BlackBerry First Steps: How to Setup Wi-Fi on OS6

BlackBerry First Steps: How to Setup Wi-Fi on OS6
By Alicia Erlich on 18 Mar 2011 02:28 pm EDT

Every day, thousands will pick up a new BlackBerry. For a good many of them, this will be their first BlackBerry; maybe even their first smartphone. We've all had that first day; poking and prodding a new BlackBerry, trying to figure out how it works. This series aims to make that process a bit easier. 

Do you experience "blind spots" (no internet, email, or BBM) on your carrier? Are you having problems choosing the right data plan for your device? Is 3G just not enough G's for you? Have no fear; your Wi-Fi enabled BlackBerry is here. Wireless internet technology is a wonderful thing for users to take advantage of. It offers faster speeds, bypasses your data plan, and - with certain carriers - allows you to make unlimited phone calls (e.g., T-Mobile UMA). Thanks to coffee shops; airports; hotels; restaurants; and cable companies, Wi-Fi is everywhere. It's easy to enjoy the speed of Wi-Fi; click past the jump for step by step instructions.

Turning on Wi-Fi

Manage connectionsIt's pretty simple to turn Wi-Fi on. Click on the Manage Connections icon from the home screen or from the connections area at the top. You can either select the check box next to Wi-Fi or scroll down to Set Up Networks. Once logged into a location, be it your home or public location, you'll automatically be connected the next time you visit with Wi-Fi on.

Connecting to available networks

To start surfing the web, you'll need to access a local area network. This can be your Wi-Fi router at home, your local hotspot, or any other connection within range (including neighboring routers). After a few seconds of scanning, up pops a list of the nearest and strongest connections. Protected networks will have a lock icon next to them. These require a password to access. To avoid these, check the box next to Show Open Networks Only so that only open (i.e., no password needed) Wi-Fi and hostpot networks remain. To connect, simply scroll to the one you want and click or tap. That's all there is to it.

Scanning for networks

When connecting to a protected network a passphrase or password between 8-63 characters must be provided. These were created during your routers initial setup and prevent random people from accessing your internet. Just be sure you didn't misplace the code. If you don't have the network's password, you'll need to contact your System Administrator - the guy or gal who takes care of internet stuff. After entering the password, click connect.

That's all there is to it. The network name and signal strength will display at the top of your home screen. Best part is you'll never have to enter in that troublesome password again. Your information is stored under Saved Networks for the next time you sign on to that wireless network.

Password entry and home screen


HotSpots, for lack of a better term, are public Wi-Fi locations. Sometimes they're unprotected and allow for immediate access. For example, public venues like Starbucks and Barnes and Noble offer free nationwide AT&T Wi-Fi access. When you're visiting one of these places, search for and connect to attwifi.

Saved Wi-Fi Networks

Unfortunately, some hotspots require authorization or charge a fee to connect. Certain cable companies now offer free Wi-Fi at any of their hotspot locations (e.g. Optimum, Time Warner) to their customers. To authenticate, simply enter in your username and password when prompted. It adds a few extra steps to the process but you'll be up and running in less than a minute.

Wi-Fi HotSpot

Hotspot Warning

Managing Saved Networks

Each time you access a network, it is saved on your BlackBerry for future use. To view, click on Saved Wi-Fi networks from the Setup screen. From here you can edit, delete, disable, and change the connect order; all by pressing the menu button.

  Change Network Order  Edit Saved Networks  Disabled Network   
  Move: Lets you change the connection order for saved networks.  Edit: Allows you to change the name, SSID (network name), security type, and passphrase. Disable: This option stops your BlackBerry from connecting to a saved network.   
Delete Network 

Delete: Removes the selected saved networks



Options: On this screen you can change hotspot alerts or reset back to default settings.                                            

Wi-Fi Options 

Manually add a network

Wi-Fi Protected Setup

Don't feel like scrolling through multiple networks? For more experienced users, select Other Ways to Connect from the setup screen. The first option is Wi-Fi Protected Setup. By pressing a designated button on the router (selected models only), users can connect without entering in a password. Simply follow the directions on your BlackBerry.

The second option is to manually add a network. All you need to do is input the name of the Wi-Fi network in the SSID field. SSID's are unique names used to identify a Wi-Fi network. Many home wireless routers use standard names such as NETGEAR, LinkSys, etc. Next, scroll through and select a security type (WEP, WPA/WPA2 Personal, WPA/WPA2 Enterprise) from the dropdown list, type in the password, and click on Save and Connect.

Manual Wi-Fi Setup

There you have it folks, Wi-Fi in a nutshell. For those on tiered data plans, taking advantage of local hotspots at school, work, or home can help reduce data usage. Check out this poll Kevin ran last year on using WiFi. If you still have questions or issues head on over to CrackBerry's dedicated Wi-Fi Forum page.

To help get you started, below are links to each carrier's Wi-Fi/HotSpot location maps.

AT&T Wi-Fi locations
Optimum Wi-Fi locations
Time Warner Cable WiFi zones  
T-Mobile HotSpot locations
Verizon HotSpot Directory

Reader comments

BlackBerry First Steps: How to Setup Wi-Fi on OS6


I have WIFI on on my BB but seem to the new OS 448 it drain battery to much :( other then that this article is Awesome for who don't know how to set up they WIFI

Two questions:

1.) If you connect to a network, and you stray outside that network, will WiFi go inactive and not drain battery power? Or will it constantly try to seek out that network -- even if you're miles upon miles away from that network?

