RIM Smartphone How To: Use Your BlackBerry as a Bluetooth Modem for Your PC

Using your RIM BlackBerry as a tethered modem for your laptop can help avoid pesky hotel, cafe and airport hot spots and save a stack of cash. But in this wireless world, who wants to be "tethered?" Follow these steps to cut the wire and use your BlackBerry as a Bluetooth modem.

When you carry a Research In Motion (RIM) BlackBerry, you've got an Internet connection in your pocket wherever you may roam--as long as your travels don't take you outside cellular coverage. And that connection is not restricted to your handheld; rather, many BlackBerrys and other Internet-enabled smartphones can be used as external modems to connect Bluetooth-enabled computers to the Web, saving time and money associated with registering and connecting to hotspots--though depending on the device, your connection will likely be slower than Wi-Fi.

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A few weeks back, as part of our weekly BlackBerry How To series--which includes software downloads, keyboard shortcuts, tips for battery conservation and tricks for "power users," among other valuable tidbits--we offered detailed instructions on how to use your BlackBerry as a tethered modem for your PC. This week, we're "cutting the wire," or eliminating the need for a USB cable, and presenting a set of five quick tips for using your Bluetooth-enabled BlackBerry device as a dial-up modem.

According to RIM, BlackBerry Pearl 8100, Curve 8300 series and 8800 series devices running handheld software 4.2 or higher all support dial-up networking via Bluetooth. And all of the major U.S. wireless carriers, including AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint, allow their BlackBerry devices--as well as some additional smartphones--to be used as tethered modems. However, their charges for the functionality differ dramatically, from as much as $30 on top of existing monthly data plans (AT&T) to nothing at all (T-Mobile). You will also need to be using a PC running Windows XP or Vista, and you may need to purchase an external adaptor if your PC doesn't have Bluetooth built in.

1) Ensure Your BlackBerry Is "Discoverable"

To make sure your PC can locate your BlackBerry's Bluetooth connection, you need to set the handheld to be "Discoverable." To do so, simply click the Options icon on your BlackBerry home screen, scroll to and click onBluetooth and hit the BlackBerry Menu key--Menu is located directly to the left of the trackball on 8xxx series devices. Then choose Options from that menu. If the Discoverable field isn't set to Yes, use the associated dropdown menu to switch the value, hit the Escape button--to the right of the trackball--and save your changes when the menu prompts appears. (Note: You can turn off the Discoverable option at any time after pairing a new device by repeating these steps and setting the field to No. )

Screenshot of BlackBerry Bluetooth Options screen

2) Pair and Connect Your BlackBerry and PC

Next you need to pair your BlackBerry and the PC. Begin by accessing the Windows Control Panel on your PC. Control Panel can be found within the Windows Start Menu . Next click on Bluetooth Devices and then choose Add.

On the following screen, check the box next to "My device is set up and ready to be found," and then hit Next. The PC software will attempt to locate your BlackBerry or other Bluetooth device. If successful and your device is found, click on it to highlight the selection and hit Next again. (If your computer cannot find the BlackBerry, try switching the Bluetooth on and off via the device's Manage Connections or Bluetooth options screen. Additional troubleshooting tips can be found online and via a Google search.)

Screenshot of BlackBerry pairing with computer screen

After you've selected the specific BlackBerry you want your PC to communicate with, check the box next to "Let me choose my own passkey" , type in and record a four-digit number, and hit Next again. Your BlackBerry will then request the passkey you just entered, and after you provide it and click your trackball, the two devices will be successfully paired.

Finally, complete the pairing process by hitting the Finish button in the dialogue box on your PC. When another box appears on your BlackBerry asking if you want to accept the Bluetooth connection, fill in the "Don't ask again" box and choose Yes.

3) Create New Internet Access Point Name (APN)

Setting up a new Internet Access Point Name (APN) is the next step in the process. Open your Control Panel again, but this time choose Phone and Modem Options and click the Modems tab. From the list of options on that tab, choose Standard Modem over Bluetooth Link and hit the Properties button at the bottom of the window. Once the Properties window opens, click on the Advanced tab at the top of the box and in the Extra Initialization Commands field type:

+cgdcont=1,"IP"," Your Internet APN "

(Note: If you don't know your Internet Access Point Name (APN), you can contact your wireless carrier's customer support representatives. Or you can try to find your APN by clicking the Options icon on your BlackBerry home screen, then Advanced Options, and TCP. If the Internet APN has been saved within the device, it will be listed in this menu.)

Click OK once you've filled in the Extra Initialization Commands field and hit OK again when the Phone and Modem Options tab reappears.

4) Setup Dial-up Networking

Open up your Windows Start menu, mouse over the Connect To option and then click Show All Connections. Then click Bluetooth DUN Connections and choose Properties. In that window, click the Networking tab, highlight Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) and again choose Properties. A new window will appear, in which you should click Advanced. In that new window, hit General and make sure the Use IP Compression Box is blank. Then hit OK and all windows will close.

Again, launch your Windows Start menu, highlight the Connect To option and then click Show All Connections. In the Network Tasks box in the right-hand margin, click Create a New Connection to launch the New Connection Wizard . Then click Next , choose the Connect to the Internet option and hit Next again. Pick Setup My Connection Manually and hit Next again. Select Connect Using a Dialup Modem , and hit Next . Select only the Standard Modem over Bluetooth Link option and on the Select a Device screen, check the box next to Modem -- Standard Modem and hit Next again. Leave the ISP Name box blank and once again click Next. In the Phone Number field type one of the following options, depending on which wireless technology your phone employs:

  • If your device operates on GSM/GPRS/EDGE networks, type *99# and choose

    Next

  • If your device operates on GSM/UMTS/HSDPA, type *98# and choose Next .

  • If your device operates on CDMA/1XEVDO, type #777 and choose Next .

You'll then be prompted for the User Name and Password provided by your wireless carrier upon signing up for the tethered modem service. (If you don't know your User Name or Password , contact your service provider. Performing a Google search might help, as well. Some default User Names and Passwords can also be found online. And some carriers do not require this information.) After you've filled in the appropriate data, click Finish to close the window.

5) Connect to the Web, Start Surfing

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From your Network Connections screen, click the Name of Your New Connection , type in your User Name and Password , if required, and click Dial . You'll be up and running in no time. (If you experience problems connecting for the first time, make sure the BlackBerry is linked to the PC via Bluetooth--see step two--close out any applications that may be running on the device and deactivate any Ethernet connections to your PC.

For more on this process, visit RIM's Technical Solutions Center.

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