How to turn your netbook into a 3G mobile broadband WiFi hotspot

Netbooks are very useful devices, not just for web surfing and looking at your email for for all sorts of different purposes, some more obvious than others. These devices are all about mobility, but while you are out and about there could be situations where setting up a wireless network to connect a group of machines might be handy and of course Internet access makes this even more useful. Maybe you have a device you would like to use with the Internet while you are away, but it only has WiFi connection (e.g. some portable media players like the iPod Touch) and you cannot plug your 3G mobile broadband modem into it. As long as you have 3G coverage you can have a WiFi hotspot wherever you go, and you don't need to bring a dedicated router as a netbook powered by Ubuntu (or Easy Peasy) can easily fulfill this function.

Setting up your mobile WiFi hotspot ("MiFi"?) is quite straightforward when you use Network Manager, there is no need for any shell commands. Just do the following:

  1. Connect to your mobile broadband service as usual (select the entry by clicking on the Network Manager icon on the top right of your screen.
  2. Click on the Network Manager icon again and select Create New Wireless Network.
  3. A dialogue box will appear prompting you for information for your new network:
    • In the box next to Network Name type in a short recognisable name for your new WiFi network, this will be shown in the list of available wireless networks on other computers for them to join.
    • In Network Security select WEP 128-bit passphrase and enter a password longer than eight characters. Remember this as other computers will need it to connect to your new wireless network.
    • Click Create and your new wireless network will spring into life. The computer will now act as a router for other computers that connect to it and will route requests for an internet site through your mobile broadband modem. You can continue to use the netbook as normal as well.

The security step above is really important. If you do not set up security any passer by could connect to your new WiFi hotspot and steal your data allowance. This could work out to be very costly on a mobile broadband tariff. It is also worth remembering too that the more computers you have on your network the more of your data allowance will get used up, so make allowances and upgrade price plan if need be. I couldn't get the WPA2 method of security to work over this type of connection. Despite being able to set it up with this I found I couldn't connect machines to it, so it had to be WEP as the security method, which is not as desirable but much better than nothing.

Stopping the new ad-hoc WiFi network is a little clumsy as the network manager doesn't have a "disconnect" option for WiFi networks, so what you will have to do it either: connect to a different wireless network or follow these steps:

  1. Right click over the Network Manager icon (near the clock) and untick Enable Wireless
  2. Right click over the Network Manager icon again and select Edit Connections
  3. Click on the Wireless tab, select the network you set up and:
    • If you do not wish to use the connection again click Delete
    • If you want to reuse the connection again, click Edit and untick the box that says Connect automatically and click Apply
  4. Close the Network Connections window
  5. Right click over the Network Manager icon (near the clock) and this time tick Enable Wireless
  6. The WiFi network you created should not now be reactivated.

I tested the method above with my Asus EEE PC 701 and a Huawei E169G dongle from 3, and successfully connected another computer through it and viewed web sites through my mobile broadband connection. Other equipment should work too. I don't know what range (how far you could be away from the EEE to get a signal) you would get, I connected to it over a distance of only a few feet. There are all sorts of uses for this technique though, so if you do make use of it then please tell your story in the comments.

Comments

Oh this is going to be so handy at our Kent Linux User Group meetings when we don't have and need internet access.

Hi Liam

This is really useful, I thought there must be a way to do this but now I know.

Thanks

Sheila

We've been doing this for sometime. using an ad-hoc WiFi network and some routing in one netbook we set up our LANs for exhibitions and trade shows etc.

The cost of Internet access at many shows is ridiculously high (like £100 for 2 days) so using a 3G dongle is a very cost effective solution.

Cheers

Al

Hi

just to say many thanks for the information on your site. I am totally new to Linux and whilst I am trying to get to grips with it - I am amazed by the help and information available online.

Regards

Baz

A Nokia N95 8GB equipped with a program called JoikuHotspot also does this ($35 via credit card). I regularly use my eee901 via my N95 on Vodafone.

Cheers
Lance

Thank you so much, omg. I've been searching for a solution for close to an hour, and turns out your tip on the WEP, not WPA was the key. I used WEP 40 key and that worked perfectly. YAY!

Using this method I'm able to use my Dell netbook to act as a hotspot for a larger Dell laptop, both running Ubuntu 10.04 LTS. This will be super whenever I travel and need to share my Verizon wireless connection with others. Thanks so much for posting this.

But my Motorola Droid does not see the hotspot generated by the Dell netbook! Any ideas? This makes no sense to me at all as the Droid can happily connect to my Linksys router at home.

Hi,

thanks a lot for this helpfull HOW-TO!
I have no wireless lan router until now, only a cable router. But today you need a wireless router, cause of so many devices that uses a wireless connection e.g. Notebook, iPhone, Galaxy Tab and so on.

Greetings and thank you again!
Mariza

I used Icon322 AT&T connection. It can set the hot spot but no internet connection (can't surf the web). Any suggestion?

Hi Liam

Really interesting website !

I've been looking for this solution for a while now having already obatined Joikusoft for my Nokia phone a wifi hotspot but it is a bit slow but OK in an emergency.

I would like to use my ADVENT 4213 as the server because it has a SIM slot under the battery so nothing sticking out of a USB. this netbook has MS XP installed from new.

I want to link to my newer HP G62 running MS Win7 ?

My question relates to the Network Manager Software which I have downloaded but cannot get to run ?
Do I have to down load Easy Peasy first on both machines and if so will that replace the XP and Win7 oprating systems.

Regards

Denny

Many thanks to Liam for writing this up! Works like a charm in Ubuntu 11.04.

@Denny: Software discussed here reffers to Ubuntu Linux, not MS Windows. I believe you should be able to replicate this functionality in windows by sharing your 3G connection in Control Panel - Network connections (or Network and sharing center in Vista and 7)

Thanks John

Will give it a shot but I wanted to use the XP machine as the server because of the built in SIM Card Slot.

Will let you know how I get on

Denny

Hi Liam and the others, I was very happy after having found this solution for setting up a private hotspot. I tried it on an EeePC 701 with fluxflux installed and on the same netbook from an easypeasy-live pendrive. On both systems I could create the wireless network. I could also find this network an connect to it on a vista notebook and on a wifi enabled smartphone. But Icould not connect to internet from it, although the EeePC was connected to mobile broadband through Huawei K3520. I think there must be made a special setting in the network-manager to allow the internet connection, it will not run out of the box. What is important for the setting?
I would be very thankful for a recent answer.
Greetings,
Susanne

i tried doing this on my eee pc but my nokia n8 wont find this wifi network when i search for wifi.
i think it could be because this is an ad-hoc network

Hauled out me old and battered 701, followed the instructions and it set up a hotspot perfectly. It doesn't show up on my android tablet, though.
Well done.

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