Saturday, November 3, 2012

Mobile Hotspot and Home Networking

Problem: I wanted to configure my home network getting internet from my mobile hotspot (i.e. my phone) the same way as if I were getting internet from a cable or dsl modem. My Netgear wireless router (WNR834B) did not want to act as a repeater for the mobile hotspot even though it is theoretically possible to turn it into a wireless repeater. If there's a way, I could not figure it out.

Solution: I bought a Netgear "Range Extender" (WN2000RPT). It was able to connect to the mobile hotspot and configuration was pretty easy. It also provides the usual wireless security I had with my wireless router, i.e. I can prevent unknown Mac addresses from connecting wirelessly. My PC's on the other hand can be hard wired into the ports on the back of the range extender.

One Caveat: One minor problem I had to solve was that I did not want my IP addresses to change if the range extender was not connected to the mobile hotspot. Out of the box, it's designed to configure itself dynamically and it was reverting to default network configurations when not connected to the hotspot. The simple solution was to go into the "IP Address Setup" (after it's connected to the mobile hotspot) and choose to "Use Static IP Address." That locks in the IP configuration.

Conclusion: so far it's working great with the following benefits:
  1. Communication between my two pc's is no longer routed through the mobile hotspot. This is (a) more secure and (b) a whole lot faster! And I do mean a very lot faster.
  2. The pc's can both connect wirelessly to either to the extender or the mobile hotpot -- and they still get the same ip address and are on the same network. But they can also be wired into the back of the repeater -- or both at the same time for Windows 7.
  3. Pc's can communicate with each other, even if the mobile hotspot is not up and running. So, when I leave the building for a while, my pc's can stay connected.