Does a Mobile Hotspot Use Data?

Learn how a mobile hotspot works

A mobile hotspot does use data. Whether that data is part of your mobile plan or Wi-Fi depends on how you set up the hotspot.

A mobile hotspot is a physical device that lets you connect to the internet by acting as a localized Wi-Fi network. It can be either a dedicated device or something like your smartphone or tablet that has a cellular connection. 

The name may sound similar to a Wi-Fi hotspot, but it's very different. It effectively gives your devices a similar experience as connecting to Wi-Fi, but it does so by using up mobile data. Such data is acquired through purchasing a plan through a cell phone carrier. 

Does a Mobile Hotspot Use a Lot of Data?

A mobile hotspot can use a lot of data. It depends on how you use it. When browsing the internet via Wi-Fi or your smartphone, how much data you use depends on your activity. 

For instance, if you are downloading a song via a mobile hotspot, it's likely to take up about 3-4MB. Alternatively, a Zoom meeting (or any web conference) can use 540MB to 1.62GB per hour, depending on the streaming quality of the call. Streaming a movie also takes roughly 1GB per hour and increases to 3GB an hour when viewing HD content. In comparison, streaming a video on YouTube is much gentler for data usage. That's likely to be about 550MB of data per hour at standard definition. 

Depending on your data plan, you may wish to use the internet sparingly, so you don't use too much data. Simply browsing the internet or using email typically only uses about 60MB an hour.

How Can I Use a Mobile Hotspot Without Using Data?

Some mobile hotspot devices, particularly smartphones, can use a feature called Wi-Fi tethering (or similar) to convert the hotspot into a router temporarily. By enabling it in your settings, it's possible to avoid using mobile data and instead tether to a nearby Wi-Fi network. 

Settings are typically under Wireless & Networks or similar on either Android or iOS smartphones. Look for a Wi-Fi network like you would on any other device and connect to it to save mobile data. Some devices also work via USB if your hotspot or smartphone supports the method. 

Can a Smartphone Work as a Mobile Hotspot?

Yes, a smartphone works very well as a mobile hotspot. Both Android and iOS phones have options for setting them up as a personal hotspot which your other devices can connect to just like a regular Wi-Fi network. Most carriers support the service providing you have at least 4G LTE. 

It's also often possible to connect multiple devices to your smartphone mobile hotspot, although service can be slower if you do. It's also important to check data caps or commit to an unlimited data plan, so it doesn't end up costing you a fortune. 

Once a smartphone has switched over to mobile hotspot mode, it's possible to browse the internet just like you would with any other connection.

  • How do I connect a mobile hotspot to a laptop?

    Once you set up the mobile hotspot, your laptop will connect to it like any other wireless network. Open your Wi-Fi settings and look for the name of your phone. Alternatively, you can use a wired connection with the phone's data cable.

  • How do I connect a hotspot from mobile to mobile?

    Just like with a laptop or desktop, a phone can connect to a mobile hotspot through Wi-Fi (it can also use Bluetooth, but Wi-Fi is way faster). You can also connect two phones with a cable, but that option is more helpful in transferring specific files between them.

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