Have you ever configured your mobile phone to surf the Internet with your laptop?  Well, this is known as laptop tethering, or just tethering, for short. I did it out of sheer necessity for the first time more than five years ago, and I have since accomplished the same with various smartphones since then.

To be honest, while I did manage to configure most combinations of smartphones and laptops with relative ease, there are times when I just could not get it to work. Also frustrating were the instances when I had a setup that worked perfectly well but then suddenly ceased working after installing some new device drivers.

Recently, I came across an application called TetherBerry that promises to quickly and easily tether your laptop if you are using a BlackBerry smartphone.

How TetherBerry works

There are two components to TetherBerry: a client applet for your BlackBerry and desktop software for your Windows laptop. Simply run both applications and then connect your BlackBerry via USB cable to your laptop (Bluetooth support is still in the works). And voila, you should be able to surf the Internet on your laptop  — no more trying to figure out default passwords, dial-up numbers, or modem initialization strings.

In networking terms, the desktop client basically installs itself as a dial-up adapter on your Windows laptop, channelling outgoing network requests via the client on your BlackBerry, which acts as a proxy. To the mobile provider, the requests appear to originate from your BlackBerry itself.

The additional advantage is that you can continue to use your BlackBerry to send and receive PIN messages or e-mails. Typical tethering via USB or Bluetooth will cause these features to be temporarily disabled while you are tethered to the Internet, but this does not happen when using TetherBerry.

Cheaper tethering

Of course, many users of TetherBerry will probably be purchasing it in order to circumvent the additional fees imposed by some operators who might regard “tethering” as a premium option. As an example, AT&T offers tethering as an option found only in high-end services, priced at an additional $60 per month. In this instance, to AT&T, TetherBerry appears to be just another application that runs on your BlackBerry.

To be clear here, I am simply highlighting another possible reason to use TetherBerry; I’m not actually advocating or even encouraging it.

Ease of configuration

As I mentioned, the attraction of TetherBerry to me is its idiot-proof tethering. An additional advantage is the inherent possibility of using your BlackBerry as an Internet modem with any Windows-based laptops once you save a copy of the desktop application on your BlackBerry or a flash drive.

To Internet-enable your colleague’s laptop when in a pinch, simply copy the executable over and install it. Start the desktop and device clients, connect the USB cable, and you’re good to go.

Access speeds

I did not attempt to benchmark the application since mobile network speed is subject to volatile factors such as signal strength, as well as the presence and activities of other users nearby. However, I did use it at various locations where I live in Singapore, and I have found performance to be perfectly acceptable for tasks ranging from medium to heavy Web surfing, chatting using  various Instant Messaging services, and also connecting my Outlook client with a Microsoft Exchange server.

One thing to note is that a 3G connection is really the minimum for acceptable performance. Of course, this is true even with a direct Bluetooth or USB connection and is not related to TetherBerry.

Mac support

At the moment, TetherBerry supports only Microsoft’s Windows platform. The final Mac beta version of TetherBerry was released just last week though, and the date for the official Mac release should be fast approaching.

In conclusion

Even though Singapore is blanketed with free Wi-Fi courtesy of a government-led, island-wide wireless initiative, I have found TetherBerry to be an invaluable addition. Since my BlackBerry is always with me, I can always count on having Internet access on my laptop should I find myself at places without Wi-Fi access or in a situation when the local wireless node is acting up.

Of course, TetherBerry’s price of $49.95 is hardly cheap, so you will have to determine its suitability for your use.