Could you help one more time?
June 10, 2007 7:27 AM   Subscribe

Is it possible to receive cell phone data plan from a laptop?

My folks live in a remote part of Wisconsin where there only access to the net is dial up. When I visit them I can access the net through my treo 700. Is it possible for them to get a data plan like mine and use their laptop to access cellular signals?

Or does any one have any other solutions.

Update: I wrote a couple of months ago needing help for my folks who had given $4,000 to a sham company. Things looked bleek for them as far as getting any money back. Thanks for all your help in this matter. Was called yesterday by my dad, they got it all back.

Wouldn't have happen with out you.

Thanks to all of you that helped.
posted by ok to Technology (12 answers total)
Yes, you can do this, although it may not even be as fast as dialup. Unless you're in a very urban area, you'll likely be limited to 56Kbps at best, and more likely to 9.6Kbps. If both the computer and cell phone have Bluetooth, you don't even need a cable to do this. Another option, if they have a laptop, is to get a PCMCIA card dedicated to cellular data.
posted by Xoder at 7:32 AM on June 10, 2007

Is it possible to receive cell phone data plan from a laptop?


There are several different standards, depending on what your network supports:

You will need an interface card, usually PCMCIA, and a cellular account. You can usually get a data-only account.

For a desktop computer, you will probably need a PCI< ->PCMCIA adapter.
posted by b1tr0t at 7:33 AM on June 10, 2007

Depending on who offers cellular coverage in your area there are laptop PCMCIA and USB devices that you can purchase to do just that. I have firsthand experience with Verizon's laptop connectivity as a business user.
posted by ronmexico at 7:35 AM on June 10, 2007

Usually if dial-up is the only option in a rural area, the faster 3G data is still years away from being available. You don't mention your mobile phone carrier but if you go to your carrier's coverage maps you'll see if their higher speed data is available where your parents live. If your carrier doesn't offer it, try the other big guys [Sprint, Verizon, CingularATT, T-Mobile]. If they can only offer GPRS, stick with dial-up. It is passible on a handset with a tiny screen and most of the graphics and stuff are filtered out, but on a full blown computer, it is slow as molasses.

I use my mobile phone as a modem via bluetooth for my MacBook Pro as a backup when there's no wifi around. Since the phone can only do GPRS and the non-US UMTS, I'm stuck, but when you're in the middle of nowhere and you need to get on the internet, it will do. But when I was in Germany, I was happy with the UMTS I could roam with until I came home and got the roaming bill.
posted by birdherder at 8:09 AM on June 10, 2007

I've had good luck with Sprint aircards, but unlimited plans are $80ish/month (limited plans are around $50). If your folks would have a cell phone anyway, it's a better deal to get one that can be used as a modem (informally called "tethering" the phone to the laptop), because the data plans are cheaper. I just got a Samsung Blackjack (ATT/Cingular) on Amazon for a penny with a new 2-year contract (though they have hit me with a rather substantial initial fee that I think I have a rebate for, but I haven't sorted that out yet), for that purpose. Probably if your parents are in the boonies they're not going to get wireless broadband speeds, but it's better than nothing.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:15 AM on June 10, 2007

Sprint resells and supports the Novatel Merlin cards, which is what we use at work. EVDO and everything. They're pretty nice.
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:47 AM on June 10, 2007

Please post with your mobile provider, since different ones have different issues.

With Cingular/AT&T, not all data plans (not even all "unlimited" data plans) are "supposed" to be used for tethering to a laptop, they won't charge you extra for it but they can and occasionally will terminate your plan. If your folks use it enough that they really need better then dial-up, you'd also want/need to shell out for a tethering-allowed data plan, which can be stupidly expensive. (Cost: phone + normal phone plan + data plan.)

Also, some phones only support slower speeds. A decent phone and being in a reasonably good reception area should be noticeably faster then dial-up.

Reference: WikiBook.
posted by anaelith at 9:04 AM on June 10, 2007

It's not clear what their setup is -- as others have mentioned, operating systems, types of cell phones and the carriers in use have a lot to do with whether this will work.

That said, starting with Mac OS 10.4.9, Apple has greatly simplified the process of connecting to the Internet through a cell phone. If they're using a Mac with Bluetooth, and they have a phone that supports the appropriate Bluetooth PAN profile, they can just hit the Bluetooth icon, select "Join network on ", and they're on the net. It's downright neat. But they have to have the right gear, of course.
posted by eschatfische at 10:50 AM on June 10, 2007

I use my treo 700p with sprint, as a data connection as well (by tethering via USB). There's a bad lag (latency), but when I'm in a shitty hotel with poor internet, it's good enough for streaming video.
posted by filmgeek at 10:51 AM on June 10, 2007

You might want to look at 2-way satellite internet access (like WildBlue). It costs between $50-80/mo & equipment fees are around $200 -- pricing that's roughly comparable to using a cell phone, but with faster access.
posted by fourstar at 11:16 AM on June 10, 2007

If they can only offer GPRS, stick with dial-up. It is passible on a handset with a tiny screen and most of the graphics and stuff are filtered out, but on a full blown computer, it is slow as molasses.

I'm typing this on a Powerbook connected to a GPRS modem card. I can attest to the fact that it is slow, and dialup is probably better.

However, up until I recently smashed my Nokia 6820, I was tethering it to my computer and using it for a GPRS/EDGE connection. That was roughly twice as fast as dial-up, probably on par with Sprint's 1xRTT connection speed, which is what you're likely to get in a rural area. Not anywhere near as fast EVDO, and the latency is a bit higher than dialup, but overall I think it's a good dialup replacement for many uses.

The big question is whether you can get a data plan for a competetive price. I'm not sure anybody's offering one for less than $30/month, and that's a lot for something that's not truly high speed.
posted by weston at 3:29 PM on June 10, 2007

Another broadband option is Satellite. Ping times suck (about 1 second), but throughput's very nice (1Mbps).
posted by Xoder at 12:56 PM on October 25, 2007

« Older Amazing post-school experience?   |   Help my little Skeletor! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.