What is “tethering?”

Tethering. It’s a word you tend to associate with traveling. Granted, we don’t do as much of that as we used to. Why? Because even despite the amazing cell phones we have in 2020, there are plenty of high-end hotels out there with really, really poor internet. I mean REALLY poor. It’s a shame that hotel companies don’t get the message that internet speeds have just as much effect on their guests’ perception of a hotel as clean towels and hot water.

So what is tethering?

Tethering is the term for using your cell phone’s data plan and sharing that data with other devices. For example, you can connect your laptop to your phone so you can use LTE or 5G instead of the pitiful free internet provided by the hotel. iPhones call this feature “Personal Hotspot” and some Android phones call it “Portable Hotspot.” Either way it’s the same thing – turn on this feature and your device starts broadcasting on its own Wi-Fi network. People who connect to this network can use your phone’s data plan.

A few things to know

If you do decide to tether, you need to be aware of some basic stuff. The tethering feature uses battery power so don’t turn it on unless you need it. Also, make sure you pick a nice secure password for the tethering network because everyone within about ten feet of you is going to see that network and some will try to connect to it. It’s also a fairly good idea not to name the network “super-schmoopie-lumps” unless you want all your colleagues to laugh at you.

On the other hand, using tethering properly can really save you, especially if you live your life on the internet. I can say that personally I have sat in the passenger seat of the car working on my laptop (yes, it does actually fit in the lap, you should try it sometime) and happily connected to my phone as the driver sped along at slightly post-legal speeds. The experience was a little slow but for the most part no one could even tell I wasn’t sitting in the office working. And that’s the point. You can get whatever you need to get done, done and you don’t need to be stuck behind a desk. That’s the whole point of living in the 21st century, right?

Tethering while at home

Tethering can be a lifesaver when you’re stuck at home, too. There’s always the possibility that your internet will go out unexpectedly. More than ever you rely on that internet connection to get you through the day. You and other adults may need it for work, and kids might need it just to attend school.  One thing that hasn’t changed is that your internet service provider probably isn’t going to give you same-day service, so tethering can really help you get through that “gap” period while you’re waiting for them to show up.

One final bit of advice for you

Using a PC generally sucks data at a fairly impressive rate so if you’re on a more budget-minded data plan you might try to remember to cut down on those YouTube videos and Netflix streams. We tend to think of our computers as being relatively free of data caps, and even when there are caps they’re usually generous. On the other hand, your phone’s data plan may run out within an hour if you’re a heavy user, so be careful. Or, even better, choose an unlimited data plan from AT&T. Call our Signal Connect division at 866-726-4182 and get the cellular plan you really need. If it’s after East Coast working hours, fill out the form below and one of our representatives will call you! We’ll show you how easy it can be to upgrade to the service you want safely, with zero contact and a great experience.

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 6,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.