Tethering: which mobile network is best?

Tethering your phone

What is mobile tethering?

Tethering allows you to use your phone as a portable WiFi hotspot by connecting your mobile phone to another device, such as a laptop or tablet. This can be especially useful if you don’t have a strong WiFi signal and need to use your laptop when you are out and about.

Whether you want to connect using USB, Bluetooth or WiFi tethering you can, provided your network contract allows it and you have a data allowance included in your mobile phone plan.

Which network is best for tethering?

Based on the amount of data available and their policy for tethering on unlimited data contracts (no limits, no caps), we believe Three SIM Only contracts are the best for tethering and general data use.

Is tethering different to MiFi?

Tethering works in the same way as MiFi in that it uses 3G or 4G mobile network to connect multiple devices to the internet. However, using your phone to tether means you can save money as you don’t need to have a separate mobile broadband contract, you simply use your mobile data allowance.

Tethering works best for short periods of time as it drains your battery and most people’s data allowance isn’t big enough for prolonged use or heavy duty video streaming. Laptops and Tablets are bigger and more powerful than mobile phones and use much more data to perform tasks. This means you can quickly eat through 1GB-2GB using your phone as a portable hotspot.

If you regularly find yourself using more than 2GB-5GB of data each month via tethering you may find it cheaper to purchase a MiFi device instead. MiFis are great if you have multiple devices to connect at the same time, or choose a Dongle if you only need to connect one device.

Which mobile networks allow tethering?

Almost every networks allows tethering, though some are more generous than others. 

You can tether with a Pay As You Go SIM. While this isn’t the cheapest way to tether, it does have the benefit of being entirely flexible as you can use as much or as little data as you need, as long as you have enough credit on your account to cover the cost.

As tethering relies on your mobile provider’s data signal it is important to choose a provider with good coverage in your area. 4G shouldn’t be a problem as most networks 4G coverage is pretty good. The 5G rollout is still underway so you’ll need a compatible phone and depending on where you live there may be variation in service.

Can I buy tethering add-ons?

If you do find you run out of data, most of networks will happily sell you a data add-on that you can use to continue tethering. This is definitely the cheapest way to continue using mobile internet as the charges for using data off-plan can be expensive.

If you find you are running out of data each month read our guide How to reduce your mobile data usage for practical tips on saving your MBs.

My network can’t stop me tethering though, can they?

Yes they can. If you regularly tether outside of your data limit then you will be in breach of your network contract terms and conditions and a penalty may be applied to your account by your provider. This could be in the form of charges to your account or your network may just decide to throttle your data, making your connection frustratingly slow.

If you try to tether beyond your allowance on some networks you may find your SIM disconnected from the internet entirely. In order to unblock your card, you’ll need to fall on the mercy of your network’s customer help team and hope they return your data access.