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Best SIM only deals for tethering

By Aaron Howdle | Thursday, November 24th 2022

Whether you are writing your magnum opus in a coffee shop, or getting a bit of work done on the train, mobile tethering is a handy way to get online in the big wide world.

Tethering used to mean hooking up your phone to a laptop with a USB cable, in order to access the internet through your phone. A lot of handsets can still do this, but it's commonplace these days to find a Personal Hotspot setting on your handset. When activated, Personal Hotspot creates a small wifi hotspot that you can join from your laptop or tablet.

In the past, providers often charged extra for tethering, but now you can usually use some or all of your data allowance as a Personal Hotspot at no extra cost.

Using your phone as a Personal Hotspot can burn through your megabytes however, so we have focussed on contracts which include a lot of data. Here's our round-up of five SIM-only plans that allow liberal use of your Personal Hotspot.

three

1. Three

Advanced Unlimited Data

  • Data
    Unlimited
  • Texts
    Unlimited
  • Minutes
    Unlimited
  • Contract length
    12 months
  • Monthly cost
    £12 per month

This plan from Three has a lot to offer the Personal Hotspot user, and at just £12 a month offers excellent value. There is unlimited data included, Three Mobile allows customers to set a limit on the size of their bill, with text alerts when your allowance is running out.

Another great feature of Three's Advanced Plan is that it can be used in 71 locations around the world, including the European Union/EEA countries, Australia, and the United States. A boon for regular travellers, tethering abroad is only available to Three customers on the Advanced SIM plans, so if you are already on a Three Essential plan, it's important to note that tethering is not allowed abroad and could leave you out of pocket.

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EE

2. EE

4G Multi SIM

  • Data
    Unlimited
  • Texts
    Unlimited
  • Minutes
    Unlimited
  • Contract length
    12 months
  • Monthly cost
    £20

EE ‘s unlimited plan allows you to tether in the UK without limits When roaming in the European Union/EEA, however, the tethering allowance is reduced to 15GB. Roaming in other parts of the world will cost extra on top of your plan. Customers can choose to bolt on six months of Apple Music for free, and as a bonus, not use any of their data when streaming through this app.

For those seeking a more flexible contract, EE offers unlimited data for £35 per month on a 30-day contract with a 100Mbps download speed limit or unlimited speed for £38 per month.

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Vodafone

3. Vodafone

Unlimited Max

  • Data
    Unlimited
  • Texts
    Unlimited
  • Minutes
    Unlimited
  • Contract length
    24 months
  • Monthly cost
    £30

Vodafone permits unlimited tethering in the UK, but does impose a fair usage 25GB limit on tethering abroad. It offers three unlimited data plans based on speed, with this one offering the maximum speeds possible. Cheaper options are available with speed limited to 10Mbps or 2Mbps.

For an extra £7 per month, customers can enjoy extra benefits such as device care, unlimited picture messages, and inclusive roaming in 83 worldwide destinations. All unlimited data plans are available on one month, 12-month or 24-month contracts.

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O2

4. O2

Unlimited plan

  • Data
    Unlimited
  • Texts
    Unlimited
  • Minutes
    Unlimited
  • Contract length
    24months
  • Monthly cost
    £30

Rather oddly, the O2 website advises against using your Personal Hotspot, as it can use up data very quickly. In spite of this, O2 does allow tethering without any limits in the UK. O2 also has a network of wi-fi hotspots in cafes and venues around the country, where customers can use free wi-fi, saving their data allowance for later.

O2 still offers free roaming in the European Union/EEA, but does limit tethering to 25GB. If you go over 25GB, you’ll have to pay roaming fees. O2 customers can choose to sign up to the O2 Priority app, which offers discounted tickets on concerts and events as well as special deals on food and drink.

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Tesco Mobile

5. Tesco Mobile

Unlimited

  • Data
    Unlimited
  • Texts
    Unlimited
  • Minutes
    Unlimited
  • Contract length
    12 months
  • Monthly cost
    £30

Tesco Mobile allows unlimited tethering in the UK, but data use abroad is capped at 12GB. Running on the O2 network, Tesco Mobile plans can be used in the European Union/EEA for data-roaming and tethering at no extra cost up to the 12GB limit. If you're after a one-month plan, Tesco Mobile offers its Family Pack one-month unlimited plan for £30 per month, to which you can add extra family members for another £10 each per month.

Tesco Mobile also offers the ability to cap your monthly bill, which can help prevent overspending if you exceed your data allowance abroad, where out-of-plan charges can be high.

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tethering creates what is known as a wifi 'hotspot'

Frequently asked questions

Will using my personal hotspot run my battery down quickly?

Using the Personal Hotspot feature on your phone will drain your battery faster than normal. Handsets use a lot of their battery life sending and receiving signals, so using your handset to broadcast a wi-fi signal will put extra strain on the battery. Plus your 4G or 5G connection will be getting an extra workout too, adding to the demands on your battery.

One way around this is to tether your phone to your laptop with a USB cable. This way your phone is charging while in use. It may be necessary to select USB tethering in your phone's settings in order to do this.

How do I set up a personal hotspot?

For iPhone: Open Settings, then select Mobile Data. next, tap Personal Hotspot, and set Personal Hotspot to the On position. The iOS will now ask if you want to turn on wifi and Bluetooth. You will need to allow this, unless you wish to connect by USB cable.

Now tap Wi-Fi Password and enter a strong password. (This isn't related to your Apple ID or usual Wi-Fi connection.) Check the name of the hotspot, which is listed under To Connect Using Wi-Fi, for example, 'Sam's iPhone'. On your laptop click the Wi-Fi icon, then click on the name of your iPhone's Hotspot (in our case 'Sam's iPhone'). Enter the password you set in step 3 and you should be good to go.

For Android: There is some variety in the settings on Android phones, but here is the basic process. Open settings and switch off Wi-Fi. In Wireless & Networks, tap More, then choose Tethering & Portable Hotspot. Tick the box next to Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot or Mobile Hotspot. Tap the Set Up Wi-Fi Hotspot item and give the hotspot a name, and set a strong password.

Is there anything I should watch out for?

One thing to keep an eye on is out-of-plan charges. If you have a limited data plan and use all your data allowance, some providers may allow you to continue using data out-of-plan, which can become expensive. If your contract allows, you can cap your bill to avoid large unexpected charges. These charges can be particularly high when using out-of-plan data abroad.

It is also important to be security-conscious, by setting a strong password for your Personal Wi-Fi Hotspot using numbers, symbols and both upper and lowercase letters. Bear in mind you will probably be using your Hotspot in public places with a lot of other devices nearby.

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