Internet via Cell Phone and Laptop
Internet Anywhere - even in a moving vehicle!
Here's how to connect to the internet using your cell phone and laptop computer
Yes, you can connect to the internet using your laptop and cell phone.
It's not that difficult (if you have the all the right pieces), and the results, while slower than normal internet connections, aren't that bad. In fact, for a lot of people, being able to connect to the internet via a cell phone and laptop often frees them from the chains of the office.
The basic requirements
To connect to the internet using your laptop and cellphone, you'll need the following:
Everything you need to connect to the internet via cell phone
- A laptop computer with a PC card (pcmia) slot.
- A cell phone with a data port
- A device to connect the cell phone data port to the laptop computer
That's all the equipment you need. But the choices you make when selecting items 2 and 3 above will mean the difference between connecting to the internet at a slow 9,200kps or a much faster 19,600kps.
The following shows how to choose the best equipment for your needs;
For optimum performance you want to choose a cell service provider that offers:
- digital voice service
- digital data service
- auto switching to analog when digital is not available
- free nationwide long distance
I chose Cingular because it's available in my area, and meets the above requirements
Then, to take advantage of these services, you want a cell phone that has:
- dual mode (voice and data)
- data port
- digital and analog data capabilities (be sure it has both digital and analog data)
- cell flex (autoswitching between analog and digital) with data - this allows you to stay connected to the internet as you roam different cell locations
Data port on Nokia cell phone
You'll find that Nokia (models 5120i, 5160i, 6120i, 6160i, 6160m, 6161i, 6162i, 6162m) and Motorola (models ST7860, ST7860W, ST7867, ST7867W, ST7868, ST7868W, TimePort P8060, P8067, P8160, P8167, P8767, TalkAbout T8060, T8067, T8160, T8167 V8160) are the two cell phone brands that most often include the required features.
In most cases, your cell phone provider will offer a limited selection of cell phones. These may or may not have the required 'data port', and in some cases, even if they do have the data port, it may be disabled by the cell phone provider. You can get around this problem by first finding out which phones your cell service supports, and then selecting the best phone from those that qualify.
Since the cell phone I had did not have a data port, I visited http://ositech.com/CellData/ProductList.asp and looked for a 'dual mode' analog and digital data, phone that worked with my cell provider. I settled on the Nokia 6120i.
After finding a phone model that meets your requirements and works with your cell provider, you then have two options. You can either try to buy the phone from your cell provider, or you can find the phone on eBay and buy it there.
In my case, my local cell service wanted $160 for a Nokia 6120i - and they really didn't want to sell me one (they preferred I bought their 'featured' phone - which did not have a dataport).
Because most people working at your local cell phone store know little or nothing about using the cell phone to connect to the internet, they will be of little help. (In fact most of the 'advice' they gave me about phones was wrong).
Rather than try to educate the sales people at the local phone store, I searched the Cell phone area of eBay and bought the phone I wanted for $20.60. (I made sure the phone was programmed for my cell service before I bid on it.)
When I received the phone I bought on eBay, I took it to my local cell service provider, and they 'flashed the bios' of the phone so it could be added to my current cell phone account. There was no charge to do this.
I can't stress how important it is to start out with the right cell phone. Be sure to review the list at http://ositech.com/CellData/ProductList.asp and find a phone that is:
- dual mode (digital/analog)
- data enabled
- digital and analog data (dual mode data)
- compatible with your cell service provider
Connecting to the laptop
Connecting your cell phone to the laptop is where things get interesting. You might think that you need to connect your cell phone to the modem in your laptop, but that won't work. And you won't be able to connect your cell phone to a serial or RS232 port either.
For optimum performance, you'll need to connect the data port of your cell phone to a special PC Card modem designed specifically to handle cell phone data streams. The good news is that these devices are not too expensive, are easy to install, and work quite well.
There are several manufacturers who offer these special cell phone modem cards, but after reading reviews and discussion group posts written by users of these different cards, the best choice seemed to be the TrumpCard from Ositech Communications.
Trumpcard - King of Clubs - used to connect laptop to cell phobe
The TrumpCard includes everything you'll need to connect your cell phone to a laptop - this includes the PC modem card, the cable to connect the PC Card between your computer and cell phone, and the software needed to make it all work.
For most people, the King of Clubs will be the TrumpCard model you want. It includes 'cellflex' technology which switches automatically between analog and digital data modes - without breaking your internet connection. This is useful if you plan to connect to the internet in a moving vehicle.
The Ositech catalog price for the King of Clubs is $149, but you can order it online from LaptopGear.com for $139. Be sure to get the model that fits your cell phone.
Installation and testing
Getting everything to work together is surprisingly easy.
First you install the Trumpcard software which creates a dialup service for your cell phone (you select the dial up service from those already installed on your computer).
During the software install process the Trumpcard software tests your laptop, PC Card Modem, and cellphone data connection. And then . . . well, that's all you have to do.
After the software is installed and tested, just click the TrumpCard dial-up icon on your laptop. In a few moments you will be on the internet via cellphone!
How well does it work?
If you choose the right cell phone, and if your cell phone provider offers digital data (most do), you'll be able to connect to the internet via your cellphone and laptop at 19,200kps.
This is about 25% slower than a normal dialup connection, but if you use it to check email or visit sites without many graphics, the slow speed usually won't be a problem.
In my case, I usually use the cellphone internet connection to check and send email via my laptop and to check my own site to make sure there are no problems. Generally I remain on the internet less than 5 minutes (at least in daylight hours when normal cell phone billing rates apply).
Since my cell phone plan allows unlimited night and weekend minutes, as well as free long distance, I find that I stay on the internet cellphone connection longer in the evenings (when I am away from my office or home internet connection).
In my testing I found no problems at all in using the cellphone internet connection while roaming (long distance).
I've been using the cellphone/laptop internet connection now for more than a month, and I have to say I am quite pleased. I find it handy to be able to connect to the internet anytime, anywhere, even while traveling (but not while I'm at the wheel of a car), and check and reply to email, and do some web surfing.
This combination will not be useful to everyone, but if your business depends on the internet, having an cellphone/laptop/internet connection can give you the freedom to leave the office and not feel out of touch.
(By the way, I also went one step further. I figured out how to connect the cellphone/laptop to a DirecPC satellite system which gives me 400K download speeds. It works great - only problem is you have to lug a satellite dish everywhere you go!)