Talking BlackBerry Encyclopedia
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Tallahassee, FL
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I use tethering all day every day at work to provide Internet access for my personal laptop ('cause I'm in a secure building with a restrictive network - and they don't care, as long as I don't connect my laptop to the internal network).
I used to have a Razr and an aircard (EVDO Rev 0 - not Rev A). Then I got a Blackberry Pearl (which is, of course, Rev 0) and ditched the aircard - starting using the Pearl tethered. Then I got a Storm (which is Rev A) and continued tethering. I dumped my Verizon tethering and started using TetherBerry approximately 6 weeks ago. Been with Verizon through it all.
I used to have a BIS account, which was $30/month, and tethering was an extra $15/month. Then I upgraded to a BES, so my bill went up to $45/month, still with an extra $15/month for tethering. Now, I'm still on a BES (hosted Exchange through MailStreet.com), but I just dropped the $15/month for tethering.
At no time has tethering via my phone ever been less reliable than using an aircard. The only difference is, for the extra $45/month of having an aircard, I could be on the Internet and talk on the phone at the same time. When I changed from an aircard to just a Blackberry, it was a conscious decision to accept that limitation in exchange for the reduced cost. I have not regretted that choice at all. And, when I need short periods of Internet access, tethering via Bluetooth is definitely more convenient than digging out an aircard and sticking it in the laptop (but TetherBerry doesn't support Bluetooth yet, so I can no longer do that).
I benchmarked Verizon tethering (which uses Dial-Up Networking, so your computer sees your Blackberry as a dial-up modem) against TetherBerry tethering (which makes your phone into a USB Ethernet adapter from your computer's point of view). I used the Speakeasy.net Speedtest and ran against servers in San Francisco and Atlanta. I did multiple each way, alternating between connection methods.
Tethering via TetherBerry was consistently slower than tethering using VZW's dial-up option. TB gave 700 - 900 Kpbs downloads and VZW gave 1500 - 1600 Kbps downloads.
But, TB does have one significant advantage (besides being cheaper in the long-term). With TB, your phone is just sharing its data connection. It never enters modem mode. With VZW, the phone goes into modem mode and, while in modem mode, it does not maintain its own data connection. So, with VZW, while tethered, emails received do not show up on your phone until you disconnect (i.e. end the tethering session). When you disconnect, the BB then downloads all the queued messages at once.
With TB tethering, the BB has its data connection the whole time. So, I normally see email show up on my BB and in my Outlook Inbox within seconds of each other (usually on the BB first). That, by itself, it not a HUGE deal. But, in combination with a couple of BB/VZW bugs, it becomes a big deal.
There are two problems with VZW tethering:
1) If you stay tethered for too long (it seems to be somewhere around the hour mark), when you disconnect, the BB will have dropped its data connection and will not recover it for anywhere from 5 minutes to (I've had it take) 45 minutes. Usually, you can get it to reconnect by going into Manage Connections and turning off the radio, then turning it back on, but this doesn't always get it going. Or, you can do a battery pull.
2) If you send emails from Outlook while tethered (at least, if you're on a BES), the sent messages end up showing up on the BB as received messages (not sent), but saying they're from you. After a few phone chats with MailStreet Tech Support, they determined that it was a known bug at RIM, and was supposed to be corrected in some upcoming release of the BES software. It may, in fact, be fixed now. I don't know.
Another "good thing" about TB using the phone's data connection (instead of modem mode) is that you can do (or re-do) an Enterprise Activation through it, which I don't think you can in modem mode.
Normally, if you upgrade your BB OS (and you're on a BES), there's two ways to re-activate on the BES after the upgrade. One, you get your BES admin to reset your BES password, then you do an OTA activation. That works fine, but it requires cooperation from your admin. Or, two, you upgrade your BB OS, then you connect it to your computer, where you have the Desktop Manager running and connected to your BES and it will do the activation without requiring a BES password reset.
As far as I know, the BB cannot do an enterprise activation while it's in modem mode ('cause it won't connect to the Desktop Manager). So, if you only have Internet access via VZW (i.e. dial-up) tethering, you cannot do a BB OS upgrade and re-activate on the BES without admin help.
OTOH, if you do an OS upgrade, then run TetherBerry and connect your phone to your computer, the BB Desktop Manager can then connect to your BES (via the Internet connection through the tethered phone), and then your phone can re-activate on the BES - essentially, going from the phone, through the computer, back out of the computer through the phone (via TetherBerry), and on to the BES. I used this method to re-activate last week, after I upgraded to Storm OS .122, and it worked fine. It was very nice because I didn't have to call MailStreet to get an admin to reset my BES password, and I didn't have to wait until I was somewhere where I could get my laptop onto a regular Internet connection.
Finally, calling VZW's plan an "Unlimited" plan and then expecting it to be truly unlimited is ridiculous and naive. You are renting bandwidth from them. Like anything else, the actual contract can specify whatever restrictions the vendor wants to, in terms of usage. If you don't like the restrictions, you don't have to enter the contract.
In this particular case, VZW's Terms of Service for the Unlimited BB Data Plan specifically say that using the BB tethered in any way to a computer is forbidden. Further, they also say that, if you exceed 5 GB of data transfer in a month, they have the right to restrict your service (i.e. I believe they can set your account to get slower speeds on data transfers).
So, using TetherBerry without also paying Verizon their extra monthly fee for tethering is, inarguably, a violation of the Terms of Service. Sorry. Lump it.
That said, numerous people on the TetherBerry forums reported that they called Verizon to ask about using TetherBerry and were told that Verizon doesn't care. Which just means (to me), they haven't noticed the TetherBerry sting in their wallet area yet. So, TB is a money-saver for now, but don't expect it to always be. I figure if it keeps working for me for another 6 weeks, I'll break even on what it cost me. After that, it's free money.
Verizon 8130 (on the bench, now
Verizon 9530 (replaced by VZW 4 times, then with a 9550)