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How does a mobile hotspot work?

Understanding the functionning of a mobile hotspot

Everyone uses Wi-Fi nowadays. You might have used a mobile hotspot more than once while you were traveling. But have you ever wondered how a mobile hotspot actually works and if it’s safe to use a public Wi-Fi hotspot? We prepared this little guide to inform you about mobile hotspot devices and public mobile Hotspots.

What is a mobile hotspot (pocket/travel router) and how does it work?

Mobile hotspots are letting you connect your devices to the internet through a wireless and portable device. Hotspots can find internet connections by using 3G, 4G, and 4G LTE networks that have been set up by major providers such as Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile.

Moreover, users can connect several Wi-Fi capable devices or gadgets including most laptop computers, tablets, and smartphones, to the network for simple and fast internet access. Therefore, other nearby devices can also use the shared hotspot to connect to the internet generally within 10 meters of the device whether you are at a coffee shop, a hotel, or a restaurant. However, as you probably have already experienced before, using a shared hotspot may require a password for the connection.

How to use a mobile hotspot?

Here are the 3 most used devices that you can share a WiFi Internet connection with:

Using Windows computer

For those who have a computer, Connectify Hotspot lets you turn your Windows computer into a Wi-Fi hotspot and share any internet connection with computers or mobile devices. You can find Connectify Hotspot right inside your PC. What you have to do is just enable it.

Moreover, you can use an integrated Wi-Fi network adapter on your laptop or PC, or you can also use a USB Wi-Fi adapter. Once you are connected to the Internet through a Wi-Fi adapter and have another Wi-Fi adapter connected to your computer, your Windows operating system will automatically select which WiFi adapter gets used for the hotspot.

Turning on your phone into a Wi-Fi hotspot

Using your phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot is very easy to do. Here is how to turn your phone into a mobile hotspot:

For iPhone users:

Step 1: Go to Settings, then Wi-Fi, then Personal Hotspot.
Step 2: Set a password.
Step 3: Slide the switch to turn it on.

For Android users (Android 2.2, or later versions):

Step 1: Go to Settings, then Mobile Hotspot; Tethering.
Step 2: Click on Mobile Hotspot to turn it on, then set the name of your network and a password.

You can connect your computer or tablet to your phone’s Wi-Fi hotspot just as you would connect to any other Wi-Fi network. What you have to do is just choose the name of your phone’s network, enter the password, and connect. Furthermore, some phones also allow you to either use a cable and/or Bluetooth.

Using 4G mobile hotspot device (Pocket Wi-Fi)

Recently, 4G mobile hotspot devices are becoming quite a popular option since they provide connection speeds roughly equivalent to home broadband connections. Plus, the 4G pocket routers are very convenient especially when you are traveling. It works in the same way as your smartphone.

The 8 types of mobile data connections

Here are the main 8 types of networks and their respective speed:

5G – Fifth Generation

5G networks can provide fast speed, in the region of 1,000 Mbps (1 Gbps), as fast as some wired home networks, and low latency as well. 5G can also allow one to work remotely from a different continent or they are even being tested for driverless cars. The fifth generation towers are being installed and becoming more common, but only a few devices use 5G technology as of now.

4G+ LTE-A – Long Term Evolution Advanced

It offers speeds that can be two or three times faster than regular 4G. This is achieved through using multiple 4G signals and antennas together, which allows for phones to receive signals from multiple frequencies.

4G LTE – Long Term Evolution

4G LTE offers speeds of up to 150 Mb/s. LTE allows the streaming of 4K videos from Netflix, the BBC, and even complex web pages. That said, true 4G is faster and more stable.

H+ – HSDPA Plus

HSDPA Plus can deliver a speed of around 21 Mb/s. H+ allows you to easily stream HD videos. However, Full HD content probably still off-limits unless you’re willing to wait for the unavoidable buffering.

H – HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access)

HSDPA is just a slightly slower version of HSDPA+, around 7.2 Mbps.

3G – 3rd Generation (UMTS)

3G data networks can support video calling, with download speeds of up to 2 Mb/s. This technology is slowly becoming obsolete.

E – EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution)

EDGE can be seen as 2.75G offering speeds of up to 384 kb/s. However, EDGE isn’t normally sufficient for accessing modern websites and is now obsolete.

G – GPRS (General Packet Radio Service)

GPRS can also be called 2.5G. It was the first “always-on” data service used with Android phones or iPhones. Data speeds here were around 115 kb/s. Yes, we came a long way!

Top 2 affordable mobile WiFi hotspot plans

Here’s a rundown of the top 2 most affordable prepaid mobile hotspot plans to give you a rough idea of what you should be looking for:

T-Mobile hotspot

The mobile network used: T-Mobile 4G LTE and 3G. Alcatel Linkzone’s price is $99.99. Here are the options available:

  • $5/1 day: 500 MB
  • $10/7 days: 1 GB
  • $30/mo: 3 GB

“Simple Choice” (auto renew plans):

  • $20/mo: 2 GB
  • $35/mo: 6 GB
  • $50/mo: 10 GB
  • $65/mo: 14 GB
  • $80/mo: 18 GB
  • $95/mo: 22 GB

Verizon hotspot

The mobile networks used are Verizon 4G LTE and 3G. Hotspot device’s price starts at $19.99. Here are the options available:

  • $20/mo: 2 GB
  • $30/mo: 4 GB
  • $40/mo: 6 GB
  • $50/mo: 8 GB
  • $60/mo: 10 GB
  • $70/mo: 12 GB
  • $80/mo: 14 GB

On a concluding note, pocket routers can make your life easier and they can be normally found for $150 or less. That said, remember that you can always use your smartphone as your very own little pocket Wi-Fi if you don’t want to buy an extra device.