There's nothing worse than being stuck somewhere with nothing to do, be it the airport, public transportation, or an incredibly boring lecture. As someone who almost always has his laptop handy, I often find myself wishing I could get on the internet to talk to friends, check email, and read up on the latest news – anything to pass the time. The problem is that mobile data service is so darn expensive. Verizon and Sprint both charge almost $60 per month for speeds of 60 to 80kbps, and Cingular isn't much better with a price of around $45 per month. T-Mobile used to have a great Unlimited GPRS plan for only $19.99 per month, but alas, they now package it with their WiFi crap and force you to pay $29.99 per month for unlimited data.
But don't lose hope. There's actually a way to connect your laptop to the internet, almost anywhere in the US, to take care of your web browsing, instant messaging, and IRC needs, without having to worry about over-usage fees, for only $5.99 per month. The secret is in the details.
You see, T-Mobile has several tiers of data service all with different and mostly-meaningless names. The first part of the trick is figuring out what the differences are and using them to your advantage. Let's take a look:
- T-MobileWeb – $5.99 – Internet access intended to be used by your phone. Formally called "T-Zones". Operates through the APN wap.voicestream.com. Outbound traffic is restricted to ports 25, 110, 143, 465, 587, 993, 995, and 8080. The IP you are issued is non-public. An HTTP proxy is also provided at 22.214.171.124.
- Total Internet – $29.99 – Same as T-MobileWeb, but without the port restrictions and uses a different APN. Operates through the APN: internet2.voicestream.com. The IP you are issued is non-public.
- Blackberry Unlimited – $19.99 – Same as Total Internet, but cheaper and includes some extra support for Blackberry's. Operates through the APN: blackberry.voicestream.com. The IP you are issued is non-public.
- Internet with VPN – Same as Total Internet, but you actually get a public IP, albiet a dynamic one, instead of one based on NAT.
It should be noted that with EDGE-enabled phones, consistent speeds of 190Kbps are common.
Simply put, your laptop can be configured to use the APN that was intended for your phone. So, if you just want to be able to connect to the internet for web browsing, AIM, and/or IRC, here's how it's done for $5.99 per month:
- Sign up for T-MobileWeb and get an EDGE-capable phone. They're free with a contract, and if you're already with T-Mobile, chances are good that your phone is already EDGE-capable.
- Download drivers for your phone from the phone's manufacturer. These are usually very, very easy to find. If you have trouble, post a comment with your phone brand and I'll help you find them.
- Connect your phone to your laptop via Bluetooth, Infrared, or by USB Data Cable, whichever floats your boat.
- Create a Dial-Up Networking connection, select your phone as the modem.
- Then go to the "Advanced" Tab and add this line into the "Extra Initialaization commands":
- Now simply set the phone number to *99# and dial. A connection should be established pretty quickly.
- Configure your browser to use the HTTP proxy:
- Firefox users, click Tools > Options and then click on "Connection Settings". Enter 126.96.36.199 as the HTTP proxy and 8080 as the port number
- Internet Explorer users, click Tools -> Internet Options, choose the connection tab. Then the "LAN Settings…" button. You MUST have "Automatically detect settings" with a checkmark. Put a checkmark at the bottom at the "Use a proxy server for your LAN" and put the "Address:" of 188.8.131.52 and the Port of 8080.
That's it! Enjoy unlimited 190Kbps nationwide internet access for only $5.99 per month. And, if you feel like the port restrictions are getting in the way, just tunnel through a free service like Silence is Defeat.
Enjoy! Be sure to post a comment to let me know how it went for you.