How to Convert a Cell Phone Network to Wi-Fi

By Candace Benson

Cell tower
i cell phone tower image by Stephen VanHorn from

Using your cell phone--or a dedicated mobile broadband adapter or card--to connect to the Internet has become increasingly common, whether at home or on the road. Cellular networks often provide the best speed and latency for more remote locations, and are cheaper than some hotels' Wi-Fi networks. Since the cell phone or card must plug directly into your computer in order for you to access a network, the limitations of single usage can become frustrating if you're traveling with friends or family, or if you want to provide a long-term Wi-Fi network at home. Thankfully, computer owners have several options for converting a single-use cell phone network to Wi-Fi.

Purchase a Mi-Fi device if you have Sprint or Verizon Wireless as your cell phone network. Set up your Mi-Fi device to work as a hotspot. Note that only five devices can access the Mi-Fi at one time, so if you need to allow for more connections, try another method. You must also purchase a Mi-Fi device, which can be expensive, or sign a contract for a price reduction. If you currently do not have a cellular phone network adapter and plan to use the Mi-Fi regularly, this may be a good option.

Download and set up Connectify, the wireless software router program, if you are running Windows 7 (see Resources). Connectify allows you to share your cell phone network connection via a Wi-Fi network. During setup, you define the SSID or network name, along with security parameters and other options. If you've installed a router before, the process is similar. The big downside is that the host computer must be running Windows 7 in order for your to use Connectify. Note that any computer or Wi-Fi-enabled device may access the Connectify hotspot.

Share an Internet connection through an ad hoc network. Ad hoc networks are geared towards wireless users, unlike the Internet Connection Sharing (ICS) feature. Like ICS, the ad hoc host computer must remain powered on and in range of other computers for other users to access the Internet connection. Ad hoc networks are good options for short-term usage, but not for day-to-day usage.

Purchase and set up a router that is compatible with your cell phone network and with your network card. Cradlepoint and Kyocera produce some of the most popular and highly-rated mobile broadband routers (see Resources). Unlike the Mi-Fi device, you can network other computers via a wired Ethernet connection on some routers, and are not limited to five or fewer connections at once. Some routers also offer load-balancing, which allows you to connect more than one modem to the router. Load-balancing is recommended if you plan to allow multiple user access to your Wi-Fi network on a daily basis.