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Use Your Cell Phone as a Laptop Modem (PC and Mac)

I recently started a new job in a downtown office that's right off the bus line. I decided to start commuting to save money on gas, since I live 18 miles away. I wanted a way to connect my laptop to the Internet so I could get some work done or catch up on email on the way.

I was able to connect my Macbook Pro laptop to the Internet using my Bluetooth-enabled Motorla RAZR cell phone as a modem. You should be able to get up and running with these instructions in about 15 minutes, and I'll explain how to do it with both Mac and PC/Windows laptops.

Here's what you'll need for a tethered laptop-cell-phone

  • Bluetooth-enabled cell phone (mine is a Motorola Razr V3, but a 3G phone is much faster when it comes to Internet data transfers)
  • Bluetooth-enabled laptop, or a laptop with a Bluetooth adapter.
  • Internet data plan or a dial-up Internet account.

1. Pair your Bluetooth phone with your laptop

Configure your phone's BlueTooth settings to make it visible to your PC or Mac. On a Razr phone use the following menu options:

Settings --> Connection --> BlueTooth Link --> Setup --> Find Me

This will tell your Bluetooth phone to broadcast a Bluetooth signal to your laptop for about 60 seconds - plenty of time for your laptop to recognize the signal and "discover" the device. For Windows Vista on a PC laptop, follow these steps:

  1. Click the Start button, click Control Panel, click Printers and Other Hardware, and then click Bluetooth Devices.
  2. Click Add, and then follow the instructions.

For OS X on a Macbook, follow these steps:

  1. Open Applications --> Utilities --> Bluetooth Setup Assistant.
  2. Select the "Mobile Phone" device type.
  3. Complete the pairing process.

Your laptop will now be paired with your Bluetooth-enabled phone, and will be able to use the phone as a wireless internet modem. Once paired, you won't have to go through the setup steps each time - it'll remember your device for future connections.

If you don't have a Bluetooth adapter, you can get one from Amazon for about $15.

2. Connect your laptop to the internet

Next you'll connect to the internet using your cell phone as a modem. Bluetooth has a 30-foot range, so you can leave your cell phone in your pocket (or laptop bag in my case) and never have to touch it.

You can use a program like Motorola Phonetools to handle the Internet connectivity, or you can try to set it up manually using the instructions below if you're fairly technical. For a PC running Windows Vista:

  • Click the Start icon and then select the "Connect To" menu. You'll see the "Connect to a network" screen where your phone should be listed. You can select "Dial-up and VPN" from the dropdown to only show your cell phone in the list.
  • Select your phone from the list, and click "Connect". You'll be prompted to enter your dial-up account user name, password, and phone number.

For a Mac running OS X: Getting my Bluetooth phone connected was a little harder on the Mac, and involved loading some customized modem scripts that I found from Ross Barkman's Home Page. The scripts I used were the Motorola GPRS Scripts, which I saved to the /Library/Modem Scripts folder. The scripts download contains detailed instructions in the Read Me.rtf file that's zipped up with the drivers - and they really work.

  • Set up PPP: A. Open Network Preferences B. Optional: Create a new location - call it "Mobile" . C. Select "Show: 'Bluetooth Modem Port'" D. Select the PPP tab and enter your network name in "Service Provider". E. Enter in "Telephone Number" - the APN for your network or "None" (without the quotes) F. Enter the Account name & Password (if required)
  • Set up the cell phone modem: A. Select the Bluetooth Modem tab in Network Preferences. B. Set 'Modem: "Motorola GPRS
  • Connect to the Internet: A. Open Internet Connect (in Applications) B. Select Bluetooth Modem Port (or the equivalent USB or IrDA port name) C. Click "Connect"

