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What is mobile hotspot?

By Josh Levesque

Originally published February 9, 2023


Last Updated March 21, 2024

What is mobile hotspot?

You’ve seen it mentioned in commercials, on websites, in tech catalogs and most likely listed as a feature on your phone and/or phone plan: mobile hotspot. But what is it, really? For the record, it’s not a nightclub in an RV. Many wireless users are still unfamiliar with the idea of hotspot and how it works, so they rarely take advantage of this pretty convenient and very easy-to-use feature. 

Let’s say you’re at home, watching YouTube on your laptop, via your home’s Wi-Fi network. The first full-length trailer for that action thriller you’ve been waiting for just dropped and you have to watch it now so you can chat with your friends about it later. But just as you click “Play,” your home internet goes down. The lights on your router are flashing colors you’ve never seen before and you’ve got a notification on your phone alerting you that the Wi-Fi isn’t working. However, your phone is still getting full bars of 5G · 4G LTE data. But you can’t watch this trailer on your phone, you might miss some easter eggs or get interrupted by a phone call. If only you could take that powerful mobile data in your phone and use it on your laptop, right? Wouldn’t that be awesome? Do you see where we’re going here?

In this article
Mobile hotspot on a phone being used for a tablet and a laptop.

How does mobile hotspot work?

Mobile hotspot is essentially like having a wireless router in your pocket. When it’s enabled on your smartphone, it takes your 5G · 4G LTE connection and converts it into a Wi-Fi signal so you can connect your other devices to the Internet through your phone. You connect to it like you would any other secured Wi-Fi access point, so if you find yourself without traditional Wi-Fi, whether your router at home is on the fritz or you’re trying to finish writing your blog about mobile hotspot from your uncle’s fishing boat out in the middle of a lake, it can keep you and your devices connected. Just don’t forget to set a password.

Does mobile hotspot use data?

The quick answer is yes. When your phone is accessing the Internet via a 5G · 4G LTE connection, it’s pulling from your monthly data allotment. A hotspot is accessing the Internet via a 5G · 4G LTE connection and sharing it with other devices, many of which use up data quicker than your phone. Websites and apps are usually optimized for mobile, so watching HD videos on YouTube via your laptop connected to hotspot will use up more GB than watching them on your phone. So, be sure to read the details of your current phone plan before using it. 

What’s the difference between hotspot, Wi-Fi and tethering?

Mobile hotspot and Wi-Fi go hand in hand, like a faucet and water or a food truck and street tacos. Essentially, Wi-Fi is the “what” and hotspot is the “how.” Mobile hotspot converts your mobile data signal into a Wi-Fi signal that your other devices can connect to. However, traditional Wi-Fi is typically a wireless internet connection in a fixed location. You likely have a Wi-Fi network at your place of business, you’ve probably seen available Wi-Fi networks at your local restaurants & cafes and there’s a good chance you have Wi-Fi at home. These wireless networks could be providing internet from a satellite, cable or fiber optic internet provider while mobile hotspot is providing internet from your phone’s wireless network. Traditional Wi-Fi also doesn’t tend to be mobile (although Wi-Fi on a plane is technically “mobile” but wouldn’t be considered a hotspot). 

Tethering was originally used to refer to the “pre-hotspot” way of using your phone to connect your laptop to a mobile data network via USB, hence physically “tethering” your phone to your computer. Now you’ll often see tethering used as a general term to refer to mobile hotspot as well. 

Does my phone have mobile hotspot?

If you got yourself a smartphone in the last few years, there’s a good chance it has hotspot built in. The best way to find out would be to check your phone’s settings menu.

How to enable mobile hotspot on iPhone and Android.

Enabling hotspot on iPhone

  • Go into your iPhone settings
  • Select “Personal Hotspot”
  • Toggle the switch on

Enabling hotspot on Android

  • Go into your phone’s settings
  • Select “Connections”
  • Scroll down and select “Mobile Hotspot and Tethering”
  • Toggle the switch next to Mobile Hotspot on

These steps may vary depending on your phone make & model, so you may need to refer to your user guide for more information.

Does Mint Mobile support mobile hotspot?

While not all carriers support the ability to use your phone as a mobile hotspot, you can bet your Wi-Fi capable devices that we do. All of our plans include free mobile hotspot,* so you can securely connect your other devices to the nation’s largest 5G · 4G LTE network when needed. You just need a hotspot-capable phone. And once you’re ready, we can help you enable a mobile hotspot of your very own.

*Hotspot draws from monthly allotment of high-speed data (limited to 10GB on Unlimited Plan)

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