How to Use Your Mobile Phone for Home Internet

Best T-Mobile phone plan for hotspot use
T Mobile
T-Mobile Go5G Plus
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    Hotspot data: Unlimited
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    High-speed hotspot data: 50GB
  • pro
    Largest nationwide network
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Best Verizon phone plan for hotspot use
Verizon Unlimited Ultimate
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    Hotspot data: Unlimited
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    High-speed hotspot data: 60GB
  • pro
    Great sign-on perks
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Best AT&T phone plan for hotspot use
AT&T Unlimited Premium
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    Hotspot data: Unlimited
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    High-speed hotspot data: 50GB
  • pro
    Cheaper than major competitors
  • con
    Smaller network than competitors'
Best Mint Mobile phone plan for hotspot use
Mint Mobile
Mint Mobile 20GB
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    Hotspot data: 20GB
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    High-speed hotspot data: 20GB
  • pro
    Very affordable
  • con
    Less high-speed data than other options
Best Visible phone plan for hotspot use
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    Hotspot data: Unlimited
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    High-speed hotspot data: None
  • pro
  • con
    No high-speed hotspot data (capped at 5Mbps)

Mikayla Rivera
Dec 10, 2023
Icon Time To Read9 min read

Mobile internet has gotten really good—as evidenced by the rise of 5G home internet services. But what if you want to skip all that and just use your phone as a hotspot?

Whether out of want or necessity, using your phone to provide home internet is more possible than ever. Many providers offer some form of unlimited hotspot data, even if it’s at a reduced speed, and 5G performance can rival cable and satellite easily.

Let’s explore everything you need to know about using your mobile phone for home internet.

How to use your phone as a hotspot (iPhone and Android)

First up, let’s cover how to activate the hotspot feature on your phone. After all, having a killer hotspot plan doesn’t do much good if you don’t know how to use it.

Both iPhones and Android phones can be used as a hotspot, and the process is super simple once you know how to do it.

How to use the hotspot feature on iPhone

  1. Go to Settings > Cellular > Personal Hotspot or Settings > Personal Hotspot.
  2. Toggle on Allow Others to Join.
  3. Tap Wi-Fi Password to set a secure password for the network.
  4. On your other device, select your phone’s hotspot on the list of Wi-Fi options.
  5. Enter the password you created for your phone’s network.
  6. You’re connected!

How to use the hotspot feature on Android

  1. Go to Settings.
  2. Tap Network & internet > Hotspot & tethering > Wi-Fi hotspot
  3. On this screen, you can give the hotspot network a name and password, as well as change other options.
  4. When done, toggle on “Use Wi-Fi hotspot.”
  5. On your other device, select your phone’s hotspot on the list of Wi-Fi options.
  6. Enter the password you created for your phone’s network.
  7. You’re connected!

Once you’ve done this initial process once, you can simply toggle the hotspot on directly from the Hotspot & Tethering screen.

What is a hotspot?

A mobile hotspot is a device that turns a cellular internet signal into a standard Wi-Fi network that other devices can connect to. Hotspots can be dedicated devices, but these days most smartphones also have mobile hotspot functionality built in, which enables them to share their internet connection. As with anything, each has its pros and cons.

Hotspots are typically used to provide a portable internet connection, but they can also be used at home—potentially even to replace your home internet entirely.

Phone hotspot vs. a dedicated hotspot device

The main advantage of using your phone’s hotspot is convenience. You likely have your phone with you most of the time, so you don’t have to worry about not having internet access. It’s also one less device to carry. 

On the other hand, the hotspot feature can really eat through your phone’s battery, which can be a problem if you’re unable to charge. And, while many phone plans include some hotspot data, it may not be enough for full-time use as a home internet replacement.

Dedicated hotspots, on the other hand, may be able to support multiple devices at once better than your phone, and you won’t have to worry about eating through the battery (or your phone plan’s data allotment). But, of course, it requires you to charge and carry a separate device, and dedicated hotspot plans can be pretty expensive.

Check Mark

You can pair either of these options with a cell phone booster to get a stronger signal.

Hotspots vs. other internet types

How exactly does using your phone as a primary internet connection compare to other types of home internet? Well, it depends.

