RIDDLE ME THIS: Tether to iPhone, connect a router?

Here’s a scenario that was proposed to me. You can use your iPhone (or practically any premium phone) as a “personal hotspot.” In other words, your phone can provide Wi-Fi to another device and use the cellular connection to get out to the internet. There are two problems with that, though. First, you usually can’t get more than 3 or 4 devices to connect at the same time. Second, the Wi-Fi range isn’t that good. In the real world it’s about 6 to 10 feet.

So, if you can tether one device to your phone, can that device be a router? If it can, you could blast good Wi-Fi all over the house using only your phone. Would that work? It was a good question. Not having a spare router to try this with, I had to noodle this over.

I decided the answer was somewhere between “no” and “probably not, but.”

First of all, pretty much every router out there connects to the internet over a cable, not over Wi-Fi. There are some routers that connect directly using cellular, but that’s still not Wi-Fi. Since the phone doesn’t have an Ethernet port, there would be no way to do that.

There are devices that connect two Wi-Fi networks together. They’re called Wi-Fi Range Extenders and you can get them from Solid Signal. The purpose of these devices is to connect to one Wi-Fi network at the far end of its range. The range extender then creates a second Wi-Fi network which allows even more distant devices to connect.

Chances are, this would “sort of” work. It would work in the sense that you’d have more wireless range. But, there would be serious limitations. You still couldn’t connect more than a small number of devices. It’s not really the devices that are the issue, it’s the amount of traffic. Second, the speed would probably be really, really poor. Wi-Fi range extenders tend to slow down internet traffic because it takes time to bridge the two networks. The phone’s personal hotspot feature also has a tendency to slow things down. It would be a pretty poor experience, to be honest.

I’m so confident that this is a bad idea (if it even worked at all) that I’m not even interested in testing it. I’m sure it would be utterly infuriating if used for more than a few minutes.

There’s another thing to consider

Cellular connections are pretty secure. They’re not the ultimate in security, and they can be intercepted. But, for the most part, cell service providers do a good job of keeping things clean over cellular networks. They’re generally a safer bet than most public Wi-Fi. But, using your phone as a hotspot for multiple devices opens up all sorts of security risks. Your phone doesn’t even have the basic level of protection that you can get from a cheap router. You would definitely not want to have any sensitive information going through a connection like that.

In the end, there really is a better way.

It’s called a cellular router

You can get a cellular router. In theory, you can use any SIM card for it, even the one that’s in your phone now. But, using “any” SIM card may not give you the results you want. You probably want a dedicated cellular plan with a large data allowance and no throttling. And that’s where Signal Connect comes in.

Call us at Signal Connect. We can help recommend the right cellular router for you and for everything you want to do. I can guarantee you it will be more expensive than a cobbled-together phone-hotspot-range-extender thing, but it will work. It will give you what you’re really looking for, and that’s fast, reliable internet throughout the home.

The number is 888-233-7563 and we’re here during East Coast business hours. If it’s after hours, fill out the form below and we’ll get back to you, usually within one business day.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.