Laptops are, without exception, limited to pure Wi-Fi connections. Desktop computers never have an integrated mobile Internet. But what if you need to put your Linux computer online but don't have a wireless or ethernet network?
The answer is tethering. With a smartphone you can share your mobile internet with your computer.
As long as your network operator does not restrict the use of your data, sharing the Internet connection (also known as Netshare) with a Linux computer is a good option. Wi-Fi tethering is an option. Learn how to use USB tethering on Linux with Android and iPhone.
What is tethering?
Tethering is the name for connecting a mobile device to a computer to share the mobile Internet.
While some carriers may restrict this activity, it is rare these days. Most smartphones have a data plan that enables tethering, making tethering an attractive way to go online.
Strictly speaking, tethering refers to the use of a USB cable to share the mobile Internet. This means you will have to carry your phone's USB data cable around with you if you want to use tethering.
Wireless tethering is also possible via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. This is also known as a "wireless hotspot". Wireless tethering is easier in most cases, but there are good reasons to use USB tethering:
- For a reliable network connection
- So that your phone stays charged
- Avoid radio interference
- Prevent wireless sniffers from intercepting data
If you don't have a suitable USB cable, you can use your phone as a wireless hotspot as follows
How to set up a home wireless network with a mobile phone
. Simply connect your Linux computer to your phone's hotspot to go online.
Use the correct USB cable to connect
Before proceeding, you must ensure that you are using a USB cable that is suitable for connection. Not all cables work for this, as some are only designed for the power supply. The best way to check if your USB cable is suitable for tethering is to connect it to your computer. Connect your phone and wait for one of the two devices to recognize the other. If some form of data transfer or file browsing is available, it's suitable for tethering.
If there is a problem with the cable, you should be able to buy a suitable data-ready alternative online.
The following methods require that you connect the mobile device to your PC using a USB cable before you enable tethering.
How to bind Android phones to Linux
If you have an Android device, tethering is straightforward, also because the phone and PC are Linux-based.
If you want to connect Android to Linux using a USB cable:
- Connect the USB cable to your phone and your Linux PC.
- Android recognizes the connection. When prompted to allow access, select enable.
- By doing Notifications find the USB Message and tap on it.
- Under Use USB for, choose USB tethering.
In most cases, the connection is established automatically. Check the IP address of your device to make sure it worked with ifconfig or IP address. Look for an option called usb0.
Some distributions may require you to choose the USB connection.
- On a Linux system, locate the system tray applet
- Click here to find the network option with a name like "auto usb0".
- Select this option to connect Linux to your phone using the USB cable.
You don't have a data plan that enables connection? Limitations can be avoided by installing a custom Android ROM.
Would you like to connect a BlackBerry phone?
Depending on how old your BlackBerry is, there are different ways to connect it to a Linux system. If you have a BlackBerry, it either runs:
- Android (since 2015)
- BlackBerry 10 (2013-2018)
- Blackberry OS 7.0 (2011-2013)
For information about BlackBerry devices with Android, see the section above. For BlackBerry 10 and BlackBerry OS 7.0, see below.
To bind phones to BlackBerry 10 via USB, first connect the phone to your computer. Then:
- to open Settings> Network Connections> Internet Tethering.
- Tap Connect.
- Choose USB.
- Activate Internet tethering.
Would you like to bind a BlackBerry OS phone to Linux?
- Tap Manage Connections> Network and Connections.
- Find Mobile hotspot connections then
- Set up the network credentials.
Whichever method you use, choose the usb0 Network in your Linux panel if no automatic connection is established.
How to bind iPhones to Linux
If you have an iPhone with a data plan that enables tethering, you can set up USB tethering.
In contrast to Android, the connection is not established automatically. Instead, you need libimobiledevice, a cross-platform software protocol library and tools for native communication with iOS devices. Visit www.libimobiledevice.org to confirm current compatibility.
If you are using Ubuntu, libimobiledevice should already be installed. If not, open a terminal before connecting your iPhone to Linux and enter the following:
sudo apt install libimobiledevice6
To connect to the Internet from your iPhone:
- to open Settings> Personal hotspot.
- Activate Allow others to join.
Now all you have to do is select the connection under Linux. In contrast to Android, iPhone devices are shown as a new Ethernet device and not as a USB. So look for eth0 or eth1 – usually the latter, since eth0 should be assigned to your ethernet port.
Connect Linux phones to Linux
Several mobile Linux operating systems are available. These include a mobile version of Pure OS on the Librem 5, PostmarketOS on the PinePhone and UBPorts, the sequel to Ubuntu Touch.
It may be surprising that not all of them offer reliable options for USB or wireless tethering. For details, see the documentation for the Linux mobile project you are using.
Connect your phone to Linux: success!
While smartphones can be used as wireless hotspots for laptops and computers, USB tethering remains useful. Your computer may have a damaged network card or devices that are susceptible to radio interference.
Ultimately, sharing your phone's mobile internet is a great way to get your Linux PC or other device online. If you fear that the phone will lose charge, the USB cable will ensure that it is powered by your PC. It is a win-win situation!
Do you want to share your phone's internet connection with another operating system? You can connect the mobile internet from an Android phone
How to connect the mobile internet to your PC via tethering
to your PC or laptop and use the hotspot function on an iPhone
How to use the hotspot feature on your iPhone