  • Compared to satellite internet, a phone hotspot isn’t so bad—you may even see better performance, depending on which satellite provider you’re comparing to. Satellite also suffers from similar data limitations, so there’s not much difference there.
  • Compared to 5G home internet, a phone hotspot is going to lack data—big time. Most 5G home internet services, such as T-Mobile Home Internet and Verizon 5G home internet, are unlimited, so the constraints will definitely be felt. However, performance should be similar.
  • Compared to cable and fiber, a phone hotspot (or any hotspot, really) is going to struggle to keep up. Cable, and especially fiber, are the fastest and most cost-effective types of internet. Of course, you probably already have a phone plan, and you may not have a cable or fiber plan, so there’s the added cost to consider.

What are the limitations of using a mobile hotspot?

The main limitation of using a mobile hotspot is the data usage. Anytime you’re using a mobile hotspot from your phone, you need to pay attention to how much data you’re using. Streaming videos, gaming, and transferring large files are all activities that use a lot of data. Unless you want to pay for extra data, you’ll have limited access to these online activities while using a mobile hotspot.

Is mobile hotspot data unlimited?

If you’re wondering if mobile hotspot data is unlimited, the answer is tricky. Data is the biggest obstacle to using a mobile phone for home internet. A lot of people get confused about unlimited data plans, thinking that this means that mobile hotspot data is also unlimited. But, this isn’t the case. Even on cell phone plans with unlimited data, there will be a cap for how much data you can use as a mobile hotspot.

Once you reach that limit, the data will be deprioritized, which basically means your data speed will slow way down until your limit starts over the following month. So, technically, your data is unlimited—even after you hit your limit, you can use as much slow-speed data as you want. But the slower speeds don’t support video streaming or gaming. These slower speeds will support basic email and browsing functions.

How do I know what my mobile hotspot data limit is?

If you’re wondering what your mobile hotspot data limit is, you’ll want to check your cell phone plan, because every plan is different. Some plans don’t allow mobile hotspot at all, while others have limits. There aren’t any mobile plans that offer unlimited, full-speed data for mobile hotspot. If they did, we’d all cancel home internet.

Many cell phone carriers have monthly caps of 5 to 15GB of data per month before they start slowing things down (throttling data) or charging you for data overage. Check out the details of your mobile plan and look for info about mobile hotspot or tethering. The mobile hotspot data limit is different from other data limit amounts. You can check with a customer service representative if you’re having trouble finding out the correct information on your plan.

How do I know how much hotspot data I’ll need?

You can get a rough estimate of how much hotspot data you’ll need each month by using T-Mobile’s Smartphone Mobile Hotspot Data Calculator. For an exact calculation of how much data you use each month at home, log in to your Internet Service Provider account and check your monthly data usage.

As a general guideline, streaming Netflix uses 1–3GB of data per hour, which means that 5–15GB of monthly mobile hotspot data won’t last long if you’re streaming video. Video streaming, file transfers, and gaming use up a lot of data. Sending emails and browsing the internet use very little data by comparison.

How do I know how much speed I need?

Recommended minimum download speed

Streaming music
Online gaming
Video streaming
1–3 people5Mbps5Mbps25MbpsSD Video: 10Mbps
HD Video: 50Mbps
4–6 people10Mbps25Mbps100MbpsSD Video: 50Mbps
HD Video: 100+Mbps

If you want to know how much internet speed you need for your favorite online activities, use the recommended internet speed quiz. This will give you an idea of how fast of an internet connection you need for your everyday activities. If you’d rather not take a quiz, the chart below is also a good reference for data speed.

Can a mobile hotspot replace home internet service?

A mobile hotspot can replace home internet service if you’re a light data user. Light data users use the internet at home just to check email, shop occasionally, and browse websites, a mobile hotspot can work for you.

If you like playing games online, streaming videos through YouTube, Netflix, or Hulu, or if you work remotely and transfer large files, a mobile hotspot isn’t the answer. All of these activities use up a lot of data. Due to data caps, heavy-internet users and video streamers may max out data plans in the first few days of the month and end up with data overage fees (expensive) or drastically slowed speeds (very inconvenient), which can kind of ruin the experience.

That said, if you are a light user, or just need a backup service, your phone’s hotspot could be a decent substitute for home internet.

The best plans for using your phone as a hotspot

Hotspot data
High-speed hotspot data
Go5G Plus$90.00/mo.Unlimited50GB
Unlimited Ultimate$90.00/mo.Unlimited60GB
AT&T Unlimited Premium$85.99/mo.Unlimited60GB

What to look for in a hotspot plan

If you intend to use your phone for home internet, whether occasionally or as a full-time replacement, the number one thing to look for in a plan is hotspot data. The second most important thing is high-speed hotspot data.

