This is an updated version of this article. This article was originally posted on 2010-01-07 14:25:26.
Using your cell phone as a modem is perhaps the most overlooked of all Internet connection options. But a mobile phone Internet connection, whether as a tethered modem or, using bluetooth, a wireless cell phone Internet connection, is easy to set up, and with a laptop and cellphone you can check email and surf the web from anywhere, any time, with the Internet in your pocket!
Here are the basic instructions for creating a mobile phone Internet connection. The instructions are for a cell phone with bluetooth (which most cell phones these days have), but if your cell phone doesn’t have bluetooth you can buy a cable to connect your laptop to your phone from any cell phone accessory provider. Conversely, if your cell phone has bluetooth but your laptop does not, you can buy a small USB device which will enable bluetooth on your computer.[By the way, Amazon has an incredible sale on the very phone that we use. Check it out here.]
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The first thing you need to do is to go to Ross Barkman’s excellent GPRS Info Page and make a note of the “username” and “password” for your cell provider and service. Even though they are called “usernames” and “passwords”, you aren’t getting information from someone else’s account – this is the information which your cell phone provider uses to make a connection between your cell phone and their data network.
After making sure that your computer is all set, you should check and see whether your cell phone service provider offers a high speed wireless (GPRS) access option – if so you will want to sign up for it, and be sure to sign up for the “unlimited” option. My carrier, for example, is Cingular, and they offer their high speed “MediaNet” access in an unlimited package for $24.95 per month. The Verizon cell phone Internet connection runs on their 10x network, which I’m told is blazing fast. Alternatively, if your carrier doesn’t offer a GPRS high speed Internet access package, or if you just don’t want to take advantage of it, then sign up for whatever data transfer plan your carrier offers. Just be sure to sign up for the unlimited option, or you will have to monitor the time you are uploading and downloading email and otherwise connected to the Internet very closely.
Ok, now that you are all ready and capable, here’s how to connect your laptop to the Internet any time, any where, using your cell phone. These directions are based on the settings for a Mac laptop, but Windows laptops will have similar settings.
If you haven’t yet paired your bluetooth cell phone with your computer, now is the time to do so. First, make sure to set your phone to “discoverable”. Then, go into system preferences, and to the bluetooth section. Check “support non-conforming phones”, and turn bluetooth on for your computer if it isn’t already turned on.
Next run your bluetooth device set-up (on the Mac it’s called “Bluetooth Setup Assistant”), and follow it through to the end, adding your cell phone as a paired device. If your cell phone is already paired, and after you go through the set-up steps you can’t connect your computer to the Internet with your phone, try unpairing and re-pairing your phone using these directions.
Next, go back to your computer’s system set-up (on the Mac it is “System Preferences”), and go to the Network panel. Select “Bluetooth” from the “Show” drop-down menu.
Click on “TCP/IP” and make sure that the “Configure IPv4” drop-down is set to “Using PPP”.
Now click over to the “PPP” tab, and fill in the “Service Provider” blank with the name of your service provider. Some of this information may already be filled in for you from when you did the Bluetooth Setup Assistant.
Then add in the account name, password, and telephone number required by your provider. The “username” which you got from Ross’ site goes in the “Account Name” field, and the “password” goes in the “Password” field.
For telephone numbers try the following:
For Cingular/AT&T it will usually be either *99***2# or *99# (try both).
For Verizon, try #777
Sprint is also #777
For T-Mobile, I’m told that the same settings at for Cingular will work.
If these phone numbers don’t work, try doing a Google search for “(name/model of your cellphone) bluetooth modem settings” and you should turn up plenty of leads.
In my case, with my provider being Cingular, and my Sony Walkman phone, my settings look like this:
Service Provider: Cingular Wireless
Account Name: WAP@CINGULARGPRS.COM
Telephone Number: *99#
(When I used my old Sony t616, the telephone number *99***2# worked.)
Now, while you are there, take a look at the options under “PPP Options”. You will probably want to leave the advanced options alone, although some recommend unchecking “Send PPP echo packets” and “Use TCP header compression”. Play with it if you like.
But under Session Options, which is the top half of that window, I like to check “Connect automatically when needed”. What this does is it causes your computer to automatically reconnect if you lose the signal while connected through your cellphone.
However, what it also does is it tries to connect you through your phone automatically whenever you open your laptop. I personally find this less of a hassle and worth not having to manually reconnect if my connection gets dropped during a session.
Finally, go to the “Bluetooth Modem” section, and select whichever modem seems closest to your phone. When I was using my Sony Ericsson t616, it was the Ericsson Infrared modem script, despite the fact that I was actually using bluetooth. And in fact for my new Nokia 6620, I use the Nokia Infrared script. If you get no results from any of them, check out Ross Barkman’s Modem Scripts and see what he has for you. I’ve never had a problem with the phones I’ve tried and the modem scripts provided by Apple.
Also uncheck “Enable error correction and compression in modem”, and “Wait for dial tone before dialing”.
One last thing which you may want to do is to go to the “Show” drop-down, and select “Network Port Configurations”. This is where you tell your computer which Internet access method to try first, second, and third, and so on. I have mine set to try my built-in wifi first, then my bluetooth connection.
That’s it! You’re all done with the set up – be sure to check “Apply now” or “Save” before closing system preferences!
Now, it could well be that at this point your set-up will just work), so go ahead and try it. It could also be that you will need to add a few settings on your phone. In the case of my t616, I had to add the same settings from the PPP preferences pane (username, password, etc.) into the data connection information on my phone. With my Nokia, it just worked without my putting anything in the phone.
Once you have this up and working, just carry your laptop with you (you do that already, don’t you?) and enjoy accessing the Internet from anywhere, with the Internet in your pocket.
(And don’t forget that if you are looking for a great phone for this, Amazon has that incredible sale on the very phone we use.)
So, where is the most interesting place you’ve been while being connected and using the Internet?
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