Cell phone plans are usually defined by their data caps and unlimited talk and text, but another important question you should consider asking when thinking about changing plans are hotspot offers. Accessing the internet on devices that aren’t covered by your mobile carrier is very important in today’s world, where connectivity is everything.
Each of the big three telecommunications companies, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon, offer different hotspot plans with their own unique list of pros and cons. These plans are specifically built around hotspot capability, while others are integrated into larger mobile network plans.
What’s Included in Hotspot Plans?
A hotspot plan provides you with a mobile hotspot that you can use on your phone or tablet. A hotspot is any place where you can connect to a wifi network. While we are usually connected to the internet through a wifi hotspot, a mobile hotspot uses your phone’s data to give you an internet connection.
Hotspot plans are only as powerful as their data limit, so hotspot plans are categorized by how many GBs of data are included. There are also different data types; for example, some plans might include something called premium data, which is higher speed data with improved connection and streaming.
Do You Need a 5G Hotspot?
5G is a new wave of upgraded network connections joining 4G and phasing out 3G. 5G offers better connectivity, stability, and higher speeds, but it has not been fully integrated into the country’s infrastructure yet as of 2022.
A 5G hotspot is faster, more reliable, and allows for more people to be on the network at once. One of the shortcomings of 4G hotspots has historically been how hard it is to have multiple people connected to them at once. With a more powerful 5G hotspot, you can host more connections while retaining higher speeds.
The main knock against 5G is that it isn’t available everywhere, and it isn’t available on all devices. Whether or not 5G is right for you will depend on what you plan to use the hotspot for.
If you’re simply looking for a simple connection to browse the web, you wouldn't need the upgrade at this time.
Still, if you live in a densely populated urban area and need a high-speed connection from your hotspot you’d have more reason to go 5G.
Can Hotspots Replace Home Internet?
While mobile hotspots are a great tool, they aren’t in a place technologically where they can replace our home internet yet. Hotspot plans cost considerably more per byte than cable setups with cost and maintenance in mind.
Many hotspot plans provide 100GB or fewer data, meaning that anyone who prioritizes streaming and downloading will have trouble maintaining long-term satisfaction with their internet on a hotspot alone.
People who want reliable internet for the month will have more luck with a real internet plan. A big reason is that hotspots aren’t built to replace home internet. They meant to give you the freedom to access the web and use your devices outside your home.
While that may change in the future, for now, home internet and mobile hotspots should be kept separate.
What’s the Best Hardware for Hotspots?
One of the most convenient hardware options for a hotspot is your 5G compatible phone. Phones that have come out this decade are already 5G compatible in most cases, and you can usually get hotspot access built into your mobile network plan.
Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile have hotspot data integrated into their unlimited network plans. New iterations of phones come out every year, making them the most consistently designed around hotspot integration.
That being said, many devices are solely made to connect you to a hotspot. Brands such as Inseego create the best portable hotspots that you can purchase and put on existing network carriers.
However, many of these devices do not support 5G yet and tend to be less powerful than phones. If you already have a 5G compatible phone, you should be good to go without buying any new hardware.
What Is Tethering?
Connecting your device to a hotspot is called tethering. Like a real-life tether and any WiFi network, you need to keep in mind how far you are from the hotspot. Because you are tethered to the hotspot, you need to keep close to the device if you want to stay connected.
Can You Use a Hotspot While Abroad?
Importantly, hotspots still require that you have access to your carrier’s network. If your network plan does not allow you to use your network outside of your country, then you won’t be able to use your hotspot either.
If you want to use your hotspot abroad, consider looking into network plans that give you data abroad.
However, even these will be pricey and may require you to buy more hardware or services. Hotspots are meant for use in the region the network provider covers, meaning that hotspots will be more difficult to use if you go abroad.
Can I Share My Mobile Hotspot?
A hotspot is a network, which means others can access it if you want. Many hotspots allow you to set a password on them, just like any WiFi network. You must be careful who you give your password to, as you don’t want people accessing your network without your permission.
In addition to security concerns, hotspot speeds can fall dramatically when more people are tethered to them.
Is There Truly an Unlimited Hotspot Plan?
Independently, there are no unlimited hotspot plans. Hotspots usually sit between five and 100GBs per month. However, you can get unlimited hotspot usage through your mobile plan. Many networks provide unlimited hotspot data as a perk for their plans. For example, Verizon Business plans all include unlimited hotspot usage and their basic amenities. If an unlimited hotspot is something you are looking for in isolation, you might be out of luck, but there are plenty of ways to get it through your provider.
What To Do Next
Hotspots are a great tool to keep you mobile while letting you use high-speed internet even when you aren’t in your home or office. Whether you want to connect to a hotspot through your phone or a dedicated piece of hardware, it is worth looking into the benefits of utilizing this technology.
The environment around hotspots is constantly evolving with the continued integration of 5G, so the best thing you can do is stay informed, do your research, and choose the right plans for your lifestyle.
What Is a Hotspot? - WiFi Hotspot Definitions and Details | Intel
5G Lets You Be a Hotspot Hoster Instead of a WiFi Wanderer | T‑Mobile Newsroom
Tethering vs Hotspot Differences and Benefits of Hotspots | AT&T
5G-Compatible Cell Phones with Nationwide Coverage | T-Mobile
The 2 Best Wi-Fi Hotspot for 2022 | Reviews by Wirecutter
Mobile Internet plans for HotSpots | T-Mobile Support