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. You can also use a USB data cable connection kit if your phone doesn't support Bluetooth.
  • Internet data plan or a dial-up Internet account. I used the MediaNet internet plan with AT&T ($19.99 a month for unlimited internet). You can also use a dial-up Internet connection (about $5 a month through PeoplePC).

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.

Bluetooth Dongle for Cell Phone File TransfersIf you don't have a Bluetooth adapter, you can get one from the CellPhoneShop for about $29. It also comes with software that makes it easy to transfer files from your computer to your cell phone, and includes a built-in ring tone editor for creating your own free ring tones.

It's also worth mentioning that you don't have to use Bluetooth to get this working. You can also use a USB data cable to connect your cell phone to your laptop, but Windows/PC users will need a software kit like the one from DataPilot to help your laptop recognize your cell phone.

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 backpack in my case) and never have to touch it.

You'll need to sign up for an Internet data plan with your wireless provider (I used AT&T), or use a dial-up internet connection like the one from PeoplePC (only about $5 a month).

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 "' - I used the Motorola GPRS CID3 script.
  • 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 875u USB Data Card(AT&T)
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.

I am about to buy an Edge card and pay $60/month for an internet connection to my home (we have no high speed service available). I have just read your "how to" with bluetooth. I have cellular one and they told me this is impossible. Can you help. I don't want to pay $60/month for a two-year comittment but I'm desparate.

Kim,

Your comment is timely, as I was just getting ready to post the same finding. I was misinformed by the At&t rep I spoke with, who claimed the $19.95 internet plan would work fine as a tethered laptop solution.

It did work for about a week, and then all of a sudden my connections started getting cut off after about 30 seconds. I called At&t to find out why, and they told me I had to use the $59.99/month data plan if I wanted to use my phone as a tethered solution (with a 2-year contract).

I ended up getting the AirCard (and updated the article above with more information about it), which is very fast (broadband speeds) and compatible with both Windows and Mac computers.

The Aircard is also SO much faster than the tethered cell phone approach. I've been very happy with it, although I wish the free Aircard offer from Amazon was available at the time I bought mine. (I paid $149 for mine)

I have a PC and razr phone, and when i try to dial, my cell phone will light up and show "Calling xxx-xxx-xxxx" for about 1 sec, then cut off, and my PC says "Modem did not respond" or "No answer by other computer" even though it didn't even really dial

"I have a PC and razr phone, and when i try to dial, my cell phone will light up and show "Calling xxx-xxx-xxxx" for about 1 sec, then cut off, and my PC says "Modem did not respond" or "No answer by other computer" even though it didn't even really dial"

please if any know the solution let us know
:)

Hey
Thanks for letting people know about doing this. I use my moto razr v3 now as my wireless modem connected on a bluetooth adapter on my home PC. But though a great and definitely cheaper idea for internet, is there any way to speed up the service?

You're welcome - glad you found it helpful :-)

I ended up getting the Sierra Aircard since it provides much faster internet connectivity.

You can also get a 3G phone that provides similar speeds.

Does anyone knows how to connect a PC (windows XP) via USB bluetooth to the internet using Sprint Motorola Q under the plan of unlimited phone as a modem plan ($39,99). Thank you in advance.

Hi there,
can you help me on how can I connect my desktop internet to my Motorola razr v3.

The same instructions I listed above will work for a desktop computer as well as a laptop.

I am trying to use my Motorola RAZR from AT&T as a modem to dial into another modem at a remote site. I have the data plan that allows data comms. I dial the number and I get the the three tone beeping that tells me I can't complete the call. The modem on the other end works fine. Is there a specific configuration or dial code I have to set in order to make this work?

Thanks,

Bill

I have an iphone with tmobile service. I have the tmobile data plan for 19.99 that includes unlimited Internet access. Tmobile uses the same GPRS network I believe as at&t.

Anyway. My question is, can I use my tmobile dataplan through my iPhone as a modem to my laptop? The reasons ask is because your instructions above indicate you have to have at&t for this tether to work. Thanks!

I didn't mean to imply that you could only use AT&T - just that AT&T was the provider that I used :-)

If you can connect your iPhone to your computer using Bluetooth or a USB data cable then you should be able to tether it and use the Internet connection to get on the web. I don't think it would be a very fast connection though.

