You never know exactly when you'll have a solid Wi-Fi connection for your tablet or computer which is why it's great to be able to share your phone's data connection. While using a mobile hotspot, or tethering, isn't a great solution for your home internet, it can be great to know you have a backup plan. If you're looking for a tethering mobile hotspot plan that works with your preferred network these are some of the best options available. These days, most MVNO carriers offer hotspot data with most if not all of their plans so you might even already have some data.
Visible makes a lot of sense if you like to use a lot of data. It keeps things simple with just one plan with unlimited talk, text, and data in the U.S. It also offers unlimited hotspot data, and while it is limited to 5Mbps, you can use it as much as you want. Long story short, browsing, social media, and music streaming should feel fast but you should only expect around 720p for videos on the hotspot.
Google Fi's biggest trick is using a combination of Sprint, T-Mobile, and U.S. Cellular towers to create a strong coverage map across the country on compatible phones. Not only that, but you can roam internationally for no additional fee. Fi plans are either flexible with service starting at $20 and charging $10 per gigabyte used or are unlimited with high-speed data up to 22GB. The flexible plan doesn't slow down until 15GB but stops charging at 6GB used.
US Mobile has flexible data plans that range from as little as 50MB and up to an unlimited plan. You can share your data with your hotspot on any limited plan for an additional $10. 10GB of hotspot data can be also be added to the unlimited plan. You can choose between the Verizon or T-Mobile LTE network for service so you can get connected with nearly any phone.
Mint Mobile offers data packages in 4GB, 10GB, or 15GB chunks and lets the customer save money by buying more than one month at a time, with maximum savings at 12 months. There's also an unlimited plan that comes with 5GB of hotspot data. Using the T-Mobile network, Mint Mobile lets you use your data allowance for hotspot and standard phone usage. If you're not sure if this is the pick for you, the network lets you check out the discounted three-month service.
Best Network Choice
Straight Talk is one of the most traditional prepaid carriers around with service on the four major carriers and several data packages to choose from. If you're willing to connect with the Sprint, T-Mobile, or Verizon network, you can get 10GB of hotspot data with the $55 unlimited plan. This is more than enough data for browsing the web and even for a little streaming.
Best International Calling
Boost Mobile is now owned by Dish and offers a wide range of plans starting at just $10 per month with 1GB of data. Plans up to 15GB can use all data in a mobile hotspot with two 35GB plans offering a choice for 12GB or 30GB of hotspot data for $50 and $60 per month respectively. These new plans utilize the new T-Mobile networking which includes T-Mobile and Sprint towers as well as 5G on a compatible phone.
Best Multi-line Savings
Metro by T-Mobile
Metro by T-Mobile makes great use of T-Mobile's network with support for LTE and 5G data on all of its plans. With hotspot data shared with your data pool on limited plans and hotspot data at 5GB and 15GB for the $50 and $60 unlimited plans, respectively, you can get in a lot of web browsing. You can save a lot by bringing the entire family with four lines of unlimited data and 15GB of hotspot data for $120 per month.
Best on the AT&T network
Cricket is one of the most popular AT&T based MVNOs, but only has one plan that includes 15GB of hotspot data by default for $60 per month. Hotspot functionality can be added to the other unlimited plan for an additional $10 per month, however. Cricket also has a range of data-only plans coming in at 20GB, 40GB, and 100GB if you need to get another device online but don't need phone service.
Best Custom Plans
Tello has a series of custom plans starting with just minutes and going up to unlimited with 25GB of high-speed data. All of your data can be used as a hotspot if you want. Tello uses the T-Mobile network so be sure you have good coverage before signing on. Tello also offers calls to the U.S., Canada, Mexico, China, and Romania with all of its plans.
How do you pick?
It can be hard to know exactly how much data you'll need on your hotspot. For the most part, you should be making use of public or private Wi-Fi networks as much as possible with your computers. If you find you just need a little extra coverage for light web browsing, something like Mint Mobile makes a lot of sense because you can share your data with your phone plan and won't need to pay any more for your plans. Mint also gives you unlimited 2G speed data if you use up your data allowance so you're never completely cut off.
If you are looking to use your data all the time or want the flexibility to do some streaming, Visible offers the best solution with its rates coming in under most other unlimited plans while offering great coverage on the Verizon LTE network. With unlimited hotspot data at 5Mbps, you won't be watching in 4k, but streams around 720p or lower should work without issue and the speed should be more than fast enough for the majority of web browsing and even social media.
When Samuel is not writing about networking or 5G at Android Central, he spends most of his time researching computer components and obsessing over what CPU goes into the ultimate Windows 98 computer. It's the Pentium 3.
It's pretty rare that I need to tether these days thanks to WiFi being in lots of public locations. I'll use it in emergencies or if I'm logging into a sensitive website in a Starbucks or other public network. Currently on an unlimited plan that discourages tethering, but that's the benefit of having an unlocked, unbranded device with hotspot baked in.
You missed the best MVNO that there is that also happens to allow tethering- Project Fi. I pay about $80 less on Project Fi than I was for Verizon for 3 GB data per month and the coverage/tethering has been just as good.
Tethering on Fi will quickly approach a mortgage payment if you use it like most do for tethering. Data is hella expensive.
If you use as much data as I do Project Fi is an absolute no go.
I understand for you, but considering the very vast majority use less than 5gig per month, Fi, when using tethering, is on par if not lower than the average.
That's not a common thing for all carriers in the states? Lol.
For what it's worth, I have Cricket and I can tether without specifically having it on my plan. Not sure if I'm supposed to be able to do that though.
When I had cricket I too tethered without specifying it as an option for service. It was with the One Plus and Nexus so it it entirely possible that when you buy a non cricket branded phone, this is how it is done. Probably applies to most carriers.
It's been a few years since I used Cricket, so maybe they've fixed this since then, but I was always able to tether with them even though my plan specifically did not include it.
Boom Mobile allows it
All of them do. Byod
Mint doesn't allow tethering.
Are you a Mint customer? Curious since I've been trying to reach someone there for 3 days now with ZERO success :)
Unlocked devices are best for tethering.
And Verizon prepaid also allows tethering included in your plan.
I tether all day long with cricket wireless and don't have to pay the stupid $10 fee. The trick is to understand that carrier branded phones are programmed to first check in with a server at the carrier to ensure your paying for ththering, then the phone will start tethering. It's preprogrammed as part of the carrier bloatware. I'm using an unlocked Note 5 (SM-N920C) with zero bloatware, when I tether, it just startes and work everytime. Gotta love the unlocked phones :)
Huawei phones are also programmed to check with carriers before tethering and they're supposedly unlocked and unbranded. Friend of mine bought the Honor 8 from bestbuy and found out the hard way. So not all unbranded devices will tether but my Axon 7, Moto x pure, and Xperia Z3 all tether just fine regardless of the network or restrictions.
As a person living in the actual free world, it boggles me that you actually have to pay to tether/have it enabled network-side.
You should not have to pay to use this basic phone function. I can only assume that american carriers built their networks wrong (whether by coincidence or deliberately), that then causes tethering to be a strain on the network, thereby making it 'necessary' for you to pay a toll for the privilege of using something that's already yours. If the networks were built properly, then someone needs to start one of those petitions to the white house to stop the carriers from charging for this.
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