Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Using your mobile phone as a high speed modem - Part 2

Previously, I have blogged about my intent of using the mobile phone as a high speed modem. I indicated there that I will try it so that I can post about it.

Well, I got myself a Samsung SGH-U800 phone, a relatively affordable (ie, cheap) phone which, among other things, is HSDPA-capable. I was afraid that it would not work (considering I gave up my dual-active China mobile phone with television and I paid for the Samsung phone 7+++.++), but I am so thankful when I tried it and it worked.

How fast was it?
I used Azureus Torrent client and it came to a high of 220 kbps (3G speed) at 10 am. It was fast (faster than the connection at UP Manila at peak times), and I was mobile. (I have used only for fifteen minutes because I need to go back to admin work.)

Click here to see what HSDPA promises (Globe website).

System Requirements
Before continuing, let's check the requirements:
  • A 3G/HSDPA mobile phone. How will you know? Check the features list of your mobile phone. If it says it has 3G but has no HSDPA, then it does not have HSDPA. It is fast, but not as fast as HSDPA.
  • Software for your mobile phone (particularly if you have Windows)
  • Computer with USB port (some mobile phones allow Bluetooth)
  • Credit (load) on your mobile service (3G/HSDPA is a paid service.
  • A browser or any Internet software.
How to Connect
So, how did I do it?

For Windows: It consists of three parts: 1) Enable your mobile phone and your SIM for 3G/HSDPA; 2) Install the mobile phone software on your computer; and, 3) Connect to the internet using the mobile phone as modem.

For Ubuntu: It consists of 2 parts: 1) Enable your mobile phone and your SIM for 3G/HSDPA; and, 2) Connect to the internet using your mobile phone as modem.

For the first part, it is best that you contact the customer service representative of your mobile service provider (ie, Globe, Smart, Sun, Red). If you are a Globe postpaid subscriber, as far as I know, your SIM is pre-activated for 3G (together with HSDPA*). If not, send GO to 2951. You will then be sent instructions on how to do it. For Smart and Sun, no idea, contact your CSR.

*Please note that having a 3G phone does not mean you also have HSDPA. HSDPA runs on top of the 3G technology. Check the features of your phone to see if it indeed has HSDPA functionality.

Once that is done (you have confirmed that your phone has 3G/HSDPA enabled), you now install your mobile phone software. If your phone has a CD with it, now is the time to install it (if you have Windows). If you use Ubuntu Linux, skip this part. If you have Mac, check if the CD with your mobile phone also is applicable for your Mac.

After installing the software, connect the phone to your PC (in my case, a laptop). Usually, there is a USB data cable for 3G/HSDPA-capable phones.

If you use Ubuntu 9.04, it practically ends here. A pop-up would appear at the upper-right hand of your screen saying it detected a USB modem. It will show you a list of networks (Globe, Globe WAP, Smart Telecom, etc.). Select your network of course. For me, I selected "Globe Telecom" (without the "WAP").

It will then show a pop-up sign saying that if you want to connect, click there. In my case, I missed it, so I just clicked the network icon (the four vertical bars indicating wireless signal strength), then selected Globe Telecom. It will ask for username and password. Just leave them blank and select "Dial" or "Connect." Once it finishes the handshake, it should say that you are now connected to the Globe Telecom network.

I opened my Firefox and Pidgin, and I got connected!

If you use Windows (XP in my case), open the mobile phone software, connect the mobile phone to the laptop. Wait for the process to finish detecting the phone (In my case, the software indicated it detected the SGH-U800 phone), then click the option for networking.

It may prompt you for username and password. As in Ubuntu, leave them blank. Windows would tell you something about using sending username and password on unencrypted network. Basically, you ignore this since there is no username and password. Click "Dial" or "Connect," wait for the handshake, and the pop-up should appear at the lower righthand side of your screen indicating the speed of your connection. When you receive this, that means you are connected already.

The next time you want to connect with your mobile phone and you use Windows, you just connect your mobile phone to your computer, and then double-click the dial-up connection icon with the symbol of your mobile phone.

Reminders:
  • If you are used to connecting your laptop to the UP Manila network, remember to disable the proxy settings.
  • If you use an Acer laptop with webcam, you would experience the webcam being disabled. I don't know why it happened, but it did. I know it is because of the Samsung software because when I uninstalled the software, the webcam worked again.
Using your mobile phone as a high speed modem is a viable and cost-effective alternative to getting USB devices (eg, Globe Broadband Tattoo and Smart Bro Prepaid) which requires you to get another number. Since you do not use your mobile phone 24 hours a day, you could use it at night, during the day or on the road (with your laptop), to connect to the internet where there is 3G/HSDPA signal.

To know if you have 3G signal at your location, try this site: Globe. Click Item number 16, "LOCAL COVERAGE."

Other considerations
Please note that since you will install another software in your computer, this software which will run will consume memory (or affect speed of your computer). While the speed of your computer may not noticeably change, the presence of another software running means programs may react slower than without that program.

Please note also that service providers have different billing schemes (time-based or KB-based). Make sure to take note which one is enabled in your SIM or you might get surprised with the bill.

Concluding Remark
HSDPA by Globe or any service provider is subject to certain technical limitations. Since I have no use for them I have not tried using Globe HSDPA for SSH, VPN, or other highly technical modes. For basic browsing, chat, email and content downloading and uploading, as far as I know, it works.

If you need assistance, ask me. I appreciate your feedback.

Disclaimer: I am not promoting Globe. I use it as an example because that is the one I have.
Update: I'll see if I can update this to include screenshots from Windows XP and Ubuntu.

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