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Free Tethering using a Smartphone

by on Oct.23, 2013, under Hacks

free tetheringThere is a way to get free tethering using a smartphone. By the way, what is a tethering? If you’re new to the word, tethering refers to connecting one device’s internet access to another (ie. Smartphone to Tablet, Tablet to Smartphone, Smartphone to PC or Laptop or vice versa). Connection of the phone or tablet with other devices can be done over wireless LAN (Local Area Network) or Wi-Fi, over Bluetooth, or by physical connection using a cable such as the USB (Universal Serial Bus) cable. If tethering is done over Wi-Fi, the feature is called a Mobile Hotspot. Using the above connection methods could enable an Internet-connected mobile device to act as a portable wireless access point and router for devices connected to it.

In this tutorial, I’m gonna explain how to connect other devices to your phone, but I will be focusing on connecting a laptop or PC. I will also be using the Android mobile operating system and the T-mobile network in this example.

A lot of mobile phones are already equipped with software that offer tethered Internet access. In Android, it starts with version 2.2 while in iOS, it began in version 3.0. This can usually be enabled in the phone’s Settings. In Android, it can be found under Settings -> Wireless & Networks -> More… -> USB tethering & Mobile HotSpot. All you have to do is check on the USB tethering or Mobile HotSpot boxes. It’s understandable that USB tethering means that you’re using a USB cable to attach the phone and the Laptop or PC while Mobile HotSpot is done via Wi-Fi (Wireless Fidelity) or otherwise known as WLAN (Wireless Local Area Network). Easy enough right? But what if your phone’s plan doesn’t include an Internet access or Tethering and Mobile Hotspot features? Well, chances are, you won’t be able to connect at all and you may have to enroll to their tethering or mobile hotspot plans in order for the features to work.

Now, let’s assume, your plan includes unlimited Internet access but without tethering/mobile hotspot features. I’ll use T-mobile as an example. I use a GoPhone or Pay as you go or a no contract phone and I pay only $30 with the plan that includes 100 minutes of air time, and unlimited text and web. The good thing about this plan is that it’s cheap and it has unlimited web data. The problem is that it has no tethering and mobile hotspot support. What happens is that when you go to the settings to activate the tethering and mobile hotspot features, it gives you a warning that let’s you know you don’t have those features and that you may need to register to their website. What happened here is that while your mobile OS have the tethering and mobile hotspot options, the network provider programmed the OS to prevent tethering and mobile hotspot features to work unless its registered. And… registering costs $15 at least.

OK, now I’m not trying to teach anyone to steal here, but I would just like to let everyone know that the little “modification” they did to the OS can be hacked. Actually, in T-mobile’s case, they already knew about it, which is why they keep on patching up the OS from time to time and force you to install… er, nope they can’t do that actually, but what they’ll do is that they’ll keep asking you if you want to upgrade your OS until you have no choice but to agree or else get tortured by the pop-up message. Hacking the OS will disable those tethering/mobile hotspot checks but with their patch, those hacks you did will get run over and ta-da, you have to hack it all over again. Hacking takes time as you have to decode the program first, but there is an easy way around, and up until now, T-mobile was unable to solve it. At least for now…

Free Tethering Apps

The easy way is no other than using apps, in this case, you may need to have a Tethering app that grants you free tethering. An app that could bypass the Tethering/Mobile HotSpot checks your network provider put on your smartphone and at the same time cloak you from their radar. There are actually a lot of tethering apps that offer this feature, but in this tutorial, I’ll focus on PDANet+.

Now, what is PDANet+? Well, let’s just put it this way. While hacking is an attempt of jailbreaking your smartphone’s OS, PDANet+ does the jailbreaking for you. PDANet+ enables you to share the Internet access of your Android phone with your computer or tablet, and it actually works even without rooting. Oh, by the way, I forgot to tell you guys that rooting is actually one way of getting free tethering. Going back to PDANet+, it bypasses the Tethering/Mobile HotSpot checks and it works stealthily by mimicking what your phone normally does when it accesses the Internet without the tethering. This camouflages you from your network provider’s scope. But don’t take my word for it as network providers will always try to improve their detection methods.

