Windows 10 Tip: Connect to a Broadband Cellular Network

Posted on June 28, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 0 Comments

Windows 10 Tip: Connect to a Broadband Cellular Network

Windows 10 supports broadband cellular networks provided by major wireless carriers. So if you’re lucky enough to have a SIM-enabled Windows PC or device, you can get Internet access this way, just as you do with your smart phone.

Note: This article is an excerpt from the Windows 10 Field Guide. This book is now being updated for free with a ton of new content describing new Windows 10 features from the Anniversary update. –Paul

Note: Most Windows PCs and devices are not SIM-enabled, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of a cellular data plan you’re already paying for. Most modern smart phones can share their connection, and those connections will appear as normal Wi-Fi connections to which you can connect with a Windows 10 PC or device.

While cellular networks are more broadly available than Wi-Fi out in the world, they can also be expensive: Most people with cellular data plans pay for a particular amount of data each month, and are charged extra if they exceed their allotment. For this reason, Windows 10 treats cellular networks differently: It will not download Windows Updates over such a network, and will even defer critical security updates.

As useful, Windows 10 also helps you keep track of your data usage on this type of network—which is more generally referred to as a metered network—so it can warn you if you’re in danger of exceeding your monthly allotment.

Enable and disable a cellular connection

If you do have a broadband cellular connection, you will see that connection at the top of the Internet access pane, which is accessed by selecting the Network icon in the system tray.

nw-cellular-01

When you select this connection, it expands to display a number of additional items:

View my account. This option will open your wireless carrier’s app, which can be used to manage your account. If this is the first time accessing this option, you may be prompted to download the app.

nw-carrier-app

Connect automatically. This option determines whether you automatically connect to your broadband cellular connection when a signal is available. Unless you have an account with unlimited data or your workplace is paying for this connection and isn’t concerned about the cost, I recommend leaving this option disabled.

Allow roaming. If you enable “Connect automatically,” you will likewise be able to enable this option, which will keep your cellular connection online even when your wireless carrier’s network is unavailable. This situation, called roaming, can be extremely expensive, so don’t enable this unless you know what you’re doing.

Connect/Disconnect. This button is used to connect and disconnect from the cellular network.

Configure a cellular connection

Because cellular connections are metered and can be expensive, I strongly recommend configuring this connection before you do anything else. Naturally, you do so from Settings.

After enabling your cellular connection, open Settings and navigate to Network & Internet. The graphic at the top of the Status view will indicate that you’re using a cellular connection.

nw-cellular-status

If you navigate to Cellular, you’ll see nothing of interest, which is confusing. Instead, navigate to Data usage, where you will tell Windows about your cellular data plan.

nw-cellular-data-usage

Select Set Limit. A notification covers the window, asking you to first choose the data limit type. This can be None specified, Monthly, One time, or Unlimited. Since a monthly billing cycle is the most common, let’s look at that.

After selecting Monthly, the following display appears.

nw-cellular-set-data-limit

Here, you configure the monthly reset date, which is the day of the month that your account switches over to the next billing cycle and the monthly data limit in megabytes or gigabytes. Make the appropriate changes and then select Save.

Now, as you get close to your monthly data allotment, Windows will display notifications warning you of this event.

 

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