Are you looking for the elusive unlimited mobile hotspot plan? You can spend weeks researching internet providers or get the lowdown here from our experts. We’ll give you the good news, the bad news, and some creative workarounds so you can get the internet connection you need.
Best Unlimited Mobile Hotspot Plans for 2021
Hotspotting allows you to connect laptops, tablets, and other devices to the internet when you are away from a home network (or in the absence of one). There are several different types of hotspots, and each of them works a little differently.
A hotspot can refer to any of the following:
- A hotspot created by your mobile phone—As long as hotspot data is part of your cell phone plan, you can turn this feature on in “Settings.” It shares your phone’s internet connection with another device like a laptop or tablet so you can have internet access anywhere you have cell service.
- A mobile hotspot device—This is a portable, pocket-sized modem that uses a hotspot data plan to provide a mobile private internet connection for your devices, whether you’re at the park, in an RV, or working out of town.
- A hotspot broadcasted in a public area—This could be a free public Wi-Fi zone, Wi-Fi offered to customers by a business, or a network of Wi-Fi hotspots provided by an internet provider (such as Xfinity’s Wi-Fi hotspot network).
In this review, we’ll focus on comparing mobile phone plans with hotspot data and mobile hotspot device plans.
Best mobile phone plans for hotspotting
Mobile hotspot device plans have a limited data allowance and tend to cost more than hotspotting off your phone (as long as you have the right phone plan). So, the best choice for most people is to get a mobile plan that offers unlimited hotspot data (or at least a generous amount of data).
A great mobile phone plan can give you unlimited mobile hotspot data—although read the fine print because mobile plans that advertise “unlimited hotspot” are not always what they appear to be. Many unlimited plans give you a limited amount of full-speed hotspot data, and then an unlimited amount of much slower hotspot data. Technically, this is still unlimited data, so we see why mobile providers can list it this way, but it can be confusing and frustrating when your hotspot data gets slowed to almost unusable speeds after you reach a cap.
We compared all mobile phone plans solely on the basis of the mobile hotspot feature. We looked at whether hotspotting was allowed on the plan, how much hotspot data it offered, and how much it cost. We also looked at how much data was slowed after reaching the cap.
The best mobile plan for hotspotting is Visible’s unlimited phone plan, which costs $40 per month and gives you unlimited mobile hotspot data. It isn’t the fastest data on the planet—data speeds are capped at 5 Mbps—but it’s fast enough to stream Netflix and do video conferencing on one device. There are other plans that offer unlimited 2G data (which is 114 Kbps or 0.1 Mbps), but 2G speeds are too slow for online learning, Netflix, or most gaming apps.
|Visible||Mint Mobile||T-Mobile Magenta Plus||Verizon Get More Unlimited 30 GB hotspot data at 4G LTE|
|Hotspot data||Unlimited hotspot data||5 GB hotspot data||20 GB 4G LTE data, then unlimited 3G data||30 GB hotspot data at 4G LTE|
|Speed||Speed: up to 5 Mbps||Speed: 3–12 Mbps||Speed: 3–12 Mbps||Unlimited 5G Ultra Wideband hotspot data (if you live in an area with coverage)|
|Mobile||Mobile service included (talk/text)||Mobile service included (talk/text)||Mobile service included (talk/text)||Mobile service included (talk/text)|
|View plans||View plans||View plans||View plans|
*Data effective 12/17/20. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change. Prices do not include taxes and other fees.
Best unlimited hotspot plan: Visible
If you’re going to be hotspotting all month and need a lot of data, we recommend getting a Visible mobile phone plan. It’s the best deal for unlimited mobile hotspot data. Visible is an MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator), so it operates on cellular networks managed by one of the big three cellular networks (T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T).
For $40 per month, you get unlimited talk, text, and data, which includes unlimited mobile hotspot data. The hotspot data is limited to one device at a time and it’s capped at 5 Mbps, but it’s still the best option for folks looking for unlimited mobile hotspot data—even though it’s a cell phone plan with hotspot data included.
