The idiot’s guide to using your BlackBerry as a modem

Posted by Cooper on December 27, 2007 | 135 comments | Filed under : BlackBerry Guides

Have you ever been on a business trip and found yourself without a wifi connection for your laptop? Yes, free wifi can be found in almost all hotel/motel rooms these days, but service outages and other factors can still come into play, leaving you with no connectivity and no way to get the days work from your laptop into the hands of your team back home. Luckily for you BlackBerry owners, there is another great option available. Of course I am referring to the fact that you can use your BlackBerry as a modem during times of limited or non existent wifi access.

In this article, I will discuss the process of implementing your BlackBerry as a modem. I will make note of all the required files and equipment and link to as many resources as possible to ensure you have all the information necessary to take on this task yourself. while the concept of using the BlackBerry as a modem itself is straight forward, the process involved has quite a few nuances unique to various model/carrier combinations.
Sit back, take a deep breath and lets get into it!

Required items and software
BlackBerry Smartphones

The first thing you will need to have on hand is a BlackBerry smartphone. Various models of BlackBery are available; however, not all models include “tethered modem functionality”. The following list includes all BlackBerry models that will perform as a modem when tethered to a laptop.

BlackBerry 7130c
BlackBerry 7130e
BlackBerry 7250
BlackBerry Curve 8300
BlackBerry Curve 8310
BlackBerry Curve 8320
BlackBerry 8703e
BlackBerry 8705g
BlackBerry 8707g
BlackBerry 8800
BlackBerry 8820
BlackBerry 8830 World Edition
Cables and Software
In order to utilize your BlackBerry as a modem you will need to have a USB cable connected and have the BlackBerry Handheld Manager installed on your laptop. The BlackBerry Handheld Manager is a component of the BlackBerry Desktop Manager software. In order to initialize the BlackBerry Handheld Manager, simply activate the Desktop Manager software. The BlackBerry Handheld Manager will now be running in the background.

Drivers
Most versions of the BlackBerry Desktop will have shipped with the necessary modem drivers installed. In the event that you do not have a set of modem drivers installed with your current BlackBerry desktop, you will need to either install them manually or download the latest release of the BlackBerry Desktop Software. If you require more information about the installation of modem drivers for your BlackBerry, please check out the discussions at the BlackBerry Forums.

The Set Up
Verifying your Modem Configuration:
Once you have made sure that you have all of the essential items listed above, it is time to verify that your set up is complete. This includes verifying that your modem driver exists and is functioning correctly. This step requires going into the control panel settings of your BlackBerry and configuring specific properties related to your chosen provider. For complete step-by-step instructions on how to verify your modem installation and functionality, check out the BlackBerry Forums related post.

Adding a New Internet Connection:
The next step in the process is to add a new internet connection within your laptop. This connection will be reserved for internet usage via the BlackBerry as modem only. Set up this new internet connection like any other, the process will vary depending on if you are using Windows XP or Vista.

If you are having issues, simply perform a Google search for the term “new internet connection” plus the OS you are using. Additionally you will have to enter some carrier specific details when assigning the required usernames and passwords. A complete list of supported carriers and their username/password details can be found in this BlackBerry Forum discussion post.

Disabling the IP Header Compression:
It is important to disable IP header compression along with disabling hardware flow control, modem error control and modem compression. These can be disabled by following these simple steps:

Start Menu->Network Connections->”BlackBerry Modem”
Click Properties Button
Click Networking Tab
Select “Internet Protocol (TCP/IP)”
Click Properties Button
Click Advanced… Button
Disable “Use IP header compression” checkbox
Click all OK buttons to close all dialogs
Configuring your BES:
If you have your BlackBerry service set up through a BlackBerry Enterprise Server, you will need to contact your Exchange hosting provider and ask that they enable the “BlackBerry IPModem” setting on the BES. This setting was introduced in Version 4.0 of BES.

