Laptop + Cell Phone = Tethering!

I have an HTC Touch Pro 2 (a.k.a. AT&T Tilt 2) for a phone, and I have the unlimited data plan. The phone supports being “used as a modem, so that a connected laptop can use that data plan to connect to the internet”. However, it didn’t work and I got all sorts of errors when I tried to connect my PC.

It turns out I had the wrong data plan for my phone. I ended up “upgrading” to a “Tethering” data plan. They don’t offer an unlimited plan for that, but instead it has a limit of 2GB of bandwidth per month. So if you want to check e-mail, update twitter, etc – then this will probably work for you. It is cheaper though: $45 instead of $60.

So, I upgraded my data plan last night. I first connected my phone to my laptop with a USB cable (and turned off my wireless). Windows 7 installed a driver for the phone. On the phone, I am prompted with “is this connection for Internet sharing or for syncing”, so I chose Internet sharing. I had to “connect” from the computer side, and “connect” to the data network from my phone, and it worked!!

My next thought was that it would be cool to connect to the phone via Bluetooth and try the same thing. That should work, right? I first paired up my laptop with the phone. This in itself, was cool because you can do a lot between phones and computers over Bluetooth including playing music, using the computer as a speakerphone, etc.

Anyhow, I was able to connect to the phone via Bluetooth and “connect”, however I did need to “connect” to the data network on my phone too – but, there was no need for a cable, which is cool. So, how good is this setup? Well, I saw some blotchy behavior, and I have 4-bars at my house. But worse, is that I looked into what these actual technologies are, and what kind of bandwidth they support. As a reference, you have probably a 10,000kbps (10mbps) internet cable connection, and at work, you likely have a 1,000,000kbps (1gbps) connection to other computers on the network. Also, if you used computers in the 90’s over a modem, the fastest that they ever got was 56kbps:

  • GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) – 35kbps
  • EDGE (Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution) – 75kbps-135kbps
  • 3G (3rd generation)
    • UMTS (Universal Mobile Telephone Service) – 220kbps-320kbps
    • HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access) – 400kbps-700kbps
  • 4G (4th generation) – 3,000kbps-10,000kbps (3-10mbps!)

Or to put that in perspective:

image

So for the most part, I seem to be getting GPRS or EDGE connections from my house, which means web pages load as fast as they did in like 1998 over a slow dial-up connection. This gives me a whole new respect for Sprint, for the fact that they are blazing the trail with 4G. Anyhow the tethering probably isn’t super-practical for regular use – but if you have your laptop and need to respond to an e-mail with something you can’t do on your phone, it may be worthwhile to connect.

References:
http://www.wireless.att.com/learn/why/technology/gsm-gprs.jsp
http://seekingalpha.com/article/155924-sprint-accelerates-its-4g-network

Posted in New Technology, Uncategorized

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