2.) How much battery power in general is drained by using a WiFI network as opposed to the OTA network through your carrier?

Regardless of the answers, it should be mentioned in the article. If no extra battery drain, then it's peace of mind to state it. If indeed there is extra battery drain, then it definitely should be mentioned so people know what they're getting into when using WiFi. Nothing is worse than having a dead battery and being unable to charge it, especially when WiFi wasn't needed in a situation, yet it was on and did the evil draining.

Good questions ! +1

Yeah in my new OS 448 if i leave WIFI on from 7:00 when i unplugged from the charging pod around 6:30 my battery is almost empty :( so to be honest i don't know how much battery drains but is not fun when i know i have another 5 hours of phone using on that day :( and i have to charge !

Look for SmartWifi, in my opinion a really good app (but im sure there are many others)

Switches to the best available Wifi Network u have access or login information too. Also automatically turns your wifi on and off when moving to/away from a hotspot.

I have never noticed that being connected to WiFi drains my battery. However it does not automatically turn off. So when there is not WiFi coverage, your device will constantly be searching for a signal. This will make your battery drain a little bit faster.

However there are many 3rd party solutions to this problem. Smart WiFi seems to be a really good one since I think that app remembers the areas that your phone connects to a network. Once you leave that area it automatically shuts it off.. When you come back to it, it will cut it back on..

I personally use BatteryEx.. It does some other cools stuff.. But it also shuts off your wifi when your are not in range..

Quick Launch also has a handy WiFi toggle feature which really comes in Hand. When I want to connect to a network out side my home I simply press the left convenience key and type TW(toggle wifi) and this will cut it back on.. Once I leave.. Battery Ex will cut it back off for me..

My WiFi goes in and out on my 9700 and the same with wife's. I was told to unplug and plug my modem after 20 seconds and it should work but the same thing happens the phone switch's from UMA to 3G any idea's on what to try next?

Quicklaunch has a Toggle WiFi On/Off feature that is really great Of course you have to remember to use it:)

Anyone solve the Wifi error: "Failed to associate with the network" .
It only happens with my Open (non-Hotspot) work Wifi and only with my Torch on .246 and .448 (no other version tried). All other devices, BB 9700, 9300, HTC, iPoop, etc all connect. It's just the Torch and it's all carrier Torch's (tested with various carrier Torch's). There is no MAC filtering either.

This is going to be a big problem for our organization shortly as more end users are upgrading to the Torch. We run Meru wireless in all of our buildings and the Torch will NOT connect to the wireless. I have tried every combination of settings I can think of and get the error you mentioned. No other phone has had an issue connecting. Like you, it is only on this work network that I have an issue with the Torch.

Can't say enough about SmartWiFi. It does exactly what it says. I tested 2 months on/ 2 months off - same OS version same apps, and as close to the same usage as I could figure. I believe it added about 15%-20% extra battery life on a daily basis. That's huge in my books!

Alicia (the author) is leaving out a NUMBER of VERY important items:

1. Some (many) people have experienced issues with WPA vs. WPA2, and TKIP vs. AES. All of this great setup is rubbish if your router doesn't sync up with your BlackBerry.

>> Pushbutton setup is neat, but will not resolve issues if the router or broadband connection has an yet-to-be-recognized problem (see #2 and #3)

2. Regarding item #1, I just had a nightmare of a time after updating the firmware of my D-Link DIR-655. I tried every concievable combination of WPA, WP2, AES (required for 802.11N speeds), and TKIP, but could not get the white Wi-Fi logo. Solution? Power-cycling my router.

3. Once configured properly, the vast majority of issues (resulting in the WiFi logo greyed out under OS5 and similar behavior on OS6) are actually problems with your Internet carrier (i.e. Comcast, Cox, AT&T DSL/uVerse, Time Warner, Verizon DSL/FiOS, etc.) rather than the BlackBerry "losing" its Wi-FI signal. When my Comcast connection was having upstream issues, I "lost" my BlackBerry Wi-Fi connection. However, it took me 5 BB reboots and numerous changes to my network configuration to realize this.

4. Simplifying #3, HIGH LATENCY will prevent BB's from connecting to BIS or BES over Wi-Fi. It is less resilient than a computer connection.

5. Finally, my Bold 9650 gets MUCH BETTER battery life when connected via Wi-Fi. Why? "Chatty" email traffic is routed through the faster, stronger, less latent broadband signal rather than the weaker EvDO connection. YMMV - Verizon in New York is better than Verizon in the southeast USA.

What about security?

Does all traffic still go through BIS or BES?

I have a Blackberry and a WiFi network at home.

I know that I can snoop whoever is using my network.

I can watch everything they do when they use my network with the exception of when they use https or ssl. Those (https and ssl) are secure connections between the user's computer and whoever they connect to over my network.

Now, if I use a WiFi public network with my Blackberry, could the owner of the network spy on me?

I only have a BIS and not a BES so I am not sure if all my data is encrypted between here...

1. My BB > WiFi > Internet (no encryption between my device and the internet)


2. My BB > WiFi > Internet > Encrypted BB server > Internet (encryption between my device though the wifi and internet to the BB server which connects to where I am surfing to)

At a coffee shop the other day I saw a guy using WireShark. I could only imagine what he was up to!!!