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How do I use my cell phone as a modem?

Many wireless phones can act as modems so you can link your notebook to the Web when you can't find a direct or wireless Internet connection. The method for making them work varies with the type of phone you have and your service. You can typically find specific information in the support area of your carrier's Web site.

In many cases, you just need your laptop, any required connection software and a data plan from your phone carrier. You also need a way to connect the phone to the computer, like a USB data cable or Bluetooth link. If your phone didn't come with a USB cable, this source of cell phone data cables may have what you need. When you connect the phone to the computer, you may get a message asking for drivers. If your phone didn't come with a CD of drivers and additional software, you can usually find the drivers for your model with a quick Web search.

Cingular Wireless, LLC

Many Mac OS X machines can automatically recognize the phone as a modem. There are illustrated guides for setting up the phone as a modem for a Mac with a Bluetooth connection; the page at homepage.mac.com/jrc/contrib/tzones has an example.

It's relatively straightforward with Sprint and Verizon, which uses a network standard called CDMA, because they offer their own connection kits. Once you get any required software from your carrier installed and the computer recognizes your phone when you connect it, you usually just click the software's Go or Connect button to take the laptop online through the phone connection.

AT&T and T-Mobile , which use the GSM standard for their networks, aren't quite as simple. You might need to set up the phone as a modem by creating a new dial-up connection, just as you'd set up a dial-up modem on a PC at home. Ask the company for the number to use for dialing into its data network and put that number in the modem's dial-up settings. Most carriers have help on their Web site.

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Revised: 06/08/2008