Best for occasional hotspot use: T-Mobile Magenta Plus
T-Mobile unlimited plans include a bucket of full-speed data for hotspotting and then unlimited data at 3G speeds (which is usually still fast enough for streaming). At $85 per month, T-Mobile’s Magenta Plus plan is more expensive than Visible or Mint, but you won’t risk getting deprioritized (which can happen on MVNO plans). T-Mobile’s plan is a good fit for people who need occasional hotspot use while traveling or working.
Best 5G pick: Verizon
Verizon’s Get More Unlimited plan is worth checking out for people who are lucky enough to live, work, and play in areas with 5G Ultra Wideband service. If you are in one of these urban areas, you can get truly unlimited data for hotspotting. And, even better, it’s amazingly fast 5G Ultra Wideband data. Currently, 5G Ultra Wideband is available in select parts of 35 cities. The catch is that you can’t get unlimited 4G, 4G LTE, or even typical 5G data for hotspotting—the unlimited only applies to 5G Ultra Wideband data. Once you step outside an area with 5G Ultra Wideband, you’re limited to 30 GB per month of hotspot data.
Best mobile hotspot device plans
If you have a mobile hotspot device, you can provide Wi-Fi to five or more devices. But the more devices you have connected at once, the slower your data speeds will be. Many plans let you choose how much data you want to pay for each month, which can be handy if you travel seasonally and don’t need a lot of data year-round.
However, if you’re thinking about using a mobile hotspot instead of getting a dedicated home internet connection, we recommend against it. There are no unlimited mobile hotspot device plans (yup, you read that right—you’ll have to use a cell phone plan like we mentioned earlier if you’re interested in getting unlimited data). All data-only hotspot plans limit the amount of data you can use. Plus, you’ll pay more for each GB of data than you will with most other types of internet.
You can buy prepaid data for your mobile hotspot and then use it as you go, or sign up for a monthly plan that gives you a set amount of data each month. Verizon has the most expensive data per GB for mobile hotspotting while T-Mobile has the most affordable plans.
Best cell phone plans for hotspotting
*Data effective 12/17/20. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
Hotspotting pros and cons
There are dozens of plans in the US that offer hotspotting, including mobile phone plans and mobile hotspot device plans.
The most common way to hotspot is to use your mobile phone as a personal hotspot. Many (although not all) mobile phone plans include a separate data allowance for hotspotting. Mobile phone hotspot data isn’t usually unlimited (although we did find a plan from Visible that truly has unlimited mobile hotspot data), but it can keep you connected when you’re away from home.
By hotspotting off your phone, you can avoid the cost of a mobile hotspot device and paying for a hotspot data plan but keep in mind that there are significant limitations with hotspotting off your phone. Mobile phone plans offer only a limited amount of hotspot data—generally between 10 GB and 25 GB per month. Since the average American household uses about 350 GB of data per month, hotspotting off your phone plan is convenient for occasional use but it doesn’t offer enough data to keep a whole family connected at home and on the go.1
The second way to hotspot is to get a mobile hotspot device and a mobile hotspot plan. Most mobile hotspots devices cost between $75 and $300, with a few outliers costing more (such as Verizon’s $649 Insego 5G MiFi Hotspot). Mobile hotspot plans all have limited data—the unlimited plans of the past are gone. Mobile hotspot plans vary in cost but are generally higher priced per gigabyte than a typical home internet plan.
Mobile hotspots have become more popular since the COVID-19 pandemic because they offer a simple solution to connect students and remote workers to the internet.2,3 But, that doesn’t mean that mobile hotspot devices are a good choice for a family internet connection. Because data costs so much more on a hotspot device than it does with mobile phone plans or home internet, we recommend using hotspot devices for travel or vacation homes but not for full time home connectivity.
If you’re interested in a mobile hotspot because you need home internet but have limited internet options in your area, check into LTE home internet from Verizon or T-Mobile. It’s competitively priced at $40 to $60 per month and offers unlimited data. Although you can’t take the modem with you on the road like you could with a mobile hotspot device, it’s an excellent alternative to satellite internet in many parts of the country.
Final verdict: With hotspots, there are many options but few unlimited ones
If you want hotspot data, you have dozens of options to choose from, but remember that very few offer truly unlimited data. You’ll be comparing speed, price, and data, and there are no options that give you the best of everything at the lowest price. Determining your ideal internet speed is the first step to narrowing down a potential list of providers.
