Verizon recently announced that their Motorola Droid phones could be successfully used for tethering. The service comes at a hefty extra price, on top of the existing contract.
Firstly, let us have a look at what exactly is meant by cell phone tethering. Most mobile phones now have some sort of Internet access; usually through their network service provider. If the mobile phone has varied connectivity options, like Bluetooth or a WiFi router built into it, there is the potential of using the mobile’s Internet access on other devices. In a nutshell, the mobile then acts like a router or modem, transmitting the connection via one of its connectivity options to the device without Internet access.
Note: In some countries, the use of mobile tethering violates the terms of a service contract, so it would be best to confirm the possibility of setting up a tethered connection with the service provider first.
Mobile tethering is useful in certain situations, where Internet connectivity is limited or entirely available through other means. For example, while most basic phones have GPRS and EDGE technology, laptops and desktop computers do not come with an Internet data plan built in. It is a convenient method of using the Internet on the go, especially if a user cannot afford to buy a wireless data card.
Typically, before WiFi became standard on mobile phones, most individuals relied on Bluetooth or USB connections, and sometimes Infrared as well. More often than not, mobiles have a software application built in that allows the phone to be used as a modem. If the application is missing, it can be easily found on the phone manufacturer’s website, or a third party vendor is sure to have a solution. Typically, Bluetooth or USB connections work using diallers. For the tethering to work, the service provider gives the user the phone number and the IP addresses that the connection uses.
Of late, since WiFi has arrived in a big way, mobile phones have not stayed far behind. Initially, it was possible to connect to an external wireless network using the mobile phone, however that functionality has evolved into something much more sophisticated.
The phone can be used as a WiFi access router, turning an area into a WiFi hotspot. The same rules of any wireless networks apply; WEP keys can be configured for better security, etc. The rather startling discovery is that WiFi tethering tends to work much better than simple Bluetooth or USB connection tethering. This is because of the phone’s highly sensitive antenna; because the antenna is geared to pick up and send signals to receivers that are very far away, the WiFi output tends to be very much stronger. As it is, Bluetooth and USB connections have an upper limit in terms of bandwidth.
There was buzz that T-Mobile was about to introduce tethering on Google phones, however that turned out to be an unsubstantiated rumour. With the Droid though, Google seemed to have jumped on the tethering bandwagon, allowing some of their phones to do it, while others are left out in the cold.