Tech Road Warrior – Don’t Pay for Expensive Hotel Wi-Fi

Recently, I’ve taken various trips for work and for pleasure, staying at different mid and high-level hotels run by large, well-known chains that cater to business travelers. I was surprised to find that the hotels charged for in-room Wi-Fi Internet access, anywhere from $10 to $20 per day. Now, I could get free Wi-Fi if I went to the lobby, but since I use apps on my tablet like Tune-in Radio and Pandora to listen to music or the local news radio station while I am getting ready in the morning, I couldn’t exactly shower and shave in the lobby of the hotel. And once I get ready to turn in for the night, I’m loathe to leave the room unless it is for an absolute emergency.

It used to be that you could get free Wi-Fi access almost anywhere, hotels included, and some hotels still allow free wired access (physically connecting your device via Ethernet cable to a port in the room). However, many mobile devices cannot use a wired connection. And many hotels are moving both Wi-Fi and wired connections behind a “paywall”.

What is a Tech Road Warrior to do? How about making use of the large data plan and wireless 4G connection of his or her smart phone?Warrior

Now, I did this using a Google Nexus S 4G wireless phone running Android 4.1 – the phone is over two years old so it is by no means the latest and greatest in terms of technology – and an Apple iPad mini running iOS 6.1. Your mileage may vary depending on your equipment, but a wireless phone with 4G capability is a must and Bluetooth wireless connectivity is also required for whatever devices you will be connecting together – most phones and mobile devices, as well as many laptops, now come with Bluetooth built in, Also, you should have a fairly robust wireless data plan (I have an unlimited plan) if you are going to be doing a lot of work utilizing the wireless connection of the phone.

It took a bit of trial and error, but I knew that I could “tether” devices to my phone to make use of the phone resources. So I went about tinkering with my phone settings to try to get this set up.

First thing was to check to make sure I had a good 3G signal on my wireless phone. Typically, if you have a good 3G signal, you will have a good 4G signal – where it is available. I leave 4G off by default as leaving 4G on is a battery vampire.

Since I had a good 3G signal on my phone, I went into the system settings on the phone and made sure Bluetooth was turned on. I then selected more under Wireless & Networks, selected 4G settings and turned on 4G. It connected to my wireless carrier’s 4G network, so I plugged my phone into an outlet – remember, battery vampire (and my phone battery gets very hot when running 4G. If you connect to an outlet, the phone uses that power instead of the battery’s power).

Next, I backed out to the Wireless & Networks screen and choose Tethering & portable hotspot. I selected the check box by Bluetooth tethering so that the device I was going to connect could share the phone’s 4G wireless connection.

The last step was to pair the devices together. On my phone, I backed out to the settings screen and touched the Bluetooth area (not the sliding switch) to open the Bluetooth settings on the phone. I also went to the settings on my iPad, made sure Bluetooth was turned on and selected the Bluetooth settings. I then touched the Search for Devices on the phone. It found the iPad and I selected pair. I went to the iPad and looked at the Bluetooth devices available and chose the phone.

Finally, I made the connection by choosing pair in the window that opened on each device after making sure that the pairing code that was generated by the phone matched the code that came up on the iPad. The iPad connected to the phone, and I could now use the phone’s 4G wireless connection for Internet access! As long as you aren’t downloading large files or video, it was perfectly acceptable for checking e-mail, reading news sites and even streaming music and radio and I didn’t have to pay the exorbitant Wi-Fi prices the hotel wanted to charge.

-Tony L.
Emerging Technologies Librarian

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