Get Internet in Your Car With a Mobile Hotspot

Go online on the go

Generally, three methods are available for getting internet in your car: using a dedicated hotspot, tethering your phone, and using your car's built-in internet connectivity (available as an option on some cars). Here, we discuss the functions, uses, and advantages of dedicated hotspots.

About Mobile Hotspots

A portable mobile hotspot is a device that connects to the internet and shares that connection with users who have the correct login credentials. In other words, it creates its own private Wi-Fi network to which users can connect their devices. It's a mobile, portable router.

Most major cellular service providers offer hotspot devices and associated plans. Additionally, some companies focus exclusively on mobile internet service. Third-party mobile hotspots are available, too, for use with your data plan.

Each type of device and plan offers benefits and drawbacks in terms of features and network availability, but they all perform the same basic function.

Netgear Nighthawk LTE Mobile Hotspot Router

Mobile Hotspot Advantages

The main advantage of using a dedicated hotspot over other methods is portability: You can take it with you to use anywhere—including in a vehicle. Although they're not designed specifically for cars, most hotspots can plug into 12-volt accessory outlets and USB ports commonly available in modern cars.

Another benefit is simplicity. A mobile hotspot's exclusive purpose is to connect other devices to the internet. You can set up your smartphone to serve as a hotspot in a method known as tethering, but you're likely using your phone for other purposes, too.

This can get complicated and require more cables and connections. For example, relying on your phone for GPS directions, hands-free calls, and hotspot functionality on a long trip uses battery life quickly, so you'll have to charge your phone as you go.

Auto Manufacturer Solutions

Several carmakers offer hotspot functionality in their vehicles; the specifics differ from one case to another.

For example, in some BMW vehicles, you can plug your internet-connected device into the car's built-in system, which then creates a Wi-Fi network for you. You must have a compatible device and a service plan.

Ford's FordPass Connect offers built-in Wi-Fi for up to 10 devices in some 2018 and newer models. Likewise, Mercedes offers in-car Wi-Fi for up to eight devices. This type of connection requires a paid monthly subscription.

Why Would You Need the Internet in Your Car?

You should never surf the internet while driving. For this reason, a mobile hotspot's real utility is more about the passengers than the driver. They can do anything on their devices that they do at home, from watching movies to shopping. However, mobile hotspots also can allow a driver to stream traffic, weather, news, and music while driving and work on a laptop at a rest stop.

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