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Turn your smartphone into a WAP with WMWifiRouter

When Deb Shinder's FiOS Internet connection went down, she used WMWifiRouter to connect her Sony VAIO laptop to the Internet through her Windows Mobile phone's 3G service.

When Deb Shinder's FiOS Internet connection went down, she used WMWifiRouter to connect her Sony VAIO laptop to the Internet through her Windows Mobile phone's 3G service.

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Being on the road is no excuse for IT pros -- you still have work to do. Often, that work requires Internet connectivity in order to respond to email, do Web research, access company resources remotely, and more. Wi-Fi hotspots are getting easier to find, but sometimes you're in a location where there is no wireless connectivity. And even when it is available, chances are you'll have to pay for it.

If you have a smartphone with a data plan, you're already carrying an Internet connection around in your pocket; the problem is that the device is too small for doing serious work. You can read your mail and view Web sites, but you can't see multiple windows at once, and it's hard to type long documents on a virtual keyboard or even a pint-size QWERTY board.

So there's your dilemma: You have a laptop with a more usable screen and keyboard but no connectivity, and you have a smartphone that has connectivity but not very good usability for what you want to do. If only there was a way to combine the two devices. Well, you can.

Types of tethering

One option is to literally "tether" the smartphone to the laptop via a USB cable. Another way is to do it wirelessly, by turning the smartphone into an ad hoc wireless access point (WAP). The advantages of the second method are: no wires required, and you can connect more than one laptop at a time to the phone's Internet connection.

Some smartphones, like my son's Symbian-based Nokia, come with this WAP functionality built-in. But if your smartphone doesn't have the functionality built-in, it doesn't mean you're out of luck. There are applications that will give you the ability to do the same. I recently tested one of these applications, and I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to set up and how well it worked. It was necessity, rather than curiosity, that led me to this program. My FiOS Internet connection had -- for the first time in four years -- gone down, and I had a deadline to meet. There was my Windows Mobile phone, with an unlimited data plan, and there was my Sony VAIO laptop, dead in the water with no Internet connection. I used the phone's Web browser to look for a solution.

WMWifiRouter to the rescue

The application I found and downloaded is WMWifiRouter. Based on the list of compatible devices on the WMWifiRouter Web site, I wasn't sure whether my phone would work with it, but since there's a free trial version, I had nothing to lose by giving it a try. You can download WMWifiRouter with the ActiveSync installer to install from your desktop, but my desktop had no Internet connection, so I opted to download the CAB installer directly to the phone.

It was a simple installation, and thereafter, the app's icon shows up in your programs list, as shown in Figure A. Figure A

WMWifiRouter installs easily and is accessed from your phone's Programs list.
Touch the icon to start the program, as shown in Figure B. Figure B

It takes a moment for the program to initialize.

Next, you get the option to select your connectivity type:

  • 3G to Wi-Fi
  • 3G to USB
  • 3G to Bluetooth
  • Wi-Fi to USB
  • USB to Wi-Fi
The buttons for selecting your connection profile are shown in Figure C; the sixth (red) button is to exit the program. Figure C

You can choose from five connection types.

The Options menu provides the following selections:

  • Tools: Allows you to reset all settings to revert any changes you've made back to the default; show the log file that contains information about what WMWifiRouter has done; switch the USB port into any mode that's supported by your device; switch Bluetooth between normal and Personal Area Network (PAN) modes and configure Bluetooth as discoverable; set performance for Wi-Fi output and switch Wi-Fi between Access Point only, Ad-hoc only, or All Available.
  • Configuration: Lets you configure the cellular connection, Wi-Fi network, IP range, battery, keep-alive (ping or Web page retrieval), port mappings, and advanced settings whereby you can fine-tune internal options.
  • About: Lists current version and build and copyright information.
  • License: Shows the EULA and provides an option to change the license key.
  • Exit: Shuts down WMWifiRouter and closes the current connection.
It may take a while to make the connection as the program goes through several steps, as shown in Figure D. Figure D

WMWifiRouter sets up the wireless network.
Once the connection is made, the new Wi-Fi network should show up in the list of available wireless networks on your laptop or other Wi-Fi enabled computer, as shown in Figure E. You simply select it and enter the key as you would with any other Wi-Fi network. Figure E

On your Wi-Fi enabled laptop, you'll see the new network in the list of available wireless networks.
If you have problems, the log file can be helpful in tracking down what went wrong. A sample log file is shown in Figure F. Figure F

The log file can be helpful in troubleshooting connectivity problems.

