No WiFi? Tether your Droid and use it as a Broadband Modem

30 01 2010

We’ve all been there, you visit a holiday home or a business and no public internet is available. Maybe the Hotel or Airport you’re at want to sell you a full days access just for the few hours you’ll be there.

Tethering computers to your cell phone is one way to overcome this, and with the Droid or another 3G cell phone one can achieve pretty decent data rates. So how is it done?

PDA Net

Click to Enlarge

Visit PDA Net and download their PC/Mac client software and install it. It will prompt you to connect your phone using its USB cable or connect via  Bluetooth when it is ready to install the software on your phone. On Android phones such as the Droid, it is necessary to switch the phones USB mode to debugging mode for PDA Net to work. (Debugging mode is accessible via the phones setting menu, Applications, then Development). The advantage of using a USB cable is that the phone will be charged at the same time you are using the internet on your laptop, giving you hours of use.

Throughput

Baseline Speed - Click to Enlarge

I did some basic benchmarking to see how fast the Droid worked when tethered to my laptop. First I tested the speed of my Laptops wireless untethered as a baseline. Using my laptops wireless adapter and residential DSL service from AT&T I achieved 2766 KBps down and 310 KBps Up. Yeah I know, my DSL speed is lackluster.

Wifi Tethered Droid - Click to Enlarge

I turned off my laptops wireless adapter and then the tethered my Droid using PDA Net. I achieved very similar results.  I Noticed that my public IP had not changed, I then realized that the Droid was connected to my homes WiFi. This shows that PDA Net software has no or very negligible overhead when used as a modem. PDA Net on the Droid has a real-time ‘meter’ you can watch to see the amount of data you have downloaded/uploaded, useful if you have a cap to worry about (Most US 3G consumers have to worry about usage caps).

3g tethered Droid - Click to enlarge

I turned off the WiFi on the Droid and confirmed that the Droid was using 3G. I retested the throughput and achieved 522 down and 332 up. Oddly the up-link is faster than my homes DSL!! 500 Down is quite respectable and usable as a basic broadband connection. I did confirm that my public IP had changed, which it had. I also noticed that on my laptop the DNS servers were set to Google DNS server addresses 8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4. It’s not clear to me if this is a result of the PDA Net software setting the DNS servers or the Verizon 3G network. My best guess is that it’s PDA Net setting this. I use OpenDNS servers on my home network. PDA Net is free to try and will work in HTTP mode only for as long as you want. To access HTTPS or other SSL links you will need to purchase/register the software, it is only $29.99 so it is quite the bargain. Note that PDA Net does NOT require you to ‘root’ your Android phone and therefore tethering is accessible to all Android users, not just the uber geeks.

Will PDA Net tether to the Apple iPad?

Will Apple allow Tethering to the iPad?

I have sent a support request to the authors of PDA Net to see if they have plans to support the upcoming Apple iPad as a client. The anticipated cost to add 3G capability to the iPad is an extra $130 one time outlay plus $29.99 per month to get 3G access. If tethering would work this would make PDA Net really useful to iPad owners who only needed infrequent 3G access. To date I have not received a response to my inquiry. My suspicion is that Apple will block any apps that tether your phone to the iPad, it would undermine the 3G deal they have with the carriers, especially since the iPad will not require a term commitment to use the 3G capability.

The iPhone has PDA Net client so one can tether the iPhone to a PC or Mac computer, however that is only half the story, one would need a client application to run on the iPad and the iPad does NOT run OSX, rather it runs app-store applications. My guess is that any attempt by the authors of PDA Net for client app on the app-store to support tethering of the iPad would be denied. Let’s hope not though, that would be really cool. The iPad does not have a conventional USB port, so a special adapter would be required if and when available.

Update 2010-05-23: Having accidentally cut my telephone line while trimming trees I have had to resort to PDANet and my Droid as my only form of internet at home :-) Initially I was horrified to learn that through updates via the Droid Market that my Droid would not tether because of a version conflict with my laptop, my laptop was out of date. Fortunately there was an easy fix I can share my workaround for those who need PDANet and a tethered Droid without any conventional internet access to begin with.

First you visit the PDANet download page using your Droid browser and download the windows or mac executable to the Droid’s SD card. Next you attach the Droid to the PC/Mac mount the Droid as an external USB device and transfer the executable to the PC/Mac. Install PDA Net from the downloaded file and it will automatically install the correct version on the Droid and you are now in business!!

Update 2010-05-24 : Android 2.2 (Froyo) will come out in June. Froyo includes built-in capability for tethering, so no need to use 3rd party products like PDANet. It will be interesting to see if the cell companies allow free tethering or if they will tack on a charge or not.

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9 responses

5 02 2010
Mike M

Have you tried tethering to a Touch iPod? Probably not, as with the iPad?

M2

6 02 2010
jpwhitehome

The only iPod device I have is the iPod Shuffle. So no, I have not tried to tether a cell phone to one. I see that many folks are asking to tether their cell phone to their iPod Touch in forums and blogs without much of a response. A few claim to have achieved it, so the possibility may still exist for both the iPod family and iPad devices.

29 04 2010
cypher

Tethered both iPod Touch and iPad. Using ANetShare and Wireless Tether for Root Users (had to root my Droid Eris (Verizon) from 1.5 to 2.1) apps.

Once installed, I turn on ANetShare and using iPod Touch or iPad, go into network settings and which ever name you choose (in my case I simply use Android), once the iPod/iPad recognizes the name, I choose that network.

Then, I go to Wireless Tether for Root Users app and click on it, and you then begin to see the up/down KBs.

I then go back to my phone and accept the connection via ANetShare.

From this point on, I have wireless internet access (no need for USB connection).

Hope this helps.

29 04 2010
cypher

BTW… PDA Net works great with my laptop, but with no app for the iPod/iPad, best bet would be to use ANetShare and Wireless Tether for Root Users.

8 10 2010
C Olsen

OK, being totally not savvy on these things: I have a Droid and was told that it did not have broadband capabilities. I am unsure as to HOW to actually install the capability. I can and understand it but I guess I’m unsure as to what it will do to the phone or my laptop?????

9 10 2010
jpwhitehome

Hi.

The Droid uses 3g wireless, which performs quite well if you look at the speed tests I did. When 3g is all that existed we were told we had broadband on our phones, now that 4g has been invented that is now considered broadband.

Doesn’t matter what you call it, it works fine as a modem. Just use PDANet as described, no need to ‘activate’ anything on your phone, except the USB debug mode I detailed.

JP

30 10 2010
Photoelectric Smoke Detector :

wireless internet is simply the best though sometimes the signal fluctuates depending on the weather condition “

3 12 2010
Wire Gauge

you can always tell the quality of USB cables by looking at the thickness of the cable. thicker usb cables have higher quality :”*

18 06 2011
Vampire Princess

I have a the Droid 1st Gen and have downloaded PDA Net program on my Mac and then connected my Droid and had it install it and turned on tethering debug yet I have no internet connection on my Mac. I turned the AirPort off so that I could test the connection via my Droid bc I need it when there will be no other internet available. Its a brand new mac. Can anybody help please? Thanks!




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