How to Tether Your Cell Phone As a Modem

By Michael Ryan

Tethering your cell phone to a computer as a modem is great way to get Internet access where there is no Wi-Fi hotspot available. Using a phone as modem allows your phone to share its mobile broadband connection with the computer, via either a USB connection or a wireless connection through Bluetooth. Many cell phones and smart phones offer this feature, although it is rarely advertised by cellular carriers who also offer mobile broadband cards that require expensive and separate data plans.

Things You'll Need

  • Computer
  • Cell phone/smartphone
  • USB cable

Step 1

Determine if your phone can tether. The specifics for your model are in the owner's manual. For Windows Mobile and BlackBerry phones, check for the Internet Sharing application. Phones with this application can be tethered to computers for data sharing.

Step 2

Connect the phone to the computer. Tethering is most often completed via a USB cable that connects the phone on one end to a USB port on the computer on the other. If you have a Bluetooth-enabled device, it can share its Internet connection wirelessly simply by pairing your phone and computer via Bluetooth. In most cases a Bluetooth personal area network (PAN) connection will start automatically, giving you access to the Internet.

Step 3

Start the pairing process. Load the Internet-sharing application and select Connect. This will interrupt the current network connection on your computer, if one is currently active. The phone will initialize the pairing process, which may take up to 30 seconds (Windows Phone: Using Your Device as Modem). After the phone successfully connects to the computer, the network connection will appear. On Windows computers you can find the connection in the bottom right corner of the Taskbar, in the same area where Wi-Fi network alerts appear. Mac OS X users will find a wireless wide area network (WWAN) controller near the Airport menu in the upper right of the screen.

Step 4

Verify that the connection works. Once the computer shows it is connected to the Internet, launch a web browser or messaging application to make sure the connection is active. The tethering connection occasionally fails or reverts to a slower network, in which case you can press Disconnect on your phone and restart the connection process.

Tips & Warnings

  • Tethering works best in areas where your cell phone has a high-speed connection to the network. Look for a box in the upper-right-hand corner of your phone that says 3G or EV, depending on the type of phone you have. Although tethering works over slower connections, you will find that download speeds vary considerably between older non-3G standards and 3G standards.
  • Before using your phone for the transfer of large files, check the limit that your carrier places on monthly bandwidth. If you do not have an unlimited bandwidth plan, or if you have no data plan at all, it is important to add one to avoid unnecessary overuse charges.
  • Tethering via Bluetooth requires that your phone and computer support Bluetooth communications. If your computer lacks a Bluetooth radio the feature will not work, and you must tether via USB.