Caveats and notes

Some phone providers may disable or remove Internet Sharing, which is required for the program to work. And not all smartphones support Wi-Fi; you need a phone with both 3G and Wi-Fi to set up the WAP. You can, however, still use the software for cellular to USB or cellular to Bluetooth connections if your smartphone doesn't support Wi-Fi.

Security

Be sure to turn off WMWifiRouter when you're finished using it. You don't want to provide a wireless network that others might be able to connect to. Although the program uses encryption, it's WEP, which is an older and less secure method of Wi-Fi encryption. When you enter a WEP key during setup, be sure to change the default (which is 0123456789). For best security, change it to a 26 digit key.

By default, WMWifiRouter creates the wireless network each time you run it and then removes it. This is more secure, but it can cause problems (such as hanging) with some devices. You can change the options to create the network once and store it in the device's Wi-Fi configuration; this makes for faster startup, but it could also cause conflicts with other Wi-Fi networks you have configured.

Battery

When your smartphone is acting as a WAP, it uses quite a bit of battery power, so I recommend that you plug the phone into AC power when you're using it this way.

License

An individual license for the WMWifirouter software is only $19.99 USD (corporate high volume licenses are also available), but I advise you to download the trial version and take it for a test drive before you buy. Although it worked great on my phone, my husband had some problems getting it to work on his older Samsung i760 smartphone. However, after a couple of contacts with tech support and resetting some configurations, he was able to use it on the i760.

Additional information

For more details on setting up and using WMWifiRouter, read the product documentation.

Also check out TechRepublic blogger Paul Mah's post about using WMWifiRouter.

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About

Debra Littlejohn Shinder, MCSE, MVP is a technology consultant, trainer, and writer who has authored a number of books on computer operating systems, networking, and security. Deb is a tech editor, developmental editor, and contributor to over 20 add...

11 comments
Daniel Breslauer
Daniel Breslauer

JoikuSpot offers this functionality for Symbian. No such functionality is built into Symbian, but Nokia has recently started shipping some devices with JoikuSpot pre-installed, so I read.

mike
mike

Or you could use CM Wifi Internet Sharing for free.

isanel
isanel

Hi, Nowadays every mobile has Bluetooth, and if your laptop is Bluetooth enabled you can access INTERNET without extra software.

bowks14
bowks14

Is there a similar application that works on a Blackberry rather than a Windows Mobile phone?

dok418
dok418

I agree with Daniel575, JoikuSpot is the app to use if your phone is running on a compatible Sybian OS. If your Symbian Phone happens to be a Nokia, then you are in luck, there is a free version called JoikuSpot Light that you could download from the OVI Store. I have used it with my Nokia 5800 on Windows and Mac OS based PCs with much success, Speedtest.net indicates its running at basically the same speed as my phone (give or take a few kbps). It doesn't have the same security as JoikuSpot has, if you want to change the settings like say, create a password, then you would have to purchase the full version.

n2iph
n2iph

Bluetooth is one-to-one, WAP provides a one-to-many connection configuration. Depends on your needs I guess.

Akais1
Akais1

PDAnet http://www.junefabrics.com/ does this for Winmobile, Blackberry, iPhone, and Android phones. Of course for obvious reasons, PDAnet is not sold at Apple's App store so you can only install it on a jailbroke phone via Cydia.

TexasJetter
TexasJetter

But... there is this guy at http://www.benm.at that has made some versions to support tethering - not really the same as a WAP, but close. I had it working back on iPhone 3.0 OS, but updates to the OS have disabled the tethering option. He continues to play the cat and mouse game with Apple/iPhone to get it working again. Officially we will have to wait until ATT decides to support tethering, which they will most likely charge more for.

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