What is Cell Phone Tethering?

Written by aaron wardell
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With the introduction of high-speed Internet to cellular providers, cell phone tethering has become more and more common. It allows the user to "tether" his or her cell phone to their computer and use it's Internet access anywhere they get a cell phone signal. Whether the user is driving, in a restaurant or their Internet goes out at home, they now have another option of accessing the Internet through their cell phone or mobile device.

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Benefits

Internet tethering opens up a whole new world of Internet access for users with laptop computers. It allows full access to the Internet, meaning e-mail, web browsing and file sharing are all possible over a tethered phone. Most major carriers offer 3G data access, which is the new "third generation" standard. To the average user, this means a relatively fast Internet experience. With 3G, the user can even receive phone calls while browsing the Internet.

Example

Mary has an Internet-capable 3G cell phone and a computer. She needs to write e-mail in order to meet a deadline for work. Unfortunately, she is at a coffee shop with no Internet access, and her phone is not capable of sending large files via e-mail. Luckily for her, her cell phone carrier supports Internet tethering. By syncing her phone and laptop together, Mary is able to access the Internet on her laptop and send the files she needs to complete her work and meet the deadline. She even has time to answer a call from a co-worker while she is downloading files.

Function

Tethering is accomplished either via Bluetooth wireless connection, or a wired USB connection. When tethering via Bluetooth, the phone and computer are "synced" which opens up a wireless data connection. The Internet signal is then interpreted by the phone, then transferred via Bluetooth to the computer's network system. When used with a USB connection, the phone is typically plugged in to the computer's USB port with a cable, and the phone is then set up as a network device.

Speed

3G Internet is roughly equivalent to twice the speed of a 56k modem. Many carriers use HSDPA technology in their networks, which speeds things up quite a bit. If using older technology, like EDGE (3G's predecessor), the user's browsing speed will be greatly reduced to modem-like speeds.

Considerations

When buying a cell phone for tethering, make sure it has good battery life. Also make sure it supports tethering, 3G and HSDPA. These features will ensure you get the fastest possible Internet experience. Also inquire as to data limitations. Some cell phone companies "cap" the amount of data the user can download, thereby limiting their use of the Internet and possibly incurring large overage charges. If you will be tethering often, make sure you have unlimited access to data.

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