I have a very basic LG (CE110) but it has bluetooth and it is dual-band. First off, does anyone know for sure if I can use it to get my laptop connected to the internet? (my laptop does have bluetooth). I have them paired together, but I can't see a GSM network to connect to on my CPU. Any tips? Also I'm running Window's Vista if that info is useful... Thanks! --- Jordan

First off, You rock.
I followed these instructions, and Apple makes it a snap. I called TMobile, and ended up with data card dept. The guy was great, gave me the Taniwha site for the correct script, and added $19.99 plan for unlimited use to my non contract plan. In a couple hours, I should be up and running.

Thursday is looking better already!

Thanks!
Bill

Nice - great to hear! The Razr is a little slow on the web, but workable.

I'm using my aircard right now and absolutely love it. I've switched from a Mac to a PC laptop running Vista, and the aircard works just as well.

One thing you might notice on the Mac is that the network protocols seemed to keep barfing after resuming from standby - especially when using Cisco's VPN client.

If you run into this, pop open a terminal window and enter these commands (entering your password when prompted):

sudo ifconfig en0 down
sudo ifconfig en0 1500 up

sudo kextunload /System/Library/Extensions/CiscoVPN.kext
sudo kextload /System/Library/Extensions/CiscoVPN.kext

That will kick both the network and the vpn services in gear, and you'll be back in business.

I am using a blackberry 8100 pearl to try and connect my apple laptop to the internet and I am having trouble figuring out how to get this to work. I am running leopard on my computer too. Is it easier to connect threw the bluetooth or is there a way to connect threw USB?
Thanks,
Josh

One question comes to mind, if you're using your phone as your internet connection, how does it handle incoming calls on the phone while you're connected to the internet? Thanks in advance! :)

hello i would like to ask u some questions:

1. how fast is this connection (via usb cable)
2. is this free to do
3. is this ilegal (I wont tell anyone about this I swear)

Please Email me on jamieakafanwood@hotmail.com

It is not the fastest connection but something is better than nothing. My phone and bluetooth on laptop are G3 enabled and I really notice some quick speed. I have seen 130kbs + on downloads.
I do have a question though about this whole setup. I would also like to take incoming calls on my Samsung Q1. Kinda like a handsfree device so I don't have to touch the phone. Is there anything easy out there that will allow this to work. Please let me know.

By the way - it is free on sprint because there is no way for them to distinguish Power Vision data and PAM data with NAI disabled. Only a few phones can do this that they offer so it would not be financially wise to reprogram the whole system based on a few lucky users. I also think it is a two way street. Sprint can see users that do this but they are able to accumulate vauluable data from users that use their bandwidth from certain locations and in different environments which allows them to test features and their network. A whole cheaper then sending a contractor or employee out to do testing but that is just a theory.
Is it illegal - I don't think I need to spell this out for you but if you need a definitive answer - I am assuming that it is totally illegal since the service in use is not being paid for. For the 5 - 10 times I used it a month, I am unwilling to fork out an extra $40 a month for their PAM plan. Can they catch you - Most likely not but don't bank on it.

Ok, I have seen and heard of many stories where this tethering is cheap or free. I heard that Verizon had the optimal setup with a few mods to the razr. :) However, I have also heard that just recently (as in within the past week or two) that vzw has made some restrictions. I am looking into doing this tethering with my pda, and will be modding my new v3c (woot woot!) to do so.
The admin mentioned that there is a way to just use dialup for People pc for their fee, and no additional others. This may be slower, but if I have no wifi, then dialup is fine by me when Im out on a job, or fishing. I just hate getting home, and finding out I could have caught an email out on the go, and acted on it before coming home. Dialup is worth the $5 a month. So..... my question is:
Are my assumptions correct, or do I need a service plan on my cell as well? Will I be charged minutes for people pc?

Ok, I am so lost, can we or can we not use, lets say my phone, an at&t motorola razr v3xx (3g) with the unlimited internet plan (the $19.95 plan) for fast speeds on my laptop as long as it is bluetooth enabled without them charging a bunch of money, i read that you did, then i read that you were mis-informed and wanted a refund, and that you couldnt do it anymore, im confused...the threads seem to go back and forth....so will i be able to follow your directions and get fast speeds (i do have 3g) with the plan i got? thanks in advance

Hi Jason,

Sorry for the confusion and thanks for asking for clarification. I thought about rewriting the whole article, but tried to convey the updates instead.

Bottom line - you have to have the data plan in order to use your phone as a tethered laptop modem. The unlimited internet plan is not a data plan and won't work, but the data plan will indeed work and with 3G speeds it will be very fast.

