Use Droid Bionic As A Mobile Hotspot Without Paying Extra

Apparently Verizon customers are expected to pay for a second data plan if they want to be allowed to use a cellphone as a mobile hotspot. This means one data plan for the phone, and a second for the tethering. [DroidBionicRoot] thinks this is a little silly since there is already a data cap on the phone’s plan. But he’s found a way around it if you don’t mind rooting the phone to enable free tethering.

Not surprisingly it’s a very simple alteration. The phone is already capable of tethering, to enable the feature without Verizon’s permission just edit one database value. In the video after the break, [DroidBionicRoot] starts the process with a rooted Droid Bionic handset. He purchases an app for $2.99 which allows him to edit SQL databases on the handset. From there he navigates to the ‘Settings Storage’ database and changes the ‘entitlement_check’ key value to 0. Reboot the phone and tethering is now unlocked.


[Thanks Max]

46 thoughts on “Use Droid Bionic As A Mobile Hotspot Without Paying Extra

  1. its easier on galaxy s class devices on at&t. simply root your device and delete the at&t app that verifies your plan. the device will then act as the manufacturer intended.

    people dont realize today that on the internet, all points hold equal value. a client can retransmit to a host or vice versa. by limiting this connectivity, retailers are hindering communications.

    -sent from my mobile device

    1. yeah but they dont care about that, for them its business: how much can they squeeze out of you before you go to a competitor.
      and when all the competitors do it…then what?
      my phone still has its unlimited data plan, but i hear verizon nixed it on newer plans. basically phone companies will charge as much as they like, be as unreasonable as they like and good luck finding something better.

    2. Would this solution work for any Android 2.2 device like LG Thrill? Also, when the client sends the information back to the server like AT&T, it can tell this AT&T application has been deleted. Then, will AT&T automatically add a tethering data plan for your account?

      As a consumer, it’s not fair both data plan limit could not be shared. I think we need to voice this to FCC to set a “fair” rule for the consumers, agree?

      1. jjou says:

        As a consumer, it’s not fair both data plan limit could not be shared. I think we need to voice this to FCC to set a “fair” rule for the consumers, agree?

        I agree that a data plan should be able to be used(shared) by multiple devices, but I think it would unreasonable to expect to be able to have 2 or more of those devices making use of the data plan simultaneously. In the event fair rule means that I can own 2 or more data devices capable of using the data plan without paying extra for tethering I’m for it, but I really don’t expect the FCC to act in the interest of the consumers, because there isn’t another entity sitting on the sidelines in the position to profit from such a ruling. None that I’m aware of anyway.

    1. Definitely a concern.

      My understanding – and I’d love some confirmation of this – is that the carriers (or at least AT&T) are just checking packet TTL values to look for unauthorized tethering.

      If that is what they’re doing, it is easy enough to change the default TTL value on the tethered machine (to 65, I would think, so packets coming out of the phone have the linux default of 64) or to do some simple packet rewriting on the Android phone.

      1. Unfortunately though, if unauthorized tethering bothers them enough, it’ll just become an arms race as they can add deep packet inspection to their arsenal.

        Yes, though I wonder if it really does bother them THAT much. Contra some of the posters here, I think even the carriers see it more as some nice, low-hanging revenue fruit than some kind of intolerable theft of service.

        To the extent that’s the case, deploying a lot of packet inspection equipment and forensic expertise may not be worth the effort. I suspect they’re happy to peel off the (probably large-ish number of) “casual” tetherers, the ones who are easily dissuaded by the threat letters and/or lack the interest or expertise to escalate. After that, diminishing returns quickly set in, so the relatively fewer who DO escalate may well be ignored or unnoticed.

        I’d also say that if it does become some kind of arms race, it seems like it’s got to ultimately be a losing battle for them. For one thing, the increasing capabilities of mobiles make any distinction more and more difficult to make. And I don’t think it would be very difficult at all for tetherers to escalate to using an encrypted tunnel, and/or to somewhat more complex packet rewriting rules (to erase any telltale IP stack signatures, for example). And once someone figures out the rules, there could then be an app for that.