Fire up your Laptop and get to surfing:
Once you have your BlackBerry and laptop configured using the steps laid out here and in the information contained in the BlackBerry Forum post, you are ready to begin surfing. Simply connect the BlackBerry to your Laptop via USB, run the BlackBerry Desktop Software and click on the BlackBerry Modem icon in your list of available network connections. You will now be surfing the web at broadband speeds using nothing more than your BlackBerry for your internet connection.

A Word of Warning
While most wireless carriers offer you an “unlimited” data plan for the duration of your service contract, it is quite common for there to be small print that protects the carrier from excessive usage on your part. It is always a good idea to discuss any plans of this nature with your provider to ensure that you are within their terms of service. You do not want to check the mail next month and find an $85,000 data charge on your statement. These words to the wise also apply to anyone who is not currently using a plan that allows for unlimited data transfer. If you do not have unlimited data plan, do not even think of using your BlackBerry as a modem.

How about some Bluetooth Connections?
The previous method explained above required that you have your BlackBerry and your laptop connected through USB cable in order to facilitate the tethered relationship. Depending on what model of BlackBerry you are using, you may also have the option to tether your BlackBerry to your laptop via Bluetooth connectivity.

Enabling Bluetooth connections on your BlackBerry and PC:
The Bluetooth functionality of your BlackBerry can be enabled in a few minutes. Once it has been setup, you can then use your BlackBerry to wirelessly transfer files, synchronize your PC and function as a modem. For a step by step guide to the process of enabling Bluetooth on your BlackBerry, head over to the somelife blog where it is discussed in detail.

The Setup:
The first step you will need to take is setting up your ISP or cellphone provider specific information and a new internet connection. This is very similar to the process as described above. There are a few variances however, so I would suggest heading on over to Somelife and reading another one of their posts containing specific detailed instructions.

For BlackBerry Users who do not have a device that supports tethering
OK so we have discussed how to connect your BlackBerry to your PC so that it can act as a modem during times of limited connectivity. We have even shed some light on the two methods available to do so. The question remains however, for all BlackBerry owners who do not have the latest and greatest models, is there any way that they can play the modem game too?

The answer is yes. Despite older models of the BlackBerry not having the advanced modem functionality, there is a third party solution which is available to all.

Introducing the MobiShark Modem:
The MobiShark BlackBerry Modem supports connections via USB and Bluetooth. It is an straight forward solution for anyone who is trying to squeeze modem functionality out of an outdated handheld model. Conveniently, it also helps to connect users who have service with carriers who do not support tethering. Built to help you avoid data charges (extra tethering charges levied by most cellphone companies), the MobiShark modem pays for itself($49.97) in a short amount of time. The MobiShark software is available as a free trial download.

The process of setting up the MobiShark modem is quick and painless. Simply download and install the software onto your PC. Once this is complete, use the BlackBerry Application loader to place the required files onto your BlackBerry. Once you have both elements installed, you will be surfing without a hitch.

Stay tuned to BBGeeks in the coming weeks for a full featured review of the MobiShark software.

Finally, what if I have a Mac?
Last but not least, we have the Mac crowd. If you are the proud owner of both a BlackBerry and a Mac machine, give yourself a pat on the back and do not feel left out. There is also a process which can be completed to hook your BlackBerry up to the Mac to act as a modem. The process is quite similar to the PC method described above, but with a few specific differences due to the Mac OS. Take a look at the instructions which were put together by Dave Taylor at www.askdavetaylor.com

Thats it folks, hopefully I have pointed you to a bunch of valuable resources that will provide you will all the details you need to get your BlackBerry operational as a modem whether it be through USB tether or via Bluetooth connectivity.

Good luck and if you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments and I will do my best to answer them for you.

Here is a list of additional resources you might find handy:

Using your BlackBerry as a Modem
Blackberry Modem Mash – Addendum
HOWTO: Use BlackBerry As Modem For Laptop
Using Your BlackBerry As A Modem
Using the Blackberry as a tethered modem
BlackBerry as a tethered modem
HOWTO: BlackBerry As Modem For Laptop