Setting up a network via iOS Tethering

This week I moved house, and for me this wasn’t exactly fun. The whole situation was made worse by the fact that Telstra (the company responsible for all the cabling of internet connections in Australia) failed to complete any of the cabling required to allow my house to get any sort of cabled internet connection (normally ADSL+2).

As soon as I found out this was the case I knew I needed to find a solution - and quickly - because I don’t function very well without internet. I run an internet-based business, so …

After a little bit of looking around I found a nice mobile broadband plan provided by iiNet, and decided to go with that; it is month-to-month with no contract, I get 20GB of data per month and it’s 4G on the Optus network. The price is $74.95 per month, which is about the same as a standard ADSL+2 connection.

As far as how I set the network up, I put the iiNet SIM into my iPad mini and created a WiFi network, then I connected a couple of Airport Expresses via WiFi to the iPad to extend the network. This worked for a little while; however, I soon encountered some issues … some devices would work and then suddenly not work, and just generally have issues connecting to the network. Or, even if they were showing as connected, they wouldn’t be able to get any internet access at all.

Luckily I worked out (I had actually forgotten that I already knew) that iOS devices that are being used to tether from can only support up to 5 devices, and when I have the 2 x Airport Express + 2 x iPhones + 1 computer … this reaches that limit.

Drama, drama! I had to go back to the drawing board to get a better solution to the problem. My new solution had a few iterations before I got it right, but now that I’ve got it all working, it is operating like a dream!

What was my final solution, you ask? What I did was I tethered the iPad Mini via USB to a Mac Mini and I shared the network from the Mac Mini via Ethernet to the Airport Express, then I asked the Airport Express to create a network using DHCP and NAT (if I turned bridge mode on, it crashed the Mac Mini). I subsequently connected the Mac Mini to the WiFi network to give it access to all the network storage devices, etc.

Using this setup, the iPad and the Mac Mini only see a single device connecting to them and so the number of devices that are on the network are only limited to the Airport Expresses’ capacity.

So far, the network has been stable and it’s working well! I have been told Telstra may take up to 6 months to complete the cable connection, so it will be interesting living on mobile broadband until then. Who knew setting up your internet could be such a challenge!


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