PDANet+ now comes bundled with PdaNet (the original) and FoxFi, giving you support for WiFi Hotspot in addition to USB Tether and Bluetooth DUN (Dial-up Networking). You can download it on their website at http://pdanet.co/. You may also download it via Google Play store. The only problem with this app is that it is only shareware, meaning, you are free to use it for evaluation purposes only. After using it for awhile, it disconnects and you may have to reconnect again. However, if you buy the full version of this software, the auto-disconnecting feature goes away. The license use to cost around $14.94 but now, they are selling it for $7.95 for a limited time.

The Steps

Now without further delay, I’ll begin with the steps on how to share phone internet with your PC or laptop. I’m assuming your phone has internet access and I’m assuming it’s unlimited, otherwise, you’ll run out of data just before you know it.

1. Connect the USB cable to your smartphone. Each smartphone has its own kind of USB cable, just make sure that one end of the cable fits the socket of your phone. This is usually via the same socket where you put the cable to charge your phone. Some smartphones already come with a USB cable, if you’re wondering where it is, chances are, it may have been attached to your charger. Just remove the USB cable from your charger. If it’s not removable, I’m not telling you to cut the wire, instead you may need to buy a cable that’s compatible with your phone and your PC. By the way, the USB cable has one end that always look like this:

Type A USB Connector

2. Connect the other end of the cable to your laptop or computer device. The end that should connect to your computer device looks like the picture above. ^

3. On your phone, go to Google Play and search for PDANet+. Install the App on your phone. Note that some network providers (ie. Sprint and AT&T) delisted the app on Google Play so you’ll have to pay for their tethering plan. If you can’t find it, go to this link: http://pdanet.co/bin, download the apk file and manually install it by opening the PDANet+ apk file on your phone’s download folder.

4. Next, on your PC, go to http://pdanet.co/a/ and download the PDANet+ Desktop Client. Install it on your computer.

5. Open the PDANet+ app on your phone. The logo looks like the picture below:

pdanet

6. On the Smartphone’s PDANet+ client, check Activate USB Tether.

7. Finally, open the PDANet+ Desktop client on your computer. It should display a smartphone icon on the lower right corner of the desktop, near the clock and date. Left click it to open an option menu then select Connect Internet (USB).

pdanet

8. Now, open your web browser and try to surf the web. Note that in T-mobile, they seem to have already patch the mobile OS enough to block most sites, but some sites like Facebook and Google seem to work fine.

Closing Remarks

And that is how you use your phone to connect your PC to the Internet. Free tethering, however, while it’s cool that it saves you a few bucks, has its disadvantages. First of all, free tethering is usually not allowed by network providers, one reason is that laptops and PCs usually cost them more bandwidth and bandwidth is not free. So, if you get caught free tethering, there’s good chance you can get banned or deactivated. To prevent it from happening, you have two options, either pay for their tethering services or minimize your free tethering data consumption. For example, in the $30 plan I have, I have 4G internet access for up to 2 GB (Gigabytes) data transfer, it switches to 2G once I go over the 4G quota. It is best to keep the data consumption below 2 GB. Otherwise, they’ll start suspecting that something else is consuming your phone’s data other than the phone itself. It is also prudent that you don’t use your phone and laptop browse the internet both at the same time.

Now, I don’t know about other network providers, but in T-mobile, I was able to use free tethering for the first month without them blocking some sites. However, this cause my web data consumption to shoot up, passing the 2 Gig data mark. Right after this, I get an OS upgrade request and when I updated, I could no longer access some sites as it redirects me to the T-mobile tethering service plan page. By the way, I wasn’t using PDANet+ back then, I was using FoxFi shareware version. With the OS patch, Mobile HotSpot services provided by FoxFi was still operable but with it, I couldn’t access any sites at all. But, with PDANet+’s USB Tethering method, Facebook and Google, along with Gmail sites seem to keep on working.

The second disadvantage with free tethering is that it’s sometimes slow. PDANet+ as mentioned earlier does something to prevent detection, it does this by limiting packet requests to match the phone’s standard methods. But I don’t need to tell you guys that phones are different from Laptop and PCs.

Finally, there are a lot of things that we need to discuss with PDANet+ and you may encounter other problems not mentioned here. In that case, you can get help from their website from the link here: http://pdanet.co/help/.

Well, that’s it in a nutshell. If you have questions, feel free to comment.

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