Thursday, January 27, 2011

Tethering my mobile phone - a cheap alternative to buying a USB 3G card

I have often considered purchasing a 3G broadband stick to use with my laptop when away from home or office, but the reality is that my potential usage level have never justified the spend because I don't really travel very much. However, I was recently stuck in a place with no WiFi and time to spare so I thought I would try tethering my mobile phone (i.e. using my phone's 3G data connection to connect my laptop to the internet) - I was amazed how easy it was.

In the past I was put off trying this because, the instructions I read online  made it seem very complicated. Then I remembered hearing that one of the benefits of updating my phone to Android 2.2 is the fact that it is supposed to make this much easier.

Here are the steps I followed:

  1. On my phone I opened the "Settings menu" and then the "wireless & networks" sub-menu. About half way down there is an option "Tethering", when I opened this I saw a check-box labeled "USB Tethering", but the check-box was not enabled.
  2. When I connected a USB cable from my laptop to the phone the check-box immediately became enabled and I clicked on it.
  3. I then turned my attention to my laptop to see what I would need to do to configure it to use this connection. However, before I had a chance to do anything I saw a pop-up notification saying "network connected via USB". Straight away I was able to browse the internet and even connect to my employers VPN. I could hardly that it was so easy. 
I should mention that I was using Ubuntu on my laptop which is famous for its ease of use - the instructions for Windows or MAC users might be more complicated. Although I didn't run any formal speed test in the link it was not noticeably slower than my normal broadband. Of course I had a strong signal (4 out of 5 bars) and I might not have been as happy with the speed achieved if I was on the edge of the network coverage area - but this would be the same if I had invested in a USB stick.

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