T-Mobile’s hotspot device plan is among the most reasonably priced. Verizon’s mobile hotspot speeds are the fastest, but Verizon also charges the most for each GB of data. So, you’ll need to pick which you need most—speed, price, or data—and go with it.
And although there aren’t any unlimited mobile hotspot device plans, you can get unlimited cellular data with some creative workarounds. Verizon LTE Home Internet service is our top pick for folks who want unlimited cellular data at work or home.
And, you can use unlimited hotspot data on a Visible plan, which remains our favorite pick for frequent hotspot-ers (although data speeds are capped at 5 Mbps). T-Mobile plans are also a good option—they offer a limited amount of hotspot data at full speed and then unlimited data at 3G speed.
And last but not least, if you happen to live and work in an area with Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband, jump on it! You’re the luckiest of all because you can get truly unlimited, warp-speed hotspot data through several Verizon Unlimited plans.
FAQ about unlimited mobile hotspot plans
Does T-Mobile have unlimited hotspot data on its phone plans?
Technically, yes, T-Mobile does have unlimited hotspot data on Magenta and Magenta Plus mobile plans, although speeds are slowed to 3G speeds (typically 1-3 Mbps) after you reach your hotspot data cap (which varies by plan from 2–22 GB per month). T-Mobile Essentials has unlimited hotspot data but it’s all 3G data—similar to Visible’s plan.
Does Verizon have an unlimited hotspot plan?
Technically, yes, there are Verizon plans with unlimited hotspot data but this only applies to 5G Ultra Wideband data—available in select neighborhoods of cities with Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband. So, if you don’t live or work in one of these areas, you are out of luck for getting unlimited full-speed hotspot data.
All Verizon mobile plans have a soft data cap for hotspotting 4G LTE, 4G, and 5G data (15–30 GB) and then speeds slow down to 600 Kbps or slower for the rest of the billing cycle. Verizon calls this unlimited data—but it isn’t unlimited full-speed data, and it won’t be a good solution for homes or businesses.
If you want to use Verizon data for your home internet, consider getting Verizon LTE Home Internet, which is $40 to $60 per month and does indeed offer unlimited full-speed data.
If I have unlimited data on my phone, is the hotspot data free?
In almost all cases, unlimited cellular data does not mean unlimited hotspot data. You might have unlimited data on your mobile phone, but you’ll have a limit on how much data you can share with other devices while hotspotting. Some plans offer a bucket of hotspot data at full speed and then unlimited hotspot data at reduced speeds. Some mobile providers require you to set up hotspot data, while others (such as Verizon) have it already set up.
Who has the best unlimited hotspot plan?
The best unlimited mobile plans for hotspotting are Visible’s mobile plan (they have just one) or T-Mobile’s Magenta plan. Although these plans aren’t designed for hotspot devices, they offer ample data for hotspotting off your phone. For those who live in areas with Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband, there are a few more unlimited data options available because several of Verizon’s unlimited plans offer unlimited full-speed 5G Ultra Wideband hotspot data. The catch is that you’d have to live in an area with Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband (even 5G hotspot data is metered)
Can a hotspot replace home internet?
No, a hotspot isn’t designed to replace home internet for most households, although it can work for some households that use very limited data. If you don’t stream video content, use video conferencing, or upload photos to social networks, then a hotspot could provide enough data at a reasonable cost. But if your household uses a lot of data, you could end up paying hundreds of dollars in data overage fees.
If you’re interested in getting home internet through cellular data, we recommend checking out Verizon LTE Home Internet or T-Mobile Home Internet instead of using a mobile hotspot, as these options give you unlimited data at an affordable price.
- Toledo, Rob, “REPORT: The Average Household’s Internet Data Usage Has Jumped 38x in 10 Years,” April 2020. Accessed October 22, 2020.
- AP News, “Colorado spending $2M to provide internet access to students,” September 2020. Accessed November 13, 2020.
- THE Journal Staff, “Updated: Free WiFi for Online Learning During COVID-19,” June 2020. Accessed November 13, 2020.