why can't I just make a "normal" call on the cell and hook that to my laptop's modem? It seems like, in addition to needing the right cables, the cell phone can't just do that without enabling some setting at the phone company end?

Among the things I found when Goggling was one article that said that, if I want to use an third-party ISP dialup, I should tell the phone company that I need to use my laptop for sending FAXes, and then they'd enable data transfer on the cell without having to use the cell company's own (extra charge) data service. Is there any truth to that?

Can anyone help me make sense of this simple task?

[Please note that I put this in GQ because I want just facts; once I understand that, I might be interested in an IMHO about which cell carrier is better, etc.]

diku
04-17-2006, 10:11 PM
We do this for some of our Exec's at work. Not as simple as you would think.

First, yes you need the data plan. At least with most services. Basically, you are going to use the cell phone as a router for your laptop. You're going to connect to the phone with a usb cable. The cell phone should have the ability to browse the Internet. You need to load a piece of software on most phones(mind you, I'm used to dealing with Treo's). You use this software to connect to the data plan, and then your computer can connect to the Internet through the phone. The phone is handling the routing.

You can't just dial-up to an ISP with the phone and get a connection, the phone doesn't know how to deal with the signals it's receiving phone the ISP.

Also, be aware that some carriers are totally against this(Verizon). They want you to purchase an aircard, which is a PC card that you install on your laptop. It then dials the data connection.

Never heard of the faxing ruse, but I doubt that would work.

groman
04-17-2006, 11:08 PM
If you have a GSM/GPRS/EDGE provider like Cingular or T-Mobile all you need is a data plan and an ability to connect your phone to your computer (IR, Bluetooth, USB). The phone will be listed as a modem device and there is a provider specific phone number you can dial using normal Windows Dial-up Networking typically with no username or password and connect to your data plan. I've done this with Cingular, AT&T and T-Mobile via bluetooth with no extra software on the phone or the PC. It's very easy and if the phone is EDGE enabled, it's pretty fast.

Reply
04-18-2006, 05:03 AM
You guys are talking about two different things.

1) There's connection via GPRS/EDGE/EVDO/etc. If your phone can access the Internet through one of these networks, you can tether your laptop to the phone and it'll get access too. But be warned that some carriers (like Verizon) will bill you extra or cancel your data service if they find out you're tethering a laptop in this fashion (probably by examining the amount of bandwidth you use -- standalone cell phones typically download less than connected laptops).

2) The OP is asking if the phone can be used as a wireless modem to connect to regular landline ISPs such as Earthlink or Netzero. Some phones can if you can find a data cable AND a modem driver for your phone.

But from what I heard, speeds are typically pretty bad (not even 56k) and I don't know how your carrier would bill that (if at all).

I just wanted to clarify the difference. Sorry I can't be more helpful. If nobody here can answer your question, Roadfood, you might want to try the more specialized Howardforums.com (http://www.howardforums.com/) where they talk about all sorts of cell-phone-related things.

kinoons
04-18-2006, 06:44 AM
It depends on your carrier...but I'll give you my example

I do this when I am at work. I have an Audiovox PPC-6700 (PDA/phone combo). It connects to my computer via a USB cable.

So, first you need to get your laptop to recongise your phone as a modem. On my phone it is a simple program to run. Then, windows sees the phone as a modem, and needs to be installed with a windows driver like any peice of hardware.

Now, here's the intersting part. You don't dial into your usual ISP, like AOL for example. Insted you dial into your cell service providers data network.

So, for Sprint, in windows you make a new connection. The number I dial is #777, which is the same data number your phone dials if you're browsing the net on your phone. Sprint requires me to enter my user ID and password. Then, I can browse the net.

The caviot is that Sprint expressly forbids this being done. If you do it only occasionally, you can most likely get away with it. If you do it a lot, you run the risk of getting a nasty-o-gram from your provider.

Reply
04-18-2006, 07:04 AM
So, for Sprint, in windows you make a new connection. The number I dial is #777, which is the same data number your phone dials if you're browsing the net on your phone. Sprint requires me to enter my user ID and password. Then, I can browse the net.

This connects to their EVDO network, which means you either have to pay for a data plan or risk getting disconnected if you use it too much.

The OP wants to connect to a third-party ISP using regular airtime minutes by making the phone behave as a regular modem. If this is possible, it'll be completely different from EVDO data and not subject to those rates/risks.

kinoons
04-18-2006, 07:33 AM
This connects to their EVDO network, which means you either have to pay for a data plan or risk getting disconnected if you use it too much.

The OP wants to connect to a third-party ISP using regular airtime minutes by making the phone behave as a regular modem. If this is possible, it'll be completely different from EVDO data and not subject to those rates/risks.

when I first started hooking my phone to my laptop (which has a post in MPSIMS four years ago) I made the mistake of dialing to my university instead of sprints data network. I was charged at a different rate on my bill labeled specifically as modem usage.

My guess is that you'll hook to your laptop as I described as above. Get the data plan, and use it sparingly. otherwise, if you want constant access, get a data card.

Roadfood
04-18-2006, 06:59 PM
Ok, thanks, that helps some. Reply is right that what I really want is to be able to use the regular voice airtime of a cell phone to connect my laptop's modem to a regular dialup ISP. It sounds like that just isn't possible.

So I take it that the only way to do it is to use the cell provider's data network, and that "GSM/GPRS/EDGE" are some of the different networks. And, as I feared, since the cell providers really want you to use their cell phone browser, they either don't let you use a laptop, or they charge a lot extra for it. Guess I'm off to IMHO to inquire about opinions on the best way to go.

Reply
04-18-2006, 08:20 PM
It's not impossible, but it does require a supported phone and proper drivers. And it's slow. And expensive (according to kinoons).

Access via a proper data plan, on the other hand, works great if you can spare the cash. But I'll save that for the IMHO thread if you ever start one.

Stan Doubt
04-18-2006, 09:07 PM
I'll second "expensive". Stick to getting your wi-fi @ hotspots if at all possible. Anybody wanna go halfsies on some satellites with me?