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Tethering is the term used for using your smartphone as a broadband modem. It is a convenient way to log on to the internet from a laptop or PC where there is no wireless internet connection. Using your phone’s data plan, your computer gets its internet access through your cell phone carrier’s satellite network, allowing you to effectively have wireless internet without the need for an air card, LAN or other connection.

Applications for Tethering

Most smartphones use a downloadable application to provide this feature, and the program will vary from one model to the next and from one carrier to the next. Likewise, you will also need to download a version of the same program to your laptop or PC, making sure to download the program that is compatible with your computer’s operating system. You now have a mobile broadband device. Some people use this as their only means of getting online, thereby saving them on monthly utility costs. Improvements and upgrades are an ongoing part of the hardware and software configurations of these phones, allowing for greater efficiency and speed when tethering.

Added Security

Some like the security aspect of using their phones to connect to the internet. Safer than public wireless hotspots, all your incoming and outgoing data is through your phone only, giving an added measure of privacy and security. There are more ways than one to connect your phone to your computer, but the most efficient way is via USB cable. This is faster than Bluetooth, though it may still be slightly slower than logging onto the internet on your phone directly.

If you can endure this minor inconvenience, you can definitely find yourself in a situation where you never have to go without internet again, provided that you are in an area serviced by your cell phone carrier’s network. Some networks do have restrictions on the use of data plans for smartphones, disallowing the use of their phones as modems without an additional pricing plan. So far, these have been the exception to the rule.


If you are like most people, you will be able to find multiple places where using your laptop for logging onto the internet is quite necessary. Everywhere including the doctor’s office, train and bus terminals, and restaurants are convenient stopping points throughout your busy day to check your bank information, pay bills, keep up with news and sports scores, and stay caught up on emails. While many such public places are beginning to accommodate guests with free wireless internet, smartphones are a great way to close the gap. Traveling salespeople will find it useful to be able to pull maps or directions up on their laptops in unfamiliar territory, even if they find themselves in rural areas with limited direction. It’s also a convenient way to stay in touch with the home office without sacrificing the comfortable use of a full-sized keyboard.

Finding Instructions

Instructions for tethering your phone to your laptop or PC may or may not be included with your phone’s user manual, but you can almost always find this information online. Forums dedicated to your phone’s brand generally have the most current information, and instructions should be provided in "read-me" format with any required software download for tethering your phone as a modem.

Blake Sanders writes tech at broadband comparison site Broadband Expert and specializes in wireless internet, cell phones, and the latest news and information on internet providers.