If you’ve got a fancy smartphone, it’s easy to share its internet access with your other gadgets.
Australia’s high-speed mobile broadband networks make it easy to stay in touch when you’re out and about. Telstra’s super-fast LTE network offers phenomenal data speeds of more than 40 Mbps in the inner cities, but so far we’ve only seen a handful of compatible devices. Thankfully you’ll also get decent speeds out of the HSDPA mobile broadband networks, particular using the new iPad Wi-Fi/4G which can’t connect to LTE in Australia but can hit almost 20 Mbps thanks to DC-HSDPA.
Fast internet access is great for a 3G/4G enabled smartphone or tablet, but it’s easy to share that mobile broadband access with your other gadgets such as notebooks, tablets, e-book readers and handheld games consoles. The trick is to dip into the menus and set up a Wi-Fi hotspot. Sometimes this can rely on your handset maker or network provider enabling the feature, so you should check with them if you’re unsure.
Before you start, it’s important to remember that creating a Wi-Fi hotspot chews through your monthly mobile broadband allowance. Keep a close eye on how much data you use. You’ll probably have a fixed mobile broadband allowance each month, but if you go over your limit the excess data charges can be hefty.
It’s also important to password-protect your Wi-Fi hotspot, so people nearby can’t “borrow” your internet access and leave you holding the bill.
Setting up a Wi-Fi hotspot on an iPhone is pretty easy. Under iOS5 you’ll find a Personal Hotspot setting on the main Settings page. You can tap on this and then toggle Personal Hotspot to “on”. You should also tap on Wi-Fi Password to create a password for your new wireless network.
Apple has added Personal Hotspot features to the new iPad Wi-Fi/4G models, but unfortunately it didn’t add Personal Hotspot to the earlier Wi-Fi/3G models with the latest firmware update.
Android users will find Wi-Fi hotspot features built in Android 2, 3 and 4 smartphones and tablets. The process can vary between devices, but generally you launch the Settings app and then select Wireless & Networks (sometimes followed by Tethering & Portable Hotspot). Here you can tap on Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot to turn in on. You’ll also want to dip into the Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot Settings to set the name of the network and set the password.
Built-in Wi-Fi hotspot support was introduced with Android 2.2. If you’re running an older Android device which can’t be upgraded, you’ll find tethering apps in Android Market (which recently changed its name to Google Play).
Some Windows Phone 7 smartphones can also create Wi-Fi hotspots after the Windows Phone 7.5 “Mango” update. Under Settings select Internet Sharing, turn it on and then select Setup to configure the wireless network name and password. A few Windows Phone 7 devices such as the slick new Nokia Lumia 800 are still waiting for Wi-Fi hotspot features to be enabled.