Tethering vs Hotspot

Tethering vs Hotspot – The Ultimate Guide

Two common questions mobile internet users have is: what is the main difference between tethering vs hotspot? Aren’t they basically the same thing?

While it’s true that both can get you online fast where you’re at, there are some key differences between them that you should be aware of before deciding which solution will work best for you.

What is Mobile Hotspot and Tethering?

Mobile Hotspot tethering is the act of connecting your wireless device to your phone to share its Internet connection. In essence, the connecting device, typically a laptop or set-top box, uses the active data plan of the phone to connect to the Internet.

So what are the advantages of hotspot tethering? You can get your PC and/or other wireless devices online in a pinch, and you may be able to connect multiple devices depending on your carrier’s data plan. There’s just one problem: it drains your phone’s battery very fast.

There are other ways to connect via tethering, using either Bluetooth or USB cable. Bluetooth tethering doesn’t drain the battery as fast as WiFi tethering would, but only allows for one connection, and the same applies to USB tethering, given you have your phone’s charge cable handy.

Enabling tethering (if it’s available on your current data plan) varies between devices.

Apple iOS

  • Go to Settings.
  • Choose Cellular.
  • Tap on Set Up Personal Hotspot.
  • Go to Settings.
  • Choose Personal Hotspot.
  • Tap the button to turn your personal hotspot on.
  • Agree to Wi-Fi and USB Only.
  • Your hotspot is now active. The password is on your iPhone’s screen. Make sure to turn the hotspot off when you’re done using it!

Android (Google Nexus 5)

  • Go into Settings in the application drawer.
  • Under Wireless & Networks, tap More.
  • Tap Tethering & Portable Hotspot.
  • Tap Set Up Wi-Fi Hotspot to set your password. Tap Save.
  • Tap the slider next to Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot to enter Hotspot mode.

If that seems like a lot of steps, that’s because it is. Compare that to a dedicated mobile hotspot that you simply turn on and connect to whenever you need it.

Even worse, your ability to make and receive phone calls may be restricted whenever your phone is in tether mode. This can be a major problem for small business owners and e-commerce operators, as they need to have as many lines of communication open as possible to best serve their customers and teams.

The common conundrum that users who frequently use tethering is how can they get their wireless devices online without cutting their phone’s capability to make and receive voice calls? We’re glad you asked…

What is a Portable Hotspot?

To address this problem, a dedicated device like a portable WiFi hotspot can get you online without the hassle of remembering passwords, losing the ability to make and receive calls, and rapidly depleting battery life.

So how does a portable hotspot work? It connects to your service area’s LTE network cellular tower. This allows for a dedicated signal that you can connect your WiFi devices to. Instead of sharing your phone’s data plan, you get unlimited LTE 4G data connectivity for whatever you need, whether that be checking the weather, sending an email, streaming video, or playing a game online. Compare this to tethering, where its reduced connection speeds can make even the most mundane online tasks laborious.

Further, tethering may be subjected to data plan restrictions, and the amount of devices that can connect to it can be limited. A portable hotspot can be thought of as a dedicated network that can allow for multiple WiFi device connections and consistent network performance.
In fact, noted e-Business consultant Francie Black appeared on ABC News’ Tech Review segment, where she discussed the differences between tethering and mobile hotspots, as well as the pros and cons of each.

Since a mobile hotspot is not under excessive load that includes making/receiving voice calls, updating emails, etc., it’s free to do exactly what it was designed to do without taking on additional tasks that can run down the battery.

Are you looking to binge the next hot Netflix series while on the road? Perhaps play a quick online game while barreling down the highway (as a passenger, we hope)? A portable lithium-ion battery hotspot will give you all of this and more, without worrying about reduced battery life, security breaches, or connectivity/data plan restrictions.

By now, you’re probably asking…

Is it Better to Tether or Hotspot?

That really depends on your situation. If you need to send a quick email and happen to have your USB charge cable handy, you can certainly do so with tethering. However, the big difference between tethering and mobile hotspot is the type of online tasks you’d like to accomplish.

In the big battle between mobile hotspot vs tethering, a mobile hotspot will allow for more robust activities, such as online gaming, watching Netflix or Hulu, and pretty much anything else that requires a consistent, stable 4G LTE connection. Hard data caps are a harsh reality of many wireless carriers, and tethering could result in exorbitant data charges and throttling should one attempt the same activities while tethering.

So sure, tethering is a great option for those who need a quick connection, but would not fit those who share or stream large amounts of data over multiple sessions and WiFi devices. Tethering was never intended as a permanent wireless solution since its inception, but rather a quick fix, and the technology behind it and the plans that power them have remained largely unchanged since Francie’s appearance on ABC News in 2014.

With a mobile WiFi hotspot, it’s as simple as connecting your local device, and away you go.

What is the Best Hotspot Device?

At Unlimited LTE Advanced, we have two options available that will get you online, depending on your needs: the ZTE Velocity WiFI Hotspot and the Netgear 4G LTE Modem LB1120.

The ZTE Velocity portable hotspot device is a great solution for RVers, freelancers, and truck drivers needing a fast, wireless LTE connection.

Other benefits of the ZTE Velocity WiFi Hotspot include:

  • Connecting up to 10 devices simultaneously.
  • Separate guest WiFi for added security.
  • Extended battery life: 10 hours of solid streaming, and 250 hours of standby between charges.
  • Multi-band support that includes LTE and UMTS, giving you multiple connectivity options no matter where you are or where you go.

So what if you have a home office or small business that needs a secure, unlimited, uncluttered LTE connection? The Netgear 4G LTE Modem LB1120 is the perfect solution for those who work online from home, on-site maintenance workers, or small business owners. This modem requires an AC power connection; though this cellular connection is highly portable, it is not battery powered.

The benefits of the Netgear 4G LTE Modem LB1120 include:

  • A shared WiFi hotspot when connected to an existing router that you know the password to.
  • A single online connection when directly connected to a laptop.
  • Single connection allows for secure enterprise VPN (Virtual Private Network), which is perfect for website builders and e-commerce business owners.
  • Multi-band support includes LTE and UMTS networks, allowing for more connectivity options in various service areas.

In short, if you travel a lot and need to get online securely and quickly, the ZTE Velocity would be the best fit, while the Netgear 4G LTE Modem LB1120 works best in a more static environment that doesn’t change much.

And the best part about choosing Unlimited LTE Advanced for your wireless Internet needs? Regardless of what device would work best for you, we offer unlimited data and no contract!

Why continue to worry about potential problems with tethering, when you can get online faster and more securely with a mobile WiFi hotspot? Call Unlimited LTE Advanced today to see how we can help everyone move forward!