I recently was working remotely.  Typically when I do this, I try to find a coffee shop or library–someplace I can park for free or cheap and get access to wifi.

On this trip, for a variety of reasons, finding such a place was going to be more of a hassle than usual.  I had noticed my phone had wifi hotspot capability in the past, so I decided to try it out.

I have AT&T service, and an Android phone (an HTC Inspire running Android 2.3.3).  With my existing 2GB/month data plan, I could not turn on wifi hotspot cability.

However, a quick call to AT&T customer service revealed that the only obstacle was upgrading to a 5GB/month data plan, and that I could downgrade easily if I wasn’t happy.  The change would take place immediately (or at the next billing cycle if I desired). After a day of deliberation, I placed the order, and started using my phone as a wifi hotspot.

Pluses

  • great to work from anywhere where I can get a decent signal
  • able to use go to meeting, video, browse the web, email, skype–there was really no online tool I was not able to use
  • you can control number of users and apply access control

Minuses

  • Speed was like DSL (I had 2 bars most of the time and was on the 4G network, but the phone was a 3G hotspot–not sure what that means)
  • A variety of things could cause internet access to stop: incoming phone calls, downloading lots of data (photoblogs), having three or more browser tabs downloading data, trying to upload a photo and download data in another tab
  • Internet access would stop working every thirty minutes or so with normal usage, requiring me to ‘reset the router’ by turning off the hotspot and mobile data, then turning them back on

Tips

  • Use an offline mail client (thunderbird is my favorite, even though it is no longer being developed).  This will let you respond to emails without using notepad or some other desktop app to capture your thoughts.
  • Practice patience, and if you absolutely must have bulletproof network access, go to a coffee shop.
  • Focus browsing on crucial pages.
  • Having another phone available (for web meetings or regular phone calls) is really helpful
  • Have someone else host skype calls–trying to host didn’t work, but I could participate just fine if someone else hosted

Even though the experience wasn’t optimal, frankly it is pretty amazing that I can use my computer and have reasonable access to the internets from anywhere that has a decent phone signal.


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