What Is Tethering for Internet and Network Devices?

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Tethering is a method for configuring computers (typically, laptops) with wireless access to the Internet using a cell phone as a modem.

Why Use Tethering?

Tethering continues to grow in popularity as it has proven a highly useful option for Internet networking in certain situations:

  • When traveling, in places where local Wi-Fi hotspots are unavailable or inconvenient
  • In rural areas or other residential locations where no high-speed Internet access options exist
  • As an emergency fall back option in the home, when the primary form of high-speed Internet access is unavailable due to service outage

Making Tethered Connections

Mobile phones can be connected to a computer for tethering either via USB cable or via Bluetooth wireless. However, tethered network configurations suffer from several important limitations compared to more traditional forms of Internet access:

  • A mobile broadband data plan with tethering option is required; these may be more expensive than standard home broadband and may also limit the amount of network traffic connections are allowed to generate per month
  • Connections often run at very low speeds (data rates significantly less than 1 Mbps)
  • Phone and cellular network providers may forbid using some devices for tethering, or void their warranty