These aren’t necessarily the same thing. Many plans offer unlimited data, but this is typically throttled to a slower speed after a certain threshold. If you want to use your hotspot connection to stream video or perform other demanding activities, you’ll need a generous amount of high-speed data.

Which provider has the best availability?

Although there are quite a few providers in this list, it’s worth noting that there are really only three nationwide networks: T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T. Most of the other providers are MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) that rent space from one or more of the big three. This includes Boost Mobile, Twigby, Mint Mobile, Ultra Mobile, and Visible.

Provider availability can vary a lot from place to place, and how strong a signal a given provider has greatly impacts its speeds and performance in an area. This makes it pretty hard to give a blanket answer on which is the best.

As a very general rule, T-Mobile currently seems to have the lead in terms of both 5G coverage and performance (it also has excellent customer service). That said, Verizon still seems to penetrate buildings better—an issue that has always plagued T-Mobile. If we put two phones side-by-side in the same office building, one with T-Mobile and one with Verizon, the Verizon phone gets a usable signal, while the T-Mobile one does not. That’s definitely something to consider.

Find the right internet connection for you

Now that you’ve got the scoop on how to create a mobile hotspot, you can try it out next time you’re away from Wi-Fi. You also know the pros and cons of using a mobile hotspot for home internet and the best rural internet options so you can stay connected from anywhere.

While we don’t recommend using a mobile hotspot for home internet as a long-term solution for most households, it can work for people who don’t use much data and are serious about saving money.

For the rest of us, we recommend a steady home internet connection to keep your home humming.

Whether you’re after satellite, mobile, or DSL, find the best internet speeds in your area using our search tool.


At, we base our analyses on thorough research, including customer interviews, first-hand testing, results from our speed test tool, and proprietary internet provider data on speeds and pricing. We also dive deep to get all the details on plans, fees, and future developments. We then bring this info together in one place so you can find it easily. Finally, we use our satellite internet industry expertise to help you make the best decisions you can for your household. As always, thanks for reading!

Mobile Phone for Home Internet FAQ

What is a mobile hotspot?

A mobile hotspot is a shared internet connection you can temporarily turn on between your mobile phone and another device. In this way, your smartphone can function as a router that broadcasts your phone’s internet to a tablet, laptop, or a friend’s phone. Creating a mobile hotspot with your phone (which is known as tethering when you do it with a USB cable) lets you share your phone internet and data plan with other devices.

There’s also something called a mobile hotspot device (or MiFi), which is different from using your phone as a mobile hotspot. You can learn more about buying a dedicated mobile hotspot device and setting up service on our post about the best mobile hotspots.

Are mobile hotspots protected networks?

A mobile hotspot is a protected network because it’s through your cell phone number. Your phone should prompt you to set up a password, which you will then enter on your other devices to access the internet. This makes a mobile hotspot safer and more secure than using free public Wi-Fi.

Does my cell phone allow me to create a mobile hotspot?

Some cell phone plans don't allow you to create a mobile hotspot at all. You can find out quickly if your phone plan allows it by going to Settings and trying to turn on the personal hotspot. If you don’t see the option for Personal Hotspot or Wi-Fi Hotspot, or it’s grayed out, your plan does not support this feature. You can learn specifics about your plan by contacting your cell phone provider or reviewing details about your phone plan on their website.

How can I share internet over my cell phone with a laptop?

If you want to share your mobile phone’s internet connection with another device (like a laptop or tablet), go to the settings in your phone. Look for “personal hotspot” and switch it to “on.” You may need to set a password and enter it on your other device if you haven’t used the hotspot setting before. After you finish, make sure you turn off your hotspot setting so you don’t accidentally waste data.

Can I stream Netflix or watch TikTok if I’m using my mobile hotspot for home internet?

Although you can occasionally stream video from Netflix or TikTok with your mobile hotspot feature, remember that video streaming uses a lot of data. So, watching too many episodes of Umbrella Academy might push you over your data limit and slap you with sluggish speeds of less than 1Mbps for the rest of the month.

Mikayla Rivera
Written by
Mikayla Rivera
Mikayla Rivera has worked as an editor for nine years on websites like,, and As someone who grew up with little to no internet access, she knows how vital it is for education, work, and even play. She’s now determined to help readers get reliable internet speeds, wherever they live. Her passion for internet accessibility, memes, and ethical marketing is rivaled only by her dedication to The Chicago Manual of Style. When Mikayla isn’t managing, she’s writing novels of her own.