        Basically, the technical complexity of making tethering more or less completely undetectable seems pretty manageable relative to the complexity and effort in escalating the detection toolbox.

      1. I sincerely doubt it’s illegal. It’s easy to throw that word around without repercussions.

        Is it against the terms of service, totally. They can terminate your contract for that (and possibly impose penalties) but they can’t get the police involved.

  2. I used to get mad at phone companies for charging for services I considered free. Then I read, on the internets of all places, a mantra that struck a cord; (paraphrased) if you don’t like it, don’t use it, otherwise don’t expect something to be free just because you say so. In short, use a different provider that gives you what you want for a price (in this case, free) you’re willing to pay for it.

    Interesting hack. A bit underhanded, though.

    1. Except this is being paid for. It makes no difference to the cost of transferring a unit of data whether the phone sends it on to another device or not.

      The kind of system this circumvents is one where a car manufacturer could ask you to pay extra for a key to the passenger door, and send you angry letters when you let your passenger clamber across from the drivers side.

      I’ve got a different mantra for you. You bought the cake, you choose how you eat it.

      1. I accidentally hit the “report comment” link instead of “reply”. Sincerest apologies. Mods, please disregard.

        > I’ve got a different mantra for you. You bought the cake, you choose how you eat it.

        But in this case you don’t have the cake or the car. Youre renting the cake and/or car.

        IANAL but there is a difference between ownership of a possession and use of a service. Because I own an awsum Genesis album does not mean I can rent an amphitheater, speakers, and tape player (that’s right, I’m keeping it old school) does not mean I can put on a free (or name your price) Gensis concert. Or subscribe to HBO and open a free movietheater.

        > Except this is being paid for. It makes no difference to the cost of transferring a unit of data whether the phone sends it on to another device or not.

        I agree with you in spirit, but this is your opinion and not a fact. You’re paying to use a service you do not own. You could buy the company and THEN make the argument, but in this case I don’t see how one could reinterpret a contract after the fact. It’s, sadly, within their right to charge what they want for whatever they want as long as you want to be their customer.

        So, in short- if you don’t like it, vote with your wallet and leave. I took the other route- I need the service more than I need a political statement so I coughed up the 15 a month for the privilege.

      2. It’s more in the range, you bought the car, they tell you what roads you can drive on and what accessories in the car you’re allowed to use (even though you bought it). Like if you have a GPS service, but no MAPS because it requires the internet to retrieve map data. Why have the GPS in the vehicle if you aren’t going to package the net with it so you can actually use it?

      3. @fdawg4l
        its kinda what i said above, so in many ways i agree with you, but that doesnt mean one shouldnt raise the issue, when there is no one who DOESNT do this there isnt any place to go, and just leaving to never have a phone again probably wont make many waves, if you cant afford, for whatever reason, to leave the company or cell phone ownership in general, then all you can do is complain loudly, hope they hear you can change or hope your complaints reach some startup who is looking for a niche or some competitor who is losing and when that happens: jump ship. but if you dont complain they will never know

      4. @fdaw4l, It’s certainly an interesting issue.

        There is the rule of law and then there is the inherent sense of fairness people have. Often they aren’t in sync with the law always catching up. The record companies suing their customers are a great example. The record companies have the current laws on their side. However neither they or the law has accounted for the fact that the fundamental economics of their business have changed. They insist on a pricing model based on distribution costs that no longer are true. Customers see this for the BS it is and don’t think twice about copying music when they would never consider stealing a physical object.

        I think the cell phone companies (and cable TV) companies are in the same situation. They’re trying to fit the wrong business model to the reality of the world and some customers are crying BS. Unfortunately for the customers they are (realistically) the only game in town so the benefits of competition doesn’t work. I understand why the cell phone companies want to push additional tethering plans (they see it as a great additional revenue stream for a separate “product”). I also see why people push back against that (bits are bits) and violate their contracts. It seems hard to moralize against these people too much.

