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Updated Apr 02, 2024

Tethering vs. Hotspots: What’s Better for Your Business?

Staying connected is important for all businesses. Tethering and hotspots make the internet available wherever your workers might be. Here’s how to determine which is best for your needs.

Mark Fairlie
Mark Fairlie, Senior Analyst & Expert on Business Ownership
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Not all bosses are happy about it, but hybrid and remote working is here to stay. As a result, companies need to ensure that each member of their team has access to fast and reliable broadband connections wherever they are.

Two popular options for companies wanting high-speed internet access for the office and for staff working remotely are tethering and mobile hotspots.

In this article, we cover both technologies, examine their advantages and disadvantages, and explain how to choose the right one for your business.

Bottom LineBottom line
To find the right wireless service package for your business with the pricing, internet speed and features you need, check out our best internet service provider reviews.

What is phone tethering?

Phone tethering allows anyone with a relatively new smartphone and data plan to share their internet service with other laptops, tablets and devices. Each item must be connected to each other over either Wi-Fi or Bluetooth or via a USB cable. 

As most smartphones offer tethering, setting up a secure Wi-Fi hub with your phone is easy and efficient. You can draft a quick email or send a small document from your laptop in next to no time. Although small, there are cybersecurity risks when using public Wi-Fi, so it’s better, if you can, to use phone tethering instead.

For occasional use without the need to tether multiple devices or transfer large amounts of data, phone tethering or a personal hotspot wireless network – not to be confused with the mobile hotspot devices we’ll explore later – is an excellent way to get work done when you’re out of the office. 

But for consistent use with business travel, phone tethering is probably not the best option for you or your employees. 

Did You Know?Did you know
If you have multiple offices and want to share the same internet connection without running cables between each building, you can with a point-to-point wireless network.

Pros and cons of tethering for businesses

Tethering is a popular option for many businesses, but it does have advantages and disadvantages.

Tethering advantages:

  • Ability to share your network speed: You can share your network speed with your own equipment and your colleagues’ equipment if they’re with you. 4G (LTE) and 5G speeds can be impressively quick in some parts of the U.S. and around the world, which means you can do work, download files, have video conference calls and more.
  • Easy to set up: For years, most smartphones have come with a built-in tethering feature that takes seconds to set up. In most cases, go to Settings > Connections and then look for “Mobile Hotspot or Tethering.”
  • Cost-effective: Rather than have separate data plans for you and your co-workers’ individual laptops, tablets and other devices, each device can connect via one single plan. This keeps expenses down, and you don’t need to invest upfront in new equipment to use the technology.
  • Available when you need it: If you have a data plan and a compatible cell phone, you can tether with other devices immediately as long as you have a network signal.

Tethering disadvantages:

  • Battery drain: Tethering significantly drains your phone’s battery, especially if there are multiple devices connected to it, causing you to recharge your phone more often.
  • Data limits: Although many cell phone plans now have unlimited data, most don’t. You might reach your limit quicker than you expect if you stream videos or download large files. Your provider may block your access to the internet until your next billing cycle begins.
  • Throttling: If the cell tower you’re closest to is extremely busy, your provider may slow down data transmission speeds, impairing your ability to perform data-intensive tasks.
  • Security concerns: Tethering is much safer than Wi-Fi as long as you require a password to log on to the connection. If you don’t, you may be at greater risk than using public Wi-Fi.

What is a mobile hotspot?

A portable Wi-Fi or dedicated mobile hotspot is essentially a wireless router that connects to your service area’s cellular tower, providing multiple Wi-Fi-enabled devices with always-on access to broadband internet speeds. 

Unlike the tethered hotspots you can create through your mobile phone, these dedicated mobile hotspots provide high-speed LTE network coverage to as many as 15 devices. And because they’re designed and built for one purpose – connecting numerous devices to the internet – they perform much better than standard smartphones.

All of the major wireless network providers, such as Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile, offer devices from multiple manufacturers and service plans with a range of speeds, data allowances and pricing. 

