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Access to the internet is essential for survival, now more than ever before. Whether its office work that you need to get done or grocery shopping, socializing, or keeping yourself entertained, having an internet connection goes a long way. It’s not surprising then that most of us have Wi-Fi internet at home, and for times when we’re outside, we’re connected to the web via a mobile data plan.

But what happens when you’re outside and need to get some work done ASAP on your laptop?

Driving around in search of public Wi-Fi is a waste of time especially if you have a data plan on your phone. You can easily share your mobile data service with your laptop at no additional charge. All you need to do is turn your cell phone into a hotspot. This nifty feature comes built-in with almost all smartphones these days so you should have no trouble setting it up. If you’re curious about it, keep on reading and we’ll tell you all you need to know.

What is a Mobile Hotspot?

A mobile hotspot lets you connect devices to the internet using the data plan on your phone. It is essentially a Wi-Fi connection based on your data plan wherein your cell phone acts as a wireless gateway device. Pretty much like tethering—with the only difference the connection is established wirelessly and not via a USB cable.

The internet connection you get at home can be accessed via Ethernet cables. And, it is only when you connect via a wireless router that you access the internet over Wi-Fi. In the case of mobile broadband, you can’t share internet access via wires. However, if you turn your phone into a mobile hotspot, you can access the internet on your laptop, tablet, and gaming console wirelessly like you would over Wi-Fi. It’s a pretty useful trick that sure comes in handy and saves you from a ton of hassle.

So, how do you turn your cell phone into a hotspot? Well, it’s easy. Before we get to it though, it’s important to understand what equipment you need as it all depends on your phone’s capabilities.

As we said, most smartphones today have a built-in hotspot feature so if you have one of those, that’s great. On the other hand, if yours is an older model and did not come equipped with this feature, you’ll have to buy an external hotspot device which can cost between $50 and $400. Sounds expensive? Well, worry not. Some internet providers let you add a hotspot device for a monthly fee allowing you to get what you need, without having to incur an upfront cost. Albeit to avail yourself of this option, you must also be subscribed to a mobile broadband plan which is not designated for use via the cell phone alone.  

Managing Speed & Data with Mobile Hotspots

Phone hotspots are a great way to get your devices connected to the internet without having to spend extra. It works best though if you’re subscribed to a wireless plan that allows you ample mobile hotspot allowance. But, one thing you have to remember about hotspots is the speed can get compromised if too many devices are connected to it—quite like your in-home internet connection when it has a great many devices connected to it.

There’s only so much bandwidth that an internet provider can allow you, and so after a certain data threshold is met, you can expect your connection to slow down. If you’re subscribed to AT&T Wireless or a mobile broadband plan from Spectrum though, you’ll have a good time using the service given the generous mobile hotspot data allowance.

AT&T Wireless Phone Hotspot

AT&T Wireless offers reliable internet for you to take on the go. But, not all plans get you mobile hotspot data, while some are designated for cell phone usage only. The following AT&T plans offer the best choices to make use of your phone hotspot capabilities depending on your data needs:

So, if you’re subscribed to any of these AT&T Wireless plans, you should have no trouble creating a mobile hotspot. What’s more, if you don’t want to occupy your cell phone and save on battery life, you can also get a portable hotspot device at an affordable monthly rate. Isn’t that great?

The only thing you need to keep in mind is that AT&T Wireless throttles your connection after you have used the mobile hotspot allowance outlined in your plan for a billing period. So, for instance in the case of AT&T Unlimited EliteSM after 30GB of mobile hotspot data has been exhausted, the speed is slowed down to 128 Kbps. And, the same applies to other plans once the designated high-speed data allowance has been consumed. Meaning, even after you’ve crossed the limit, you’ll still have access to the internet, albeit at a slow speed.

The good thing is that AT&T gives you ways to monitor your data usage via myAT&T—you can view data usage details and also set usage alerts for when you reach specific thresholds. This helps manage both speed and data consumption when using a mobile hotspot.

