Tethering sounds so complicated but in fact it’s a simple procedure that allows you to use your mobile phone to connect a laptop or a desktop to the Internet. While this certainly isn’t the cheapest form of broadband you can get, if you don’t have broadband Internet, this might be your best option.
A Home Wireless Hotspot – Internet to the Rescue
I am so used to having broadband Internet whenever I need it, that I really suffer when for one reason or another my broadband is down. This is not only unpleasant but it prevents me from doing my job. Because of this, I have backup options to resort to when my broadband is not with me.
Free public hotspots are available in my area but if I want to use them, this means I have to get out of my home and go to the nearest one. In addition to this, security of public hotspots is always an issue I can’t forget about.
This leaves me with the tethering option as the most viable one. My unlimited data plan doesn’t explicitly allow tethering but since the plans that explicitly allow tethering are generally metered and/or charge additionally for this option, I use tethering only when I really must.
For instance, a few weeks ago there was a power cut in my area. I couldn’t access my broadband Internet connection or wireless because there wasn’t any electricity. The only access to the Net I had was through my mobile phone. I was able to connect my phone to my laptop by creating a wireless hotspot and get my work done. If I had to go to the nearest public hotspot, this would have taken me hours and since I am a busy person, I do value my time and don’t waste it on the road.
Mobile Internet Options – Dongle, Tethering, Modem, Card, Hotspot?
Fortunately, the mobile Internet options one has are many. Here are the major ones:
- Tethering. With tethering you connect your laptop to your mobile and use the mobile’s Internet connection. You can connect using Wi-Fi, BlueTooth, or via a USB cable. Tethering is suitable for occasional Internet use.
- Personal hotspot. A hotspot is created via Wi-Fi tethering and it allows to use your mobile as a portable broadband router. You can connect more than one device to it and set an access password. Personal hotspots can be regarded as tethering with a twist.
- Mobile dongle. A mobile dongle is a small device that you attach to your laptop and it also connects you to the Net. It’s more suitable when you plan to regularly use mobile Internet but almost always you need to purchase a separate data plan with it.
- Mobile modem. A mobile modem is also a separate device you need to purchase and connect to your laptop. Similarly to the dongle, it makes more sense to buy it when you plan to regularly use mobile Internet.
- Mobile broadband cards. These are one more piece of equipment you need to buy separately and connect to your laptop. Their advantages are their speed and the fact they don’t drain your mobile’s battery.
As you see, for occasional use of mobile Internet, tethering and hotspots are the best options. In terms of speed and reliability they might not be perfect but at least don’t require the purchase of additional equipment. If you do need something to use on a more regular basis then check out these options from Three.
Advantages of Tethering
As far as broadband alternatives are concerned, tethering is by far the best option. Some of its advantages are:
- You can use it everywhere. When you have landline broadband, you are tied to this line. You could add a wireless router and extend the range but still you can’t cover a wide area. With tethering, you can use it anywhere you have mobile coverage, which these days is practically everywhere.
- You don’t need a powerful smartphone in order to take advantage of tethering. You can tether on many mobile devices, not only high-end smartphones. Very often even a cheap device for under £50 will do, though its capabilities might be somewhat limited.
- There is no need to purchase additional equipment (except a USB cable, if you will be connecting your phone to your computer via a cable). For tethering you need only your mobile and your laptop – if you are connecting them in a wireless manner. In case you want to stick to wired method, you need to get a USB cable compatible with your phone.
- It is easy to set up. Usually it takes just a couple of clicks and you are done. Of course, this varies among different models but most of the latest phones, come with tethering applications enabled, so you just need to add your data and you are done.
Disadvantages of Tethering
Since tethering is so nice, you are probably wondering why it hasn’t taken the world by storm. While this might happen someday, for now the reasons it isn’t that popular (in addition to the fact that many users aren’t aware of this option at all) are related to its disadvantages:
- Tethering is expensive. For now, the main disadvantage of tethering is its cost. As a rule, you need to pay at least £5-£15 a month more, if you want to use tethering and this usually is for limited usage.
- It drains your battery fast. Tethering is more power-intensive than browsing from your phone and as a result, your battery gets drained pretty fast. If you have a phone that comes with a spare battery, this isn’t much of an issue but otherwise you might find yourself attached to the charger all they long.
- Most likely you won’t be able to use your phone for voice calls while you tether. This isn’t always the case because there are carriers that provide the ability to tether and talk at the same time but it could be a bit of an inconvenience, if they don’t. In this case, if you need your mobile for calls while you tether, you will have to drop the tethering connection first and then talk.
The disadvantages of tethering aren’t impossible to live with, so if you are looking for reliable broadband alternatives, put this on top of your list. As you’ll see next, there are some very good tethering plans to choose from.
Networks that Allow Tethering
If you want to make tethering part of your life, here is a list of who allows it and who doesn’t:
|Three||Inclusive with all plans you can tether data within your allowance|
|Virgin||New customers from 24th Jan 2013 are not allowed to use their data allowance for tethering|
|Vodafone||Since 1st June 2011, all new customers can use their data allowance for tethering. Add-ons are recommended for regular or high usage|
|Giffgaff||Tethering is allowed on goodybags that have a limited allowance however, it is not allowed on goodybags with unlimited data. The £20 goodybag has a 6GB tethering limit|
|O2||Allowed on all pay monthly plans with data|
|EE||Tethering is included with your personal data allowance|
|Tesco||Tethering is included with your personal data allowance|
|Talktalk||Doesn’t allow tethering.|
How to Set Tethering on Your Device
The answer to this question is most likely to be found in the documentation of your mobile. The exact procedure won’t be described here because with so many devices you can use for tethering, this will become an endless list. Instead, you must check the instructions from your device manufacturer. If there are no instructions there or if you use a popular operating system, here are some links to detailed tutorials how to set tethering on Android and iPhone. You might also want to check these instructions for a personal hotspot, they could be useful as well.
Alternatively, check out this iPhone to iPad tethering demonstration: