Using T-Mobile As A Hotspot For My Laptop - Good Alternative To Cable Internet?

I am about to upgrade my cell phone.
One idea is to get a new T-Mobile phone with all the bells and whistles, pay the extra $15/mo to get the phone to be my own “hotspot” and drop my Cox Cable internet service ($29/mo for the cheapest, slowest service).
I have had excellent reception with T-Mobile and according to my local store, I currently have 3G in my neighborhood, but 4G should be available in the next two months.
I figure it is a savings, I don’t watch videos or do any gaming - just emails, SDMB, reading news, and a few uploads to my own websites.

Anyone have any experience using only their cell phone as their modem/hotspot for internet connection for their laptop?
Supposedly it works well, and I can even receive phone calls while using my computer?

This is known as “tethering”.

It’s a great idea in principle, but there’s one big question mark: data capping. One tends to underestimate how much data one uses. Even though you say you only use the connection for emails, SDMB, news, it all adds up - and a lot of software downloads updates for the OS, Acrobat Reader, Java, etc. etc. in the background. So, what is the data capped at?

Anecdote: my dad has a 3G T-Mobile (in the UK) USB dongle that he uses, and he was running some software to share it from his laptop via wifi. Last weekend I was staying with them and hooked my iPhone up to this connection. Within an hour I’d maxed out his entire month’s data allowance. He was a bit pissed and told me that when he’d asked about the data allowance the sales guy said “it won’t even be an issue”.

You will still be able to receive calls.

According the eager sales rep, there is no limit if you pay this $15/mo extra fee, above and beyond the basic charge.
Supposedly, there are ways to use the cell to “tether” without paying extra, but then they do block you if you go over their limit.
Again, I will not be watching films, or playing video games, so I doubt that I would even come near any of those limits, but I will verify that what he says is true.
Thanks for that heads up.

If this is true, it sounds like a great deal.

I have a 500mb/24hrs limit on my sattelite. So, I don’t do any videos either. But becarefull about the ‘no’ limit. I think your going to have to study the fine print on that.

In my case, if I go over the limit on the dish, I get throttled back to about 24k down (yes kilobytes). Not sure if they would be able to do that over the phone network, but it would be technically ‘no limit’.

You might want to check out this thread first.

Look in the small print for a Fair Use Policy. There almost certainly will be one.

You need to check speeds. When I talked to T-Mobile about it, they said speeds were roughly around modem speeds.

I used to have ClearWire. I got semi-scammed because they presented the speed to me as 1 mbps, and I knew that DSL was 1.5 and DSL seemed almost as fast as my cable at home, so I figured speed wouldn’t be an issue.

However, what I didn’t know at the time was that “mbps” and “mBps” are two different animals. “b” means “bits” and “B” means “bytes.” Therefore, there’s an 8X difference between the speeds. For example, if my cable is 8mBps, tethering would have to be 64mbps to be comparable. Conversely, if my connection is 1 mbps, it is actually 1/8 mBps.

Another caution on speeds. Current cellular data technology is quite a bit slower than cable - sometimes slower than DSL and as noted, there are ‘data caps’. Some companies are starting to roll out ‘LTE’ technology, but exactly what this will cost, how fast and what caps it will have are not completely settled out.

I use a Clear Spot device which is advertised as 6mbps/1mbps - which I see occasionally. It is however, much better than a cellular data connection.

So, if Clear is available in your area AND it works in your house or where you need the connection, it can substitute for lower speed cable modem connections.

I wouldn’t recommend Clearwire. My issues are long, but to make it short, the money I was paying each month was no where near the service level I expected.

Tethering is the way to go IF you only need it for emergency situations away from home. Tethering and clearwire will not replace a high speed connection.

I was getting my hair cut last week and my hairdresser was talking about doing this at her house.

This week my mom was at the same shop and the hairdresser’s friend was there, using his phone to tether the hairdresser’s new laptop.

When the hairdresser asked the friend how the speed was, he said “painful”.

Personally, I would never have cellular data as my only source of Internet.

Just be glad that they didn’t also bring up that a lower-case ‘m’ usually means ‘milli’ and not ‘mega’. You’d have been looking at over an hour per byte. The data cap probably wouldn’t have been a problem in that case, at least.

For light Internet use, Clear seems pretty good. I just got my aunt set up with this and she is happy.
She surfs, job hunts, and we have the occasional Skype call (and the video even works, though not very well).

In my home we have teenagers who consume great gobs of bandwidth, and I need to be able to work at the same time, so we went for FiOS 25up/25down.

Clear wouldn’t work for me, but it’s quite sufficient for my aunt.

I rely on my phone for internet connectivity when I travel, if the hotel doesn’t have free internet. I find 3G is adequate for the kind of basic Internet usage you describe. At least, I’ve never been frustrated enough to pay for internet access through the hotel.

What kind of phone? If it’s an Android phone, you can root the device and tether your phone for free.

Double-check the fine print on that. The T-Mobile unlimited plans I am aware of have a 5 GB “cap” after which your speed is slowed down to dialup levels. So there’s no cutoff and no overage charges, it’s just may suck if you go over your limit.

Disclaimer: I do work for T-Mobile, but I am not speaking for them, and I’m just a router geek who claims no extensive knowledge of the details of all possible rate plans.

