How to Replace Your Home Internet Plan with Your Phone’s Hotspot

Signing up for an internet plan is usually one of the first things you do when moving into a new place. But if you have an unlimited cell phone plan with a mobile hotspot allowance, is there any need? 

Your cell phone plan’s hotspot allowance may provide enough data to keep you browsing all month—and may even supply faster speeds than some home internet plans.

What Are Data Hotspots?

Mobile hotspots use wireless cellular data to connect you to the internet. In the old days you would have to buy a standalone device for this purpose, but today’s cell phones have hotspot functionality built right in. 

Using a hotspot is also known as “tethering,” since what you’re doing is connecting a different device to your phone’s cellular data supply. Provided your cell phone plan includes a hotspot data allowance, connecting is typically as simple as going into your phone’s network settings and flipping your hotspot or tethering option to “on.” You then set up a private hotspot network by choosing a password, which you’ll then enter on your other device (laptop, tablet, gaming console, TV) to connect to the hotspot.  

Which Cell Phone Plans Include Hotspot Allowances?

Not all cell phone plans give you a mobile hotspot data allowance. However, many—in fact, almost all—unlimited data plans from the four major include a hotspot allowance, with varying amounts of data allotted for this purpose. Fewer smaller prepaid carriers offer this feature, though most of the more well-known ones do offer it with their unlimited plans. 

What to Check before Committing to a Hotspot for Home Internet

You’ll definitely want to do your research if you intend to rely on a cell phone plan’s hotspot allowance for your home internet. Here are some things to remember before taking the plunge: 

  1. Choose a plan that gives you enough dedicated hotspot data per month—you’re going to need it.
  2. Ensure that the plan you choose is on a network that provides strong coverage to your area.
  3. Make sure your hotspot data is dedicated; if it eats into your regular allotment of monthly cell phone data, this could keep your cell phone itself from having fast data all month long.
  4. Find out what happens when your monthly 4G hotspot data is used up. Does it revert to 3G speeds? If so, it will still be semi-usable. If it goes down to 2G speeds, you’ll, for all intents and purposes, be without functional home internet until your billing cycle renews.  

The biggest point to pay attention to here is coverage. Even if the plan you’re signed up for provides more than enough hotspot data, if your coverage is spotty where you live, the feature itself won’t be usable. 

Another thing to keep in mind is that video streaming consumes a ton of data. If you use your hotspot allowance for this, you’ll run out quick. That’s why this hotspot for home internet solution isn’t ideal for heavy streamers (or those who don’t like watching movies and TV on their phones). 

Advantages of Replacing Your Home Internet Plan with Monthly Cell Phone Plan Hotspot

Now that we’ve covered the particulars of relying on your cell phone plan’s hotspot allowance for your home internet, let’s talk about some of the advantages. 

  1. Savings. Home internet plans tend to be pretty expensive no matter how you slice it. And they tend to shoot up after the first year’s promo price has expired. Replacing it with the hotspot allowance already included on your cell phone plan allows you to avoid these unpleasant price jumps. 
  2. Flexibility. Home cable, DSL and fiber internet often requires installation at your house or apartment. With a wireless hotspot, you don’t have to worry about any of this, which also may make it easier to move. 
  3. Extra equipment. You’ll have to buy or rent a modem or router—if you don’t already have one—in order to make use of a regular home internet plan. These can be expensive and take up space. Again, hotspots don’t require any supplemental equipment. 
  4. Often faster speeds. Since the source of your internet signal is in such close proximity—i.e. your phone—cell phone hotspots often deliver surprisingly fast speeds. Sometimes faster, in fact, than the signal coming out of your internet router. 

Swapping Your Home Internet Plan for a Hotspot: My Experience

When I moved into a new apartment last summer, one of the items at the top of my to-do list was to sign up for internet service. On my first day in the new place, for the heck of it, I switched on my phone’s personal hotspot to do a quick web browse on my laptop. It’s now a year later and I still haven’t signed up with an ISP—and I may not, ever. 

My AT&T cell phone plan includes a 15GB hotspot allowance, which I’ve found my ample for my internet needs. Granted, I’ve modified my use so that I mainly consume entertainment on my phone, and limit my laptop browsing to the essentials. But if you’re anything like me, you might find your cell phone plan allows you to skip regular internet service altogether. 

Chris Holmes is a writer for specializing in cell phone plans, devices, and deals. His work has been cited by The New York Times, CNET, Wired Magazine, and the Verge. He owns and loves his Google Pixel 2.