Free, One-Click Tethering on My Thunderbolt

I’ve always been wary of rooting any phone with a two-year contract, but the appeal of being able to tether my smartphone wirelessly to get an Internet connection on other devices has been tough to resist. Luckily, Verizon has solved the problem for me. At least until next Wednesday. Back in March, Verizon started offering a free Mobile Hotspot app on new 4G phones, and a couple weeks ago, the telco extended the limited-time promotion through July 6th.

The good news? Verizon’s Mobile Hotspot is ridiculously easy to use, and it worked flawlessly for me. One click turns the hotspot on. Then it’s just a matter of selecting the (WPA2-protected) network on your secondary device and typing in a short password. I used the hotspot on the DC metro to extend network access to my Wi-Fi-only iPad. My mobile broadband speed was limited in the subway, but it was enough to download a new iPad app, and it would be enough to publish a blog post from my netbook if needed.

The bad news? When Verizon’s promotional period ends next Wednesday, the Mobile Hotspot isn’t going to be cheap. We don’t know the pricing details yet, but current guesses hover around $30 a month, or possibly $20 a month with a 2GB data cap. Given how often I’m likely to need tethering, either price is way above my comfort zone. It took years for me to suck it up and get a $30-per-month data plan. I’m not going to double that just to be able to share an existing wireless connection. Usually I either have access to Wi-Fi or can make do with my smartphone. If I had to share my mobile broadband connection, I’d certainly be willing to pay a fee if I went over my monthly data allowance. However, just paying for the privilege to share an existing connection? That’s a bit much. Verizon could sucker me in for a small fee, say $5 a month, but at $20 or $30, forget it. I’ll enjoy my hotspot for a few more days, and go back to a sad, but affordable tether-free existence on July 6th.

12 thoughts on “Free, One-Click Tethering on My Thunderbolt”

  1. Mari, what kind of speeds are you seeing in the DC area? I’m eligible to upgrade next week and am considering one of the 4G phones, although I’m not in love with any of them.

  2. Doesn’t this only apply in 4G areas though, not if one is on 3G, or does it carry over for a short period onto 3G?

  3. Mari,

    Yeah, the options sort of suck. On AT&T the one benefit to signing up for tethering is that they bump up your plan from 2GB to 4GB, which you can use for tethering or phone. Only matters if you’re not on unlimited of course. And costs an extra $20/month for the rest of your life.

    I suspect that you can turn the tethering feature on and off month by month though. If you can then it could be useful for those (have to be rare) times when you know ahead of time that you’ll be traveling. I’m pretty sure I can do that with AT&T.

    The other option as you suggest is to jailbreak. I know that AT&T has been sending letters to people who tether without paying for it. Looks like some of the jailbreak tethering apps now have options to use a different APN or something to try and avoid being found out. Not sure how that is going. You could eventually get caught and forced to pay. I’d research the options carefully.

    Another option of course is to give up on using your phone. Virgin Mobile has no contract mifi’s available that you can enable just for one day ($15/day I think) or for a month at various caps (kinda expensive, but hey, no contract). No idea how well they work.

  4. See my Vz Pre+ tethering is still free.
    I rarely use it but when I need it really shines and more than makes up for some of the phone’s shortcomings.

  5. I guess I’m in the minority, but if I didn’t have free tethering on Sprint, I wouldn’t even bother having a smartphone.

  6. yeah, I carry a sprint SERO device still just to have a mobile hotspot when I need it, but my daily driver is the iphone. Will most likely just move to another sprint android device with tethering soon EVO 3D with the 3D OFF!!

  7. I’m also in DC and have been seeing some really nice speeds (not sure on numbers) on my Thunderbolt. LOVE IT! Of course, when I go out to a 3g area and then back to a 4g area, then it all falls to s**t a the connection takes forever and a day to go from 3G to 4G. And don’t get me started on the battery life!

    But I would LOVE to be able to tether for free or cheap. I’m in the same boat. Need to figure out how to jailbreak and do it that way!!

  8. I totally agree, don’t need tethering that badly to pay even an extra $10 a month.. Plenty of free hotspots all over the place. Hope Verizon enjoys the taste of that data plain, because I’m pretty sure they’re going to be eating it..

  9. Mike, those free hotspots come with their own issues… as it’s way too easy to intercept data, even SSL-protected sites. I use them reluctantly.

    Glenn, Virgin Mobile resells Sprint’s network. So that’s how good/bad it’d be.

  10. Here’s your solution:
    1) get PDANet. (no rooting required, Verizon cannot detect)
    2) use PDANet’s Bluetooth sharing method. (one button push!!)
    3) turn on Bluetooth on your Ipad. Pair with phone.

    Surf the web wirelessly and for free from Ipad. Yes, it works, I use it every day on the train.

    You’re welcome!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. Yeah, PDANet has been around forever. Verizon may or may not be able to detect… and may or may not care. On AT&T, I think they detected the access method. But carriers can also analyze network data to make a determination. If I were on Android, I’d go with PDANet until told otherwise. But I respect those who’d prefer to stay on the straight and narrow.

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