OK, here we are on a lovely, sunny afternoon at the coast, after a very busy afternoon, and my wife asks if she can use the Internet on our laptop. Well, no broadband connection at our friend's house, and scanning the available networks, I found that no one locally here at the beach has an open, always on wireless connections to the 'net. Unless you count the Cyber Cafe with a low-strength WiFi connection for just (gasp) $12 an hour.

No problem: fire up the mobile phone as a USB modem, connecting to the wireless Internet.

Now, it's not as straightforward as simply plugging a phone to the PC via a USB cable or discovery via BlueTooth, but not too difficult as you just have to install a driver and follow some simple instructions. And if you have an Internet connection on your phone, you can download the driver files and transfer them to your PC via the sync cable.

(Modem... a scary concept. I had someone ask me recently at the office if they really needed a modem installed on their new PC, and after a quick thought I answered "no, save the slot." I think the last time I used a modem was four years ago... maybe five. I remember using 300 baud modems from home with dial telephone handset to initiate the connection. Now that's scary.)

But with a mobile phone, you may have available (depending on your wireless plan) a digital modem connection at the ready. In our case, we have the Cingular 8525 with the AT&T all-you-can-eat wireless Internet plan for one low price. Thanks to Pocket PC Central, there is a quick tutorial with links to use the Cingular 8525 as a USB modem with your Windows computer

  1. Install the right driver before connecting your phone to your PC withthe USB cable. You'll install either the Cingular / AT&T 8525 Modem Driver (Windows XP) or Cingular / AT&T 8525 Modem Driver (Windows Vista)
  2. Enable Wireless Modem Mode on your phone, by selecting "Programs" from the Start Menu, and then clicking on "Wireless Modem."
  3. Connect the phone to your PC as a modem
  4. Configure the Modem: on Windows XP, through the "Network Connections" in the Control Panel, or "Phone and Modem Options" in Vista. In order to "dial" the modem and access the network, you use the a phone number *99# (on the Cingular service).
  5. On the Cingular/AT&T network, you use the username WAP@CINGULARGPRS.COM and password: CINGULAR1 (note the caps).

As PPC notes... "The speed of your connection to the Internet with the Cingular 8525 will vary depending on your signal strength, the type of network Cingular Wireless has in your area, etc. You'll also need a data plan from Cingular in order to use the handset as a dial-up modem when connecting to the Cingular (now AT&T) wireless data network. If you want to dial into another ISP, you can follow the same method shown above, but when the time comes to enter the connection name, username, password, etc., enter the settings provided by your ISP.  

Otherwise, fairly straight forward. A note to the VIsta time (hint hint): it would be nice if Windows Vista included a reference to using a PocketPC or Smartphone as a wireless modem in the online help.

Have a nice weekend.