You can expect to spend anywhere from $75 for a mobile hotspot device to $650 for a high-spec 5G model and between $20 per month and $80 per month for the data plan. If you need to provide broadband internet access to multiple devices or host a successful virtual conference while away from your standard business internet service with any regularity, consider investing in a dedicated mobile hotspot device with a sufficient data plan. 

TipBottom line
Given the choice between a mobile hotspot or satellite internet, satellite internet might be better for your business if you’re in a rural area. While you can get good download speeds with a hotspot, upload speeds are often an issue, as is latency.

Pros and cons of a mobile hotspot for businesses

A mobile hotspot is a popular option for businesses, but it also has its advantages and disadvantages.

Mobile hotspot advantages

  • Better battery life: You should get up to 24 hours of Wi-Fi on a single charge of a mobile hotspot tub. If you need to use the internet continuously all day away from the office, you can do so. Keep in mind that your battery life may be diminished by heavy data usage and the connection of multiple devices.
  • Enhanced speed and connection quality: Mobile hotspots offer both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz connectivity. This, coupled with the large antenna contained within the hardware, provides a much stronger signal, with speeds up to 50 Mbps.
  • Improved security: The security features contained within mobile hotspot hubs are advanced. Many have auto-VPN features built-in or you can connect to your own VPN. You can also easily track who’s using the network and how much data they’re using and change access credentials so that only the people you want can log in.

Mobile hotspot disadvantages

  • Additional costs: You need to pay an upfront cost for the equipment and get a separate data plan for your hub. Some providers may offer you the hub free depending on your monthly spending and how long you commit to take the service.
  • Extra equipment: You have to take your mobile hotspot hub and its charging equipment on the road with you. This means you have extra equipment to carry around with when you’re away from the office.
  • Data limits: As with phone tethering data plans, your carrier may apply a limit to your data use. If you exceed that limit, your connection may be throttled or discontinued until you top up your account.
FYIDid you know
If you’re on the road but work from home a lot, it might be a good idea to choose a business DSL or cable internet connection so you can preserve the data allowance on your cell phone.

How to set up a hotspot

Here’s how to set up a secure hotspot on Apple and Android devices.

Setting up a secure personal hotspot on iOS:

  1. Navigate to your Settings menu.
  2. Select Cellular.
  3. Select Personal hotspot.
  4. Toggle the “Allow Others to Join” button.
  5. Set your Wi-Fi password.
  6. Connect to your personal hotspot using Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or USB tethering.

Setting up a secure Wi-Fi hotspot on Android:

  1. Navigate to your Settings menu.
  2. Select Network & internet.
  3. Select Hotspot & tethering.
  4. Tap on the Wi-Fi hotspot.
  5. Toggle the On button.
  6. Set your hotspot password.
  7. Connect to your Wi-Fi hotspot.

What’s better for your business?

Tethering is right for you if …

  • You need access to the internet only for brief periods to check email or send files.
  • You want to use your own devices.
  • You have a generous data plan on your cell phone already.
  • You don’t want to spend money on additional equipment or an extra data plan.

Mobile hotspots are right for you if …

  • You need almost constant access to the internet on the go for prolonged online sessions.
  • You need to connect multiple devices to the internet.
  • You’re conscious about security and want to protect your data and network.
  • You don’t want to use your cell phone for continuous business internet use.

Jeff Hale contributed to this article.  

Mark Fairlie
Mark Fairlie, Senior Analyst & Expert on Business Ownership
Mark Fairlie brings decades of expertise in telecommunications and telemarketing to the forefront as the former business owner of a direct marketing company. Also well-versed in a variety of other B2B topics, such as taxation, investments and cybersecurity, he now advises fellow entrepreneurs on the best business practices. With a background in advertising and sales, Fairlie made his mark as the former co-owner of Meridian Delta, which saw a successful transition of ownership in 2015. Through this journey, Fairlie gained invaluable hands-on experience in everything from founding a business to expanding and selling it. Since then, Fairlie has embarked on new ventures, launching a second marketing company and establishing a thriving sole proprietorship.
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