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Tethering is basically using your phone or any other data-enabled device as a router or modem. It allows you to share your mobile data plan with other devices such as laptops and tablets.

Most smartphones have this feature in their settings, and all you need is to set it up. Alternatively, there are apps, such as TP-Link Tether (iPhone/Android), that can help you set up tethering.

This article will tell you everything you need to know about tethering and cell phone plans. Read on!

What is Phone Tethering?

Tethering is a general term that means using your mobile phone or another mobile device with a connection to the Internet like a modem. This means that the device facilitates mobile connection for other devices, e.g. Wi-Fi only devices or laptops.

What Does Tethering Mean On a Phone?

You can tether your phone in one of three ways: USB tethering, Bluetooth tethering, and Wi-Fi tethering. In the first two types, you can only connect one other device, but wireless tethering allows as many as eight or more devices to use the same connection.

Some Wi-Fi-only devices that you can connect with include Kindles, Smart TVs, Wi-Fi-only tablets, etc. Data tethering allows you to use the same data plan on multiple devices, which lowers your data expenses.

Benefits of Tethering

Tethering offers internet access to those devices that don’t have an inbuilt 3G/4G mobile data access. If I don’t have any other means of internet access, such as a Wi-Fi hotspot in a restaurant or office, I can simply tether my phone and get the access I need.

Tethering can work anywhere your mobile data service provider has a connection. If you’re in the middle of nowhere and you need a map or internet for other reasons, simply tether the device to your smartphone.

If you have an active mobile data plan and your provider doesn’t restrict tethering, you can save money because you don’t have to pay separately. Simply tether phone to laptop and enjoy internet within the limits of your data plan. You don’t have to worry about buying a modem and paying for another plan for your laptop.

Data tethering also provides greater security when browsing, especially compared with a public/open Wi-Fi hotspot, for example. Your data is sent directly through your phone, and it becomes more difficult for a hacker to gain unauthorized access.

Additionally, if you tether your phone to a laptop via USB you have the added advantage of your battery being charged as you access the internet. You can also turn off Wi-Fi on the laptop if you need to conserve battery power since you have the phone as a modem.

Tethering versus Hotspot: USB vs Bluetooth vs Wi-Fi Tethering

There are three ways to share a smartphone’s internet connection: Wi-Fi, USB, and Bluetooth.

Of these, Bluetooth is the least advisable because it is slower and allows you to share with a single device only. Bluetooth tethering uses less battery power and offers better security than Wi-Fi hotspots.

However, it uses more power than USB tethering and offers a slower connection than the other two options. Configurations for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are also fairly technical.

USB tethering is faster, and it allows your laptop to charge your phone so you don’t lose battery power. USB tethering does require you to have your USB cable at all times, and there may be special configurations to set up both the phone and the other device for tethering.

Wi-Fi hotspots are also fast, and they support sharing the same network with multiple devices. Most smartphones allow eight connections, but there are those that allow more.

Wi-Fi tethering has another advantage: today’s smartphones are capable of producing signal strengths that are on par with modern wireless routers. Whereas in the past, using a hotspot meant getting by with slower connections, today you don’t have to incur additional costs or walk around with many devices.

A downside is that you need a wall charger or portable battery bank because Wi-Fi hotspots are real power guzzlers. However, with Wi-Fi, your phone can be accessed by any hacker within your range. You must take the same security measures with your phone as with wireless routers at home or at work.

Is Tethering Better than Hotspot?

Whether or not tethering is better than Wi-Fi hotspots depends on your needs for the internet connection. For example, if you need a connection on multiple devices, the hotspot is superior to USB tethering in that case. But if you need to conserve battery power, USB tethering becomes superior.

Tethering is better if you need to be online for a longer time because it conserves battery power. It provides way better security than a public Wi-Fi hotspot, but slightly better security than a private Wi-Fi hotspot. Another advantage is that you can reverse-tether so that you use your laptop’s internet connection for your smartphone.

When comparing mobile hotspot vs tethering speed, the real determining factor of speeds is the connection of the mobile service. For example, a 3G SIM or network will offer slower speeds than sharing using Wi-Fi or USB tethering.

That said, USB connections often field faster signals than wireless connections, which is why, for instance, you’ll wire your smart TV to the router instead of just relying on the wireless Wi-Fi.

If you have a SIM and network with 4G capability, both Wi-Fi and USB tethering can access faster speeds than the regular mobile internet connection. This is because the phone is likely to have the latest Wi-Fi chipsets if the smartphone supports 4G.

Tethering Charges: How Providers Treat Tethering vs. Hotspots

Is tethering free, then? It actually depends on the mobile plans you’re using. With Teltik mobile plans, you can tether for free without any restrictions whatsoever. When you’re working outside, you can easily create a mobile hotspot and get your work done.

For example, you can tether a laptop to a phone using a USB cable or wireless connection such as Bluetooth. If you tether using a wireless setup, it might look like a Wi-Fi mobile hotspot, but the major difference is in the telecom provider’s models.

How Much Does Personal Hotspot Cost?

Most telecom providers have the mobile hotspot that consists of a device or adapter that allows computer users to connect to the internet from wherever they are.

They are advertised as an alternative to connections to LANs (local area networks) or public wireless networks, but there are personal hotspot charges to be incurred. They can be used to connect all devices with internet access, but they’re commonly used for laptops.

The majority of telecom operators sell the adapter or hotbox at a fixed price and give the mobile hotspot service at a monthly fee. This means the cost of using phone as hotspot has additional upfront costs and separate monthly charges.

With tethering, the model just includes using connectors to hook up a current wireless device to your laptop without incurring monthly charges. Many providers restrict the tethering option because the former option allows them to make more profits. Teltik is one of only a handful of providers that allows its customers to use tethering.

One might argue that mobile plan providers should not restrict tethering because you still have the same data limit. So it shouldn’t matter how you use that data, right? Well, that’s the rationale that Teltik uses to allow unrestricted tethering, compared with other carriers who add an extra $20-$50 with their tethering plans.

Final Thoughts

Be sure to check with your carrier regarding their tethering policies before you sign up for a long-term contract. Some allow tethering with a supplemental plan while others don’t allow it at all. If you have already signed up, you have no choice but to wait until your contract term lapses.

Teltik provides business cell phone plans with unrestricted tethering. Plans begin from as little as $20 per month, depending on your needs.