Hi, guys. A couple of years ago, during economic hard times, I had only my Motorola cell phone and old PC running Windows 98SE. I can't remember the details, but I was able to get a kit somewhere (Verizon or Radio Shack?) that let me dial in to the web using a serial port. The kit had a cable and a software CD that made it happen at 28-36K, but it worked fine for checking email. Everything I see you talking about is much more advanced and expensive. Is there anything out there "low tech" such as what I had? I ask because I have a friend in San Juan, PR, who has a new phone (Motorola W385) and a Windows XP PC but little else (no landline and no broadband where he lives). He would dial in to PeoplePC and would try to check email. I've looked into this for him, but so far can't find anything or get an answer from Motorola support. Thanks in advance for any help you can give on this. Best regards, Michael

Michael,

I recently stumbled upon a program called DataConnect from the same company that makes DataPilot, and it does indeed make this all so much easier.

I have an Alltel hue, and a dial-up number that works. Im running xp and everything seems to go fine. The computer dials, verifies my name and password, but when it goes to register me on the network it gives me a tcp/ip error saying the network did not assign me an address.

I have a Palm Centro with bluetooth and an HP laptop running Vista. Is it possible to use the Centro as my modem for broadband (not dial-up) and at the same time use it for my home phone line?

Note: My Internet and phone is $170/Month and i am trying to make it cheaper.

Note II: I have internet for my laptop but i am planning to cancel it if i can use the phone's internet service to access the internet on my laptop. (i also have AT&T)

Yes, you can use the Centro as a wireless modem for your laptop or desktop computer via Bluetooth or USB cable if you have the appropriate data plan (contact AT&T and make sure you're set up with the data plan). You'll be able to use it for regular phone calls as well.

The Palm Centro phone uses a digital dual band (850/1900 MHz) CDMA radio, so it can access high speed EVDO wireless data networks and can fall back on a 1xRTT connection when out of range of an EVDO signal. Current EVDO speeds generally average around 200-600kbps, bursts of up to 2 mbps are possible when downloading larger files. Of course, actual speeds will vary depending on signal strength and other conditions.

Probably the easiest way to get things set up will be using the DataConnect program that I recently discussed in this article: How to Connect to the Internet using a Tethered Cell Phone. It handles the connectivity and has all the necessary drivers, etc.

Sounds awesome if I could get it to work but I was wondering If you need a unlimited calling package to use or else would it charge you for air time then? Also I am using pc service on a motoroal phone.

I used my Motorola Z9 and Mobile Phone Tools software and was able to connect to the internet. Speeds were pretty fast as well. I also have an unlimited data (internet) package, but after reading all the posts, I'm assuming that AT&T will eventually catch on. So eventually I will have to purchase the LaptopConnect package; this is very disappointing.

I agree, and it seems a little greedy to me that AT&T requires that. Glad to hear you were able to get it working though, and thanks for posting.

i am using my phone to connect to my pc and browse but it really cost me alot of money...please i need a software that can allow me to browse without paying nothing to my isp even if i do not have money or credits on my phone..please help.

I was trying to hook up my blackjack to my laptop as a modem. I never got it working, but now for some reason, my laptop will not recognize the secure network ip at work... it defaults to the cell IP address.
IT guys have tried everything, and tomorrow they will be reimaging my laptop... oh joy.
The laptop works fine on unsecure networks, is there something we are missing?
Thanks!

Ricky, are the twahina modem scripts for Mac only or are they for xp and vista too? I have the drivers that let my computer see my razr V3r cell phone as a modem but other sources say that I still need some modem script(s) to actually use it as a modem. Please clarify on this.

Hi

Please can you help me with the code for configuring my phone (nokia 3320) so that i can connect it via cable to my laptop to be able to browse the internet.

TONY from nigeria

Kind regards,

I have a Moto Q with Sprint phone as a modem ($40/mo.)
A new MacBook Pro ($$$$$$$)
Old HP died but PAM worked perfectly everywhere I could get service.
Cannot get PAM to work on the Mac.
Mac store "genius' tried but says he can't spend time on the problem because the phone isn't supported.
Sprint store experts say Mac is the problem. They did try but without success but people in the forums claim they have done it.
OK. I'm about fed up with throwing $40/mo. down a bottomless hole. Should I take the Mac or the phone back? Any constructive response welcome. I'm retired from a lifetime of business analysis and programming on main frames, mini's and micro's but this is a whole new world and the younger generation talks faster than I can listen in languages I haven't learned yet. The finger-pointing when devices don't mate as the salesman said is even worse than it was for the last 40 years. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Ok I tried to run my RAZR 3xx with my Compaq and its not working. I did how ever run it with my HP and thats how your reading this. I took my computer into Radio Shack and had someone help me. They took to the back and she came out with it loaded. I dont know if she loaded or down loaded a program to run it. I am a going nuts trying to figuar out how to do this. When my phone is hooked up to my HP (The one the radio shack girl did for me) it connects to my phone giving me the red light to show that its connected. When I plug into my Compaq nothing. What do I do.