      5. @fdawg4l: I disagree with your counter-analogy of the service being like “renting” the previous metaphorical car. As I see it, the “service” ends when it hits your phone’s modem (i.e. connectivity). If the hack was taking advantage of a flaw or oversight in the network to gain extra services, that would be different; here, the hacker is modifying a device (that they presumably own – obviously if not, then it’s another matter) to forward bits back and forth to another device that they own. To take the car analogy again, it’s the difference between making your own key for the passenger door and letting the passenger climb in through the driver’s side. The former might get somewhat more murky, but the latter is just a common sense solution to a problem.

        This may be getting needlessly academic, but what would you say if I (hypothetically) ran a virtual machine on my mobile device, and “tethered” it to the physical host connection? Conceptually it’s the same act – it all just comes down to bits flowing around. In my opinion, if a company charges me for a service that moves bits from somewhere else to my device, that doesn’t give them the right to decide what I can do with those bits once I get them.

      6. @ Jefferey, that’s exactly what I was getting at.

        @fdawg, you can put that concert on if you want. But only if everyone also owns the same genesis CD and you didn’t charge them entry. No one is losing here, although it would technically probably be illegal, I guess.

        In addition to the virtual machine concept. What if the user uses their phone to save a file from the internet to their SD card, and then loads the file from the SD card onto their computer. Is this the same as loading the file directly through the phones modem to the computer? The end result is the same, and the load on the mobile network is the same.

      7. This may be getting needlessly academic, but what would you say if I (hypothetically) ran a virtual machine on my mobile device, and “tethered” it to the physical host connection?

        See: Motorola Atrix, The, and other similar devices coming out that have similar abilities to run a more desktop-like environment when a docking station or kb/monitor is plugged in.

        AT&T, at least, expect you to have a tethering plan to use internet in the desktop environment.

        That is, they want you to have a tethering plan in order to use internet on the same device you’re already paying for data on. It’s not even a virtual machine (just ARM native Ubuntu or whatever running in a session parallel to the Android environment).

        That is, in my opinion, beyond ridiculous. We absolutely should expect some things to be free. And this should be a negotiation, not a dictatorship.

      8. @jack

        Surely the argument is that you already are paying for it! Not that you should get ‘Thethering’ for free. The whole idea of tethering is a bit of a joke designed to fool you into thinking its something different.

        Bits are bits. You paid for X of them to be transferred between your device and their network. What happens to them once they get to you, or where they came from before your device is not your service providers business.

  3. tethering charges double tap for the same internet connection. Its underhanded for the providers to limit your access.

    how can they detect it? simple… internet explorer and firefox identify themselves in plain text.

  4. @fdawg4l

    I totally agree, the cell companies already offer services to get your other device on the net, and one would be circumventing those services they offer (meaning they wont get paid for those services) and they are understandably mad about the loss of income.

    This is almost like sharing with a friend at an all you can eat buffet. You paid for one Buffet Ticket and 2 people are eating because of it…

    1. in this case you are talking hypothetical dollars,the money they COULD make if they charged you for extra devices. its using the same amount of data (if you have a 20 gig data plan for instance you pay for 20 gigs of data to be transferred to you no mater how many devices use it you are still only getting 20 gigs of data) it means they are inventing a way to charge you more and being upset when you get around it.
      as an analogy its more like ordering a meal and then the management getting ticked if you shared your food with a friend.

    2. I don’t think they want to tether for the purpose of other people getting on the hotspot, they just want to be able to use their pc tethered through the phone than say using the phone for browsing. Paying double just so you can get on the same network you already pay for is a bit much. Maybe if it were a smaller fee it wouldn’t be bad.

  5. I look at it more like this:

    You pay for the water that the city pipes to your house. Wouldn’t you be outraged if they charged you twice as much to hook up a garden hose to water your flowers?

    1. that’s pretty much how it is imagine if the electric company installed special plugs into your house, charged you for every device you plugged into it (on top of the existing charge per kw/h) and required a special technician to come down and hook the device up (with its own fee) and if you dared to hook it up on your own or replace their special plugs with normal plugs they discontinue your service or charge you even more. that is the kind of business phone companies and internet providers are running.

