Hacking an Android phone for $8 monthly broadband and TV

  • 4 March 2014
  • 2 replies

Userlevel 7
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Depending on where you are, you can significantly cut your bills for basic cable, home broadband, and mobile voice and data with T-Mobile and Aereo live TV over the internet. In San Antonio, Texas, I hacked an Android smartphone into a Wi-Fi router and then subscribed to Aereo instead of subscribing with one of the cable television and internet companies. I saved a bundle of money.

Right now, T-Mobile offers unlimited mobile data. In some locations, 4G performance can be as good as, or even better than, wired broadband. In order to confirm if this was possible, I checked the T-Mobile coverage map using the location’s zip code. The T-Mobile’s map indicated that 4G coverage at the San Antonio location was excellent. Then I tested broadband speed with a really amazing app called Open Signal. The result: 9.4 Mbps down and 2.4 Mbps up. Open Signal also indicated older HSPA service. HPSA is an extension of the 3G standards into the 4G realm. Some might argue that it’s not really 4G, and there's no doubt the performance of 4G LTE would be better, but this was a good-to-go signal. According to Akamai’s Q3 2013 State of the Internet Report(pdf), Open Signal’s reported speeds are approximately the same as the U.S. national average.
Aereo broadcasts over-the-air (OTA) television on broadband internet with high-definition quality. Depending on location, OTA television can work well with a simple HD antenna, but unless the antenna location is perfect, which it never is in condos and apartments, it will be an unpleasant television viewing experience. Aereo solves this problem, delivering crystal-clear HD television. It’s not available everywhere and the big networks, led by FOX, have sued to shut them down because Aereo has avoided paying the networks a subscription fee by using a proprietary antenna array and a unique business model in which they lease a tiny antenna to each subscriber.

How difficult installing a Wi-Fi router is really depends on the smartphone at hand. In this case, a different choice of smartphone would have made this exercise much easier. I used an HTC First that was originally sold to run on AT&T’s mobile network. An unlocked Nexus 5, or other easily unlocked smartphone, could have eliminated most of the work described below, but for those that have a smartphone and want to save the $350 for a nice new Nexus 5, or just like to hack Android phones, here are the details.
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2 replies

Userlevel 7
Badge +56
Aereo is pretty cool.  I use it on my computer and use a plugin to alter my location so it will let me in even though it isn't technically available in my area 🙂
Userlevel 7
I have never heard of this. That is why I like this forum, I learn something new everyday!