Tethered Cell Phones for Internet

I’ve written about this before, but I’ve learned more since then.  This is a fabulous option for Internet access on the road, especially for part time travelers because it does not require a separate contract.  It’s a feature of your cellphone contract and it can be turned on and off at will.  My phone is a LG eNV and my service is from Verizon.  I believe other providers offer something similar, but I can only speak about Verizon.

What do you need?

  1. A qualifying cell phone
  2. A qualifying service plan for your phone
  3. The ‘Mobile Office Kit’ (USB cable specifically for your phone and software)
  4. See Verizon’s Broadband Access Connect page for more details

How does it work?

It’s a cellular technology, so you need to be within range of a cell tower that your phone can connect to.  The ‘range’ is getting better and better though.  Sometimes the data signal can connect even when you can’t make a voice call.  Dead zones are getting fewer and farther between.  You simply plug the cell phone into the computer via the USB cable, then run the VZAccess software.  Click Connect, and you’re off and running.

I have found the speed to be very good.  It’s not the fastest, and it depends on the vintage of the nearest tower, but I have been pleasantly surprised.  If a call comes in on my phone, I can ignore it and stay connected to the Internet.  If I pick it up, I lose the Internet connection.  It also works just fine while we’re driving down the road.  And, I can leave it online all day if I want – minutes are not being counted when using your cellphone tethered.  It’s the amount of data that is transferred that counts, not the minutes.

How much does it cost?

The Verizon plan that goes along with my phone is $60/month (smart phones and blackberries have cheaper plans.)  That gives me 5Gigabytes of data transfer which is plenty for ‘normal’ use.  Don’t go downloading movies though, or you’ll exceed your limit.  At 25 cents per Megabyte for the overage, that would hurt!

The beauty is that you can turn this ‘feature’ off any time you want.  So, if I turn it on just for a weekend jaunt, Verizon will prorate my bill, charging approximately $2/day.  Be careful with your timing though.  I turned it on once toward the end of the month, and didn’t turn it off till after the beginning of the next month.  My bill reflected a full $60 for the month that just started.  They did issue a credit the following month for the unused portion – not bad.

Data usage is also prorated.  If you use it for a week or so, you’ll probably be fine, but don’t think you can turn it on just for a day and download a movie.  Let’s do the math.  1 day of usage is roughly 1/30th of a month. Divide the $60/mo by 30 and we get $2.  5Gb (roughly 5,000 Megabytes) divided by 30 = 167MB.  If you use 1,000 MB, you are 833MB over your prorated allotment!  833MB * .25 = a $208 bill for that one day!  Now, I haven’t actually seen anyone receive a bill like that, but Verizon’s customer service tells me it is the way it works.

If you have the right phone, and you need occasional Internet Access away from home, I highly recommend this method.  You can even plug in a router, and more than one person can be connected this way.  For more information on purchasing equipment, see 3GStore.com.  3GStore and their sister site, EVDOInfo.com are the Go To websites for anything you want to know about cellular technology and equipment.  We’ve heard so many happy customer stories that we became and affiliate.  If you purchase something after clicking our link, we will receive a small commission.

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2 Responses to Tethered Cell Phones for Internet

  1. clark pohl says:

    Hi, Chris & Jim >busy summer & winter, now settled in Scottsdale & Mesa. got a Verizon broadband service yesterday & works great in MH.
    got toy get back to your tutorials. Trying to get Helen to work with Picasa.

    happy holidays

    Clark & Helen

  2. Jane Dean says:

    We recently changed to a MAC computer and we have a Blackberry Storm phone with Verison set up to tether. I would not recommend this combination to anyone. The verison software and the mac do not get along. We have scoured the internet for a solution and have found some but have not been able to make any of them work. My geeky son says it it because the mac and the phone are fighting over control of the usb port. We may just change phones to a droid and tether with pda net as I am tired of rebooting my computer to get it to connect with a phone. Just thought I’d let you know this issue so as you travel and talk to people who have macs you’ll know this is a problem. Thanks for all the great info on your site. I am just beginging to cruise through it.

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