    2. They charge you more than that where I am…if you are caught watering your lawn outside of the two 1-hour windows each week, you get a huge fine. Of course, the automatic sprinklers on city property run an hour every day even when it is raining…but hooking up a hose to put about 1/2 gallon of water your flowers will get you a fine if a cop drives by.

      …So I use a 5-gallon bucket to water my flowers; it is far less efficient but at least I won’t get a fine!

  6. Or repeat same analogy with electricity and an extension cord.

    Of course it would be different if you ran the cord to your neighbor’s house, but we’re talking about personal use here. It’s not like I want to open my phone as a public hotspot.

  7. Interesting to know, but seeing how I’m at the edge of being priced out of conventional cell phone service, it’s unlikely I’ll have smart phone, and a data plan.

    most likely illegal in regards of a TOS violation, where they could deny all, and service if they wished, with no refunds. I’m not entirely clear, would this allow two devices to use a single unlimited data plan simultaneously? In that’s so I can agree with the service providers posting a bitch about it. I would, most reading about this would too,if they where service provider. We can argue(without sufficient evidence) to hell freezes over if the plans are over priced or not, but that’s a different matter This would be like like hooking up to your neighbor’s CATV. Not like hooking up to their power or water service, where the service provider will be paid for what is consumed. I have to smile when I read issues like this. The powers that be to increase their wealth, created an economy based on consumption beyond survival needs. now regardless of ideology consumers, fight back against the rising cost of that consumption. I frown as I realize it will be the consumers that will cave. Yes it will be made to appear as a compromise, but the consumers caved nonetheless. Sorry for the book, I had time to kill before I had more important things to go to.

    1. Ooops I missed in the write up there’s a data cap with the plan. This would be like sharing the neighbors connection to the electrical grid. Then the wrangling comes to the charge to connect to the data network more than once. In the real world we pay a base charge to connect to utilities. We pay that charge at every location we connect to then. Because it’s ultimately cheaper for them(and the customer) some electric utilities allow the use of another’s connection to the grid. However there’s still the “meter charge”, and the added consumer still pays for the juice they use.

    2. It’s more like if you have digital cable, and they give you 1 digital box, for 1 tv, but you happen to have another digital box, and it works on the same line in your house. You’re not trying to share it with other people, and you’re not stealing your neighbors cable or sharing your cable with your neighbor. Terms of Service violation isn’t illegal, but the providers reserve the right to cancel your subscription/contract/so on so forth. I can understand an additional charge, but not double the price for being able to tether to the network you already are paying for, especially if it’s only for occasional browsing or quick mail checks or something. If you’re trying to torrent over a tethered lined, I suggest psychological help.

  8. How’s this for a “hack”: community-run, not-for-profit isp’s and carriers.

    It blows my mind that the DIY community has been putting up with being treated like criminals for so long. enough with the victim mentality, it’s time to take responsibility and create the world we want to live in. as for you brownhats (brown-nosing “whitehats”), stop acting like a bunch of owned prostitutes. bring your skills to the table before you get “Verizon” or “AT&T” tattooed on your ass.

  9. Unauthorized tethering falls under the same idea as not leaving a tip at a restaurant does in some places and that is illegal theft of services. I’m not sayin i agree but i voluntarily sign a 2 year contract knowing what im getting into and what i expect and im using someone elses network that they invested alot of time and money building. If my service level or services get cut, i want my contract adjusted accordingly.

  10. Honestly, I can’t see the problem with something like this, and i haven’t changed my mobile plan since everything is unlimited for me (with the exception of minutes).

    While I’m not defending carriers at ALL (this service would be dirt cheap if they weren’t so greedy), I do have to say that a lot of the reason it’s the way it is is because of the iPhone and all the people that migrated to it. AT&T buckled under the load, sprint and verizon saw that went wide eyed and went “aww hell”. a flood gate was opened, and not one company could kill it.

