Connecting to the Internet via a phone 21 years ago

Let me take you back 21 years, to the autumn of 2002. It had been a year since the first full release of Mac OS X, when 10.2 Jaguar had just been released, six years before you could buy the first iPhone, when no Mac had built-in Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi required an optional AirPort card. Let me repeat those last two to help them sink in: Bluetooth wasn’t built in, and Wi-Fi was only available as an option.

The relatively few of us who used the Internet then did so mostly using dial-up modems. Even if you were fortunate enough to have a mobile phone in those days, they had to use dial-up Internet connections too. So what did you do when you were on the road with your PowerBook G4, or your modem couldn’t connect? We connected to the Internet via a Bluetooth dongle and mobile phone. Here’s an article I wrote then explaining how to manage this technological feat. The phone I was using at the time was a brand new Ericsson T68, with a display resolution of 101 x 80 in 256 colours, no camera, but the novelty of predictive text.

What it does

You wish to connect your Bluetooth-equipped Mac to the Internet through your mobile phone.

What you need

A Mac running Mac OS X 10.1.x or later, Apple’s Bluetooth support software (bundled in 10.2 Jaguar), Apple-supplied D-Link USB Bluetooth transceiver, Bluetooth-equipped mobile phone with airtime facilities and contract (e.g. GPRS).

Setting It Up


Install the Bluetooth software (10.2 already has support) and connect your USB adaptor to a port on your Mac. A new pane appears in System Preferences, Bluetooth. Click to open it and check the Discoverable and Show Bluetooth Status items. Enter the Bluetooth control section of your phone’s menus, turn Bluetooth on, then set your phone to Discover. Authenticate using the same number, 1111 perhaps, on each, and they should pair.


Once paired – and that can sometimes prove a bit fiddly – your phone knows your Mac by its AppleShare computer name, and your Mac knows the phone by its name. Re-pairing in the future should be simpler, but follows the same basic sequence of making your Mac discoverable, letting the phone discover it, then completing the pairing. Switch your phone’s Bluetooth to automatic to save battery power when not paired.


Click on the Network pane, and using the Active Network Ports popup item turn off other connections apart from bluetooth-modem. Configure that connection to use PPP in the TCP/IP pane. Switch to the PPP pane, and enter connection details provided by your phone network. The phone ‘number’ to dial is a special series of characters, set by the network, and you may need to set PPP Options too.


In the Modem pane, select an appropriate phone from the popup Modem list. Although using an Ericsson T68 here, the closest listed is the T39 running at 28.8 kbps. You may have to try out different modem setting scripts to see which works best with your particular phone, network, and airtime contract. You can also create your own connection scripts using Modem Script Generator.


Apply the changes to Network now, and open the Internet Connect application. Ensure that the correct configuration is selected, and check the details again. When you’re happy, and confident that your phone is within Bluetooth signal range and has a good phone signal strength (if using GPRS, ensure that its signal is strong rather than the regular GSM voice signal), click on the Connect button.


Once your connection is established you can browse the Web, collect and send email, and use all the facilities of the Internet from your Mac. Connection speeds are inferior to those made over telephone wires, though, and pedestrian compared with broadband. The menubar status holds a popup menu for ready access to key applications. Click on Internet Connect’s Disconnect button when finished.

Potential problems

Provided that you are using an Apple/D-Link Bluetooth adaptor, the two critical steps are establishing the pairing between your Mac and phone, and making the connection through the phone as a virtual modem. When pairing, hold the two devices within a couple of metres, away from AirPort base stations, and step carefully through the process of discovery. Refer to your mobile phone manual if necessary. Detailed connection instructions for computers working through mobile phones are provided by the major networks, for which you should consult their Web pages and call support if still stuck. Note that these are network specific.

Further info

Check your mobile phone network support pages, the phone’s manual, and in extremis ask for help in the Internet newsgroup alt[.]cellular[.]bluetooth. Some phones have good support pages, and third party sites such as www[.]tsixtyeight[.]com for Ericsson T68/T68i.


Install software and hardware.
Make your Mac discoverable, and get your phone to Discover it. Establish the pairing.
Turn off other network connections and switch to bluetooth modem, in the Network pane.
Configure the network according to your phone service instructions.
Set the correct modem type.
Use Internet Connect to establish the connection, and to terminate it.

In case you’re wondering, the 28.8 referred to as the connection speed was 28.8 Kbps, not Mbps.
First published in the UK magazine MacUser, vol 18 no 20, in autumn 2002.