Please refer to the Read Me.rtf file contained in the zip file for more detailed instructions and some helpful trouble-shooting tips. If you're using the AT&T MediaNet account (a GPRS plan), then you'll enter WAP.CINGULAR for the phone number. Here's a comprehensive list of numbers to use for other GPRS internet service providers: http://home2.btconnect.com/Taniwha/gprs.html Once you connect to the internet using your Bluetooth cell phone, you'll be able to browse the web, chat, check email and do all the other things you do with a regular internet connection. Download speed won't be fast though unless you're using a 3G phone. Internet browsing speed with my Motorola RAZR phone reminded me of about a 28.8k dial-up modem, which was fine for websites containing more text than images - and certainly fine for IM. And it made the bus commute home much more enjoyable. If your phone is 3G-enabled, it will give you speeds similar to a DSL home network, which is much faster than a regular dial-up account. Sierra Wireless AirCard 402 PC Mobile Broadband Card For this reason, I eventually switched to using a Sierra Wireless AirCard 875u, which plugs into a USB port and provides blazing fast 3G broadband speeds. If you're a speed freak like me, then check out the article I wrote: Aircard 875u provides blazing fast connection speeds for your mobile laptop.

The Aircard makes me feel like I'm sitting in my office with a fast internet connection. I can download large files, and fly through web pages much faster than with a tethered cell phone connection. For the serious road warrior, the Aircard is the way to go.

hello i have a t-mobile samsung memoir. its a 3g phone but i was told it couldnt become a modem to connect me to the intern it is blue tooth compatable and it has a usb port my question is how or can i connect it to my laptop? i called t-mobile and they wanted me to buy there mobile pc plan. but then one tech said i could tieder my phone but that they would not provide support! HELP!

Cannot connect with LG Neon (shine). Am able to pair and set up DUN with *99# ... actually I can connected my Sony Ericcson, parents' desktop, sister's razr, and a my wife's LG Shine which was upgraded to the Shine Neon - which results in a error code 777 when the connection is attempted. This is the only phone I have not been able to tether to lap and/or desk top??? ANY advice / help? please respond!!!

many thanks!

cj ervin

I have tried and I can't get my HTC Droid eris to work as a wireless modem for my Macbook Pro! I have the internet connection on my Cell but I can't get my Mac to connect. What do I do??? I am new to this and need HELP!!!
Thanks, Rob

I currently have the Sierra Wireless AirCard 875u and internet through AT&T however I do not live in a 3G area so the connection (30-40 kpbs) and download (75-135 kpbs) speeds are very slow. I am keeping my AT&T phone service but swithcing to Wildblue for internet. Will the Sierra Wireless Aircard work in my non-wireless Desktop as a wirless adapter once I have cancelled the AT&T internet service?

Thanks!

I have an LG Prime through AT&T and have the $19.99 internet service but this is a no-contract phone. Can I still tether my mac with it. I have tried but didn't know the number that you enter, for example Sprint might be #777 or *99#. I think AT&T has one also but I don't know what it is.

Thanks.

James

First I have say a blue tooth usb connector is less than $5 if you know where to shop. Second I've noticed only Windows or mac are mentioned. Nothing is said about PC which is anything other than those two.

A PC is usually thought to be running a Windows operating system. If you are not using Windows on your PC, what are you using? AFAIK, Windows or Mac means PC or Mac.

pls i have dell inspiron 1501 with window vista home basic. and nokia n72 with nokia pc suit installed, but any time i atempted connecting to internet it get this massage (no nokia modem is installed on this pc). Why in my hardware nd phone modem the phone appears to have been added, pls what do i do to resolve this.

Thanks for this article! I hooked up my Motorola RazR V3xx with ATT G3 to my new laptop with your above directions. I thought I was a dummy, but if I can do it, anyone can! I have an unlimited data plan and I don't have a wifi router yet here at home. I do have DSL service through ATT for my home, so this is a temporary situation. I will look into the USB aircard you mentioned so I can use this anywhere. Thanks again. Sincerely, Mary

i have samsung chat mobile and Apple macbook laptop but i am unable to take internet connection from my mobile to laptop.please someone explain and will it requires samsung pc suit to connect internet from mobile????.

hi ricky pls help me
i connect my nokia e63 to my pc via usb data cable and nokia pc suit. how i make a call to the contacts in my mobile and how i use the computer head set for this call...is it possible?

For connecting ATT's network, *99**1*1# has been working wonders for me for years now! Moto tundra with moto usb modem drivers, use that for your dial up number, leave everything else blank...9.99 unlimited data plan on my phone and worth every penny.

I have a Black Berry curve. I pay R60/mnth for an internet. I would like to use my phone as a modem of my HP laptop. Is that possible? And how is it? Will they charge me more? What are the requirements for activating this?

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