    Their networks are strained pretty badly and it’s going to reach a point real soon now where we can’t advance until we get some sort of unified structure. When Verizon and AT&T built their infrastructure way back when, they never thought of the bleeding edge smartphone would exist. a device able to see full HTML, images, flash, music downloads, etc.

  11. oh pulleze. You’re paying for the data. What difference does it make if the data is displayed on a 4.3″ screen or a 15″ one? It is a ripoff pure and simple. It is as if they charged more for emails from east coast cities than ones in the midwest.

    I use tethering perhaps 8 hours a year while traveling. I don’t appreciate being charged 50% over my current plan, $360/year for those 8 hours.
    If I can avoid being ripped off, then I will.

    If you want a real scam, look at texting. A 1000 text messages costs less to the phone companies than 5 seconds of voice. So why charge more when somebody texts instead of calls? Because they can.

  12. According to the RadioShack guy I talked to, the tethering plan can be turned on and off via the VerizonWireless website easily, so it could be activated for the duration of a roadtrip and then deactivated, incurring only the single month fee. Before I got my Bionic, I was also using the USB Broadband wireless card for my laptop, and that was not easy to enable/disable the plan for. Now I can discontinue that USB device altogether and enable tethering for those occasional multi-week roadtrips. The rooted tether-enabling is interesting, but I also wouldn’t want to risk losing my data plan altogether at some point. The work I’m doing using the plan is too important. Paying $20/$40 bucks a year to enable it for a couple of months is just not that big a deal.

  13. @fdawg4l

    actually your argument is full of holes. It’s equivalent to having an internet service. They can’t tell you you can’t have a router because you can only share it with one computer. What’s happened is WE allowed them to get away with charging for this service. It only became an issue when unlimited came out.

  14. Always enjoy a good conversation about topics such as this. It boils down to an ethics issue. You agree, as of the purchase of the phone, to stay put within a box to which VZW has defined as giving we the customers a set limit to our use of THEIR network AND the inherent capabilities of the machine in question. I emphasize MACHINE. How far you are willing to show your agreement/disagreement with the agreed upon rules is completely up to you. Just remember that they will still think of you as a replaceable source of income whichever way you chose.
    Personally, it is just another machine to be used and accessed in all its glories as it was designed to. I only purchased the phone because I was guaranteed unlimited data through my being grandfathered in. Now I have to pay extra to use what I am already paying for. No thanks. The phone is just another computer. All my computers are completely accessible and modifiable. Why not this one? I know they like my hard earned money a lot. I just like it more and don’t believe they are justified in asking more from me, especially after being a paying customer for the past ~decade. I pay for the privilege to use their network. I won’t pay double for the same access just because I want to view the internet on a larger screen.

    PS. this analogy thing is fun. To me its like having a car with a warranty that will be voided if I alter the car in any way. The engine has a certain level of performance that can only be obtained through the addition of aftermarket parts, like turbos/intakes etc. Put them on and have fun with the car. Just don’t get caught.

  15. There is a free USB tethering feature on the Bionic. So even if Verizon can deep-packet sniff what browser you are using, how can they tell whether you are using USB tethering or a mobile hotspot?

  16. @ jerseymatt…well stated and I completely agree with your line of thought. I have also been grandfathered in and pay thirty bucks a to use data…. who gives a sh*t whether its on a small or a computer monitor? This isn’t at all tapping into your neighbors cable or like you are walking around with an effing “free Wi-Fi” sign on your head…. get real, these two huge companies are doing this BS for one thing…. your/our money and as much of it as they can get. So get sqlite, change the entitlement check value to zero under settings storage and you are good to go. Just throw some wpa security on there and don’t be janky and get one data plan to “share” with your spouse. That being said, all smart phones (with the exception of a rare few) REQUIRE some sort of data plan to be on them regardless.
    QUESTION to all…does anyone know how to disable the entitlement check on the .902 radio? SQLite doesn’t seem to have the same settings with the axiom from.

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