wow! Glad to find you! I have the data plan, I have the iPhone 3G (12 weeks now)! I crashed my Hp laptop (with vista premium)for the 5th time in 2 years when I registered my iPhone's service agreement using my laptop as instructed! I am a real old lady who can't speak the language of the information age, but I can/will sit up all night trying to work through instructions if someone gets me started! I think that I can use the information that you gave at the start and connect my laptop so that I can get the Internet (just as I am doing to type this), correct? I do hope I will be able to drop the hardline phone and data charges that seem wasted in light of living in the information/mobility age! I will let you know! Thank you, sonny!

once i get to the part where i have to put the account name and password in will it cost any extra money towards my bill? and do i have to have internet on my phone for this to work?

I would like step by step on how to connect my laptop witch uses Vista to the internet using my Razr as a modem. I brought a Bluetooth Adapter, that does not seem to work? Do I need to buy a Data Cable? Also, I At&t Unlimited internet on my phone only.

Please help!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I will like to know if there is a way of connecting my mobile phone with my pc for browsing. thanks

Ricky: I am delighted to see all the info on using cell phone as a Tethering modem.

I've T-Mobile Blackberry 8900 without any data plan. But I have a dial-up internet connection from AT&T. Now I like to establish a dial-up internet connection with my laptop through my blackberry. Is it possible? I used to do this through Samsung t429. But for some reason I am not able to do this with neither with Blackberry 8100 or 8900. Blackberry don't allow this or I am doing something wrong.

Hello! I am new to this kind of thing, so please have patience with me and my questions. If I use a Sierra Wireless 881 UMTS USB Modem (because I have a netbook so I can't get the card), will I be able to go online just with this alone? Is there a software I would need? Aside from the cost of the Sierra modem, is there a monthly fee I will need to pay? Thank you in advance for your help.

Hey Ricky,

I just got a BlackBerry 8320 or 8230 (whichever is the flip) and heard about tethering a connection. I am on Cellular South's Smartphone plan which is unlimited data and have a dialup account with another company and was wondering if this was possible to use my phone as the modem to connect to said dialup connection or would it be faster or simpler to follow these steps you have above?

Thanks,
Andy

How do I connect T-Mobile My Touch 3G Phone as a modem for my Laptop.

I have a t-mobile dash connected via usb to the computer, downloaded active synch from the cd provided with the phone. I dissabled active synch, installed the network connection and with the t-zones unlimited data plan of 5.99 per month (I dont think they offer this plan anymore) I can access all of the internet via my cell. I was told by a sales person I would need to either get a data card or upgrade my phone to the g3 network for an additional 20 per month... Well if you got t-zones and activesynch and a t-mobile dash im telling you that right now I am sending this post with this working right now.. yea its a little slow but better than using the web browser on the phone itself... Good Luck peeps.

I Have a T-mobile plan with internet. However, my computer has detected my phone, but when I click on connect to connect to the internet, it asks me for USERNAME, PASSWORD, AND DIAL which I believe requires a phone number. What number should I enter, or what is the username and password, or where do I create all that information?

Anyway to use dial up on a cell phone and have it as an incoming call?...

In my view the One laptop per child is a good program but if this initiative is carried on in isolation it may not solve the problem of lack of access to information in developing countries. The reason being that there is poor and lack of internet connectivity, this hinders the sharing of information and research paper by both teachers and students.
Most developing countries have lagged behind in the development of ICT infrastructure, although now there seems to be an appreciable spreading of mobile communication to most urban and rural areas. In the case of Zambia this has helped to improve communication as even some rural areas are now covered. Therefore mobile phone may help to provide the internet connectivity.

Im having problem getting the AT&T Garmin to connect with Windows 7, Any Solutions? I want to broswe the web using the Garmin.

please i need the guildlines to connect my phone to computer for internet service by use of usb

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