How to use a cellular phone to go online with your laptop

Question: How do I use my cellular phone to connect my laptop to the Internet? –Gina

Answer: So you want to surf the Internet wirelessly. The good news it is possible and easier than ever although, ironically, the biggest problem is actually locating a wire to make it all happen. If that sounds like double-speak, it will make sense when you’ve finished this short article.

There are numerous kits available to connect your cellular phone to your laptop. They run about $50 US / $75 CDN to $120 US / $180 CDN, depending on where you get it and how easy it is to use. (If you’re a boater or RVer and want to connect your onboard desktop PC to your cell phone, one of these kits will work for you as well, as long as you have one of the supported phones.)

First off, you’ll need a digital cellular phone to work with these kits (if you need a new one, get a cellular phone here). Most phones sold since 2000 are digital – if you aren’t sure about your phone, check with your cellular service provider or the place where you bought your phone.

Digital cell phones, also known as PCS phones, have built-in functionality that converts them to a wireless modem when they are plugged into a computer or handheld computer. Try browsing these cellphone data cables from Amazon. You can also search for them on eBay. There are usually quite a lot of phone data cables available.

Don’t expect blazing speed, or even smoldering speed — wireless connection speeds are awfully slow, perhaps about one quarter the speed you’d get on a modem that dials up the Internet through a phone line, and don’t even think of comparing their speed with that of broadband; it will only depress you. It does mean, however, that you can access the Internet from anywhere there is a digital cellular phone signal.

You can also get kits from your cellphone provider in both Canada and the U.S., and in other countries around the world. For example, in the U.S., if you’re a SprintPCS customer, the company offers the SprintPCS Wireless Web Connection Card Kit that provides the cable and software to connect your phone to your laptop. It runs about $60 US. It’s available through SprintPCS dealers or on-line at www.sprintpcs.com.

Meanwhile, Verizon Wireless offers the Mobile Office kit for some of their phones on their website at www.verizonwireless.com, and through many of their dealers.

If you have a hard time finding a mobile data cable kit in the U.S., try the maker of your cellular phone. Motorola, for example, has a selection of mobile data connector kits on their Web site at www.motorola.com. So does Nokia at www.nokia.com.