Spectrum Mobile Hotspot

Spectrum offers mobile broadband using Verizon’s wireless infrastructure. It is a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) which does not own the infrastructure, and while that has its disadvantages, the low prices more than makeup for it.

Spectrum offers 3 mobile plans: By the GIG, which costs $14 per GB. The Unlimited plan, which costs $45/line per month. And the Unlimited Plus, which costs $55/line per month. The good thing about Spectrum Mobile plans is the provider does not charge you extra for using your mobile device as a hotspot. Normal data rates apply to mobile hotspot data consumption. Albeit, after you have used 5GB via the phone hotspot, speed is reduced to 600 Kbps in case of Unlimited and Unlimited Plus. And, for By the Gig, the internet is slowed down to 256 Kbps.

Also, make note of the fact that after you’ve consumed a total of 20GB of mobile data with the Unlimited plan and 30GB with Unlimited Plus, the speed is going to be slowed down to 512 Kbps and data de-prioritized. It is also worth noting that if you are using a phone hotspot to connect your laptop, you may touch your 20GB mark faster given the multiple activities which run in the background.

How to Set up a Personal Hotspot

Setting up a personal hotspot is extremely easy. Just a few clicks and you have internet access on your Wi-Fi-enabled devices. Before you get to set up though, make sure your data plan allows you to use the mobile hotspot feature. Once you’ve confirmed, here’s how you set it up.

The process for iPhone and Android is different given they use different operating systems so we’ll go through the process for both one by one. Feel free to skip to the section not relevant to you.

iPhone

To set up a mobile hotspot on an iPhone, go to ‘Settings’ and click on ‘Cellular’ or ‘Personal’. There you’ll find the option ‘Personal Hotspot’ with a slider. Slide it to on position. Some iPhone models will show you the ‘Personal Hotspot’ option within the ‘Settings’ tab.

To connect your device to your Personal Hotspot, go to its Wi-Fi settings. You’ll find iPhone listed as a Wi-Fi network. Click on that to connect. You’ll have to enter a password which you’ll find in your iPhone’s Personal Hotspot settings. Because, when you set up a hotspot, a password is automatically created. You can either use that or change it to the one you’ll remember better. And, that’s it.  

Android

If you own an Android device and want to create a hotspot, go to ‘Settings’, click on ‘Network & Internet’, select ‘Hotspot & Tethering’, and tap on ‘Wi-Fi Hotspot’. Once there, click on the toggle to turn the hotspot ‘On’.

Now, when you look for Wi-Fi signals on the device you want to connect to the internet, you’ll find your Android phone listed as one of the Wi-Fi networks. Click on it to connect and plug in the password assigned to your phone. You will find this password displayed in your Android’s Wi-Fi Hotspot settings. That’s all. Easy, right?

Final Words

Creating a mobile hotspot is not that difficult. You just need to make sure that your data plan supports hotspots and your mobile phone has the capability to create one. In case your phone does not boast of the feature your internet provider may be able to provide you an external device for a monthly fee so you should have no trouble. With that out of the way, just go to your mobile settings and get started. If you get confused, just take a deep breath and go through the options listed. You’ll be able to make it on your own, it’s that easy.

Personal mobile hotspots are a great way to get internet access on a secure network without having to spend anything extra. Sure, the speeds may be a bit slower, but you’ll be able to get most of your work done. It’s a great feature to have, and an option worth exploring. So go ahead and try it out for yourself.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which internet providers offer unlimited hotspot?

You can expect hotspot data with almost any wireless internet provider. For best value though, AT&T takes the cake. It offers the most value when it comes to cost, data, speed, and coverage.

How much hotspot data does Spectrum Mobile provide?

If you’re subscribed to Spectrum Mobile Unlimited or Unlimited Plus plans, you’ll be able to use 5 GB of data via a mobile hotspot at full speed. After that, the speed is reduced to 600 kbps. Your speed will perk up, however, with the next billing cycle so there’s nothing to worry about.

How many devices can I connect to an iPhone hotspot?

You can connect 3-5 devices to your iPhone’s personal hotspot at one time.