Are you sure that was the issue? 8 megabytes/sec cable, equal to 64 Mbps, would be incredibly fast (for the US, at least). It’s a rather unlikely speed to have unless you specifically picked it out and paid extra for it. As far as I know, almost everyone in the industry uses megabits per second (Mbps) and they would not normally mention megabytes at all… and when they do, it’s usually listed as MB/s to avoid confusion. (Just think about it: If the cable internet was 64 Mbps, why wouldn’t they say that instead of the weaker-sounding 8 MBps? Most consumers wouldn’t know the difference.)

A more likely culprit is network overloading: Wireless carriers don’t generally have the bandwidth to handle the theoretical maximum.

Cellular internet is also far more vulnerable to environmental issues and structural/terrain shielding than a cable or DSL line would be.

I used my T-Mobile 3G mobile as a modem for my desktop PC for quite some time.

Although I never got round to doing a speed test, for most of the time that I was using it, I had a good enough speed for the sort of basic 'net stuff that you’re talking about. (And you’d probably have a faster connection speed than I had.)

On the odd occasion when I tried accessing streamed content, I did often find that the speed was just too low for it to work. (But again, I think you’d probably have a faster speed than I did.)

However, I stopped using it in the end because I hit a period when the connection quality dropped down from “decent” to “virtually unusable”. The nominal signal strength generally remained unchanged, but the damned thing kept dropping out, and might take a dozen attempts to regain it… and then it might do it all again a few minutes later… and again… and so on. Often the 'phone would claim it had a 3G connection but I simply could not get any traffic past an initial few bytes.

The other things to watch out for are data capping, image compression, and content blocking.

In my case the latter was an aggravation, but it would’ve been removed if I’d gotten round to jumping through their administrative hoops to prove I was over 18.

Data capping is probably the most important thing you need to check the small print carefully for, both as to the limit, and as to how they “punish” you for exceeding it.

Since you talk about uploading stuff to your own websites, I’ve also mentioned image compression as a potential problem. T-Mobile were compressing all images, and there was no way to disable this. As a result, any images displayed in the browser or separately downloaded via http were not true copies of the original, so assessing picture quality or matching colours were effectively impossible.

Also, they were supplying the compressed images through proxy servers, which might muck up other testing you might want to do for your sites; I can certainly recall having the occasional problem with this, although unfortunately I can’t remember the details. It did mean that the source code for a page as displayed in the browser didn’t precisely match the source code file on the web server, though.

I don’t use my mobile for calls, but when using it as a modem I was certainly able to send and receive texts without any difficulty. In fact, I’m not sure I wasn’t also able to surf the 'net on the 'phone itself at the same time, which might be of use if you don’t have a way to synchronise it with your laptop.

(Note that all the above is in the UK, but hopefully it will be of use.)

Thanks for all of the replies.
So, after running around Las Vegas for two days and comparing prices and then getting bad news from T-Mobile store “sorry, that sale ended Tuesday”, I finally went to Walmart and was trying to get the same phone, but they were sold out.
However, they had a brand new phone that had just arrived four days ago, so I got it.
Cost $128 at Walmart (vs $258 at T-Mobile) and I bought it.
It is the Samsung Galaxy S - 4g.

Sit back and enjoy part two of my tale.
Having never had a smart phone, these doohickeys entail a bit of a learning curve.

Before reaching the end of the huge .pdf instruction manual, I tried out the voice navigation. Figured I would see how it would direct me to my local casino so I said, “Navigate to Green Vally Ranch”. Hey, this phone has GPS and cool features so I was eager to hear! Sure enough - there was a pleasant woman’s voice telling me to go down my street and turn right.
Except I didn’t know how to turn her off.
All day yesterday, that damned bitch was yelling at me to TURN RIGHT, TURN RIGHT…

In the meantime, I could not answer the damn phone to receive a phone call…it would ring and I would bang on the front and shake the phone and jump up and down, but could not answer the call.
All the while, that woman kept screaming at me to TURN RIGHT, TURN RIGHT!

So, first thing I learned:
A. Take off fine, invisible cover film on cover of phone.
B. You have to slide the green button over to answer a call.
OK then, I can now answer a phone call.

Now I had to program some phone numbers.
I entered the number, but having never done much texting, entering the name was a tad difficult.
Trying to type in the name “Ben” I got:

I now have five listing for “Ben” and none of them have his name spelled correctly.
Plus, I don’t know how to delete the entries.
I did, however, finally learn where that “delete” button is for incorrect letters.

At any rate, I will get back to you all to let you know how this tethering/wi-fi options works out.

But first, I am going to do something I rarely do.
I am going to read the fucking manual.
Also, I am going to bribe one of my students at school tomorrow with a free Snicker bar from the candy machine and have them walk me through the basics.
Apparently I am nowhere near as smart as my smart phone.

I have TMobile with an HTC G2 Android phone. I use it as my internet connection. I rooted the phone and tether to my laptop.

Make sure you’re in a 4G coverage area. I am and my speeds are around 2-3 MBPS.

I have the unlimited data plan, but they do cap it at 5GB per month. You won’t get charged extra, they’ll just throttle you back to dial up speeds until the end of your billing cycle.

I’ve never exceeded the 5GB cap and i’m on my computer every day. But I dont do online gaming and or much youtube or Hulu watching.