Find the best tethering plan
Tethering can be a great way to use the internet on your laptop or tablet when you're out-and-about. But what does it involve? And can you use any SIM plan for tethering? Our guide talks you through what tethering is, how to do it, and how to find a SIM-only deal that allows you to tether devices.
What is tethering?
Tethering is a process that allows one device to take advantage of another device’s internet connection. If your laptop is WiFi-only and there isn’t a WiFi hotspot available nearby, you can take advantage of your smartphone’s 4G data allowance, so your laptop to access the internet as if your smartphone were a mobile hotspot.
It’s really simple and straightforward to set your phone up as a personal hotspot. You can even set up a password, just like with regular WiFi hotspots, in order to make sure no one else hijacks your data package.
Once this is done, your laptop (or any other device) can connect to your phone’s hotspot using the password you created, and will be able to access the internet by using the data connection on your phone.
You can turn the hotspot functionality on your phone off and on as you please, so fear not, your phone won’t become a permanent hotspot if you don’t want it to!
Which network provider has the best tethering plan?
Most network providers these days, including the big four (EE, O2, Three, and Vodafone) offer unlimited tethering on all pay monthly and SIM-only mobile phone plans up to their data limit.
Let's take a look at some of the best SIM-only plans for tethering from the major networks:
- Three's Advanced Unlimited Data offer is a 12-month SIM only deal that comes with unlimited calls, texts and, of course, data, for just £20 a month. This plan can also be used in 71 countries worldwide, so is great for those that like to travel and work on the go.
- O2's 150GB Airtime plan offers 150GB of data, all of which can be used for tethering, on a 24-month contract costing £22 per month. It also allows you to roam at no extra charge in 71 worldwide destinations including the USA, and it comes with a free 6-month subscription to Apple Music.
- EE's 5G-ready SIM deal is another SIM only plan, this time offering a generous 160GB of data per month for £20 a month, all of which can be used for tethering. However, this is quite a lengthy 24-month plan, and your tethering allowance is reduced when roaming in the EU.
- Vodafone's Red Entertainment plan offers 160GB for £27 a month on a 12-month contract. As an added bonus, this SIM only deal comes with a free annual subscription of your choice to either YouTube Premium, Amazon Prime Video or Spotify.
Most MVNOs also allow for tethering on their SIM-only plans, although their plans tend to offer lower data limits. That being said, you can still find cheap SIM only packages from a number of smaller network providers, including iD Mobile, Tesco Mobile, and Plusnet Mobile.
Why some SIM only plans won’t allow tethering
Some networks won’t allow you to use tethering with certain mobile data packages.
The reason for this is quite simple. Many packages being offered by networks these days include unlimited data. If they allowed customers to tether devices on an unlimited plan, there’s nothing to stop people sharing their data with housemates, friends, family, or just anyone at all.
The amount of data that one person uses can be quite high when Netflix and other streaming services come into the fray. Now imagine five other people also streaming video on the same tethered device.
This may seem like mobile networks just being greedy, but the reality is that transferring data costs network providers money. If five times as much data is being transferred than they had planned for, it can soon become unviable to offer an unlimited data plan altogether.
This isn’t to say that all SIM-only packages don’t allow tethering, however. Some of the more expensive packages do. Generally, deals that run for a minimum of 12 months will allow tethering, but rolling monthly deals tend not to.
How can I get the best SIM-only plan for tethering?
SIM-only plans are changing each and every week as mobile networks battle to provide better value deals to attract customers. When looking for the best SIM-only deals for tethering it’s always quicker and easier to use our mobile comparison tool so you can compare deals quickly and grab the one that’s best for you.
All you have to do is enter a few of your requirements and our search engine will gather all the best deals and compile them all in one place so you can choose the one you like the most. Just be sure to select deals that allow tethering as one of your requirements.
Will tethering run my battery down quickly?
Yes. Tethering will drain your battery much quicker than usual.
This is because your phone will be sending and receiving a lot of signals whilst acting as a hotspot. This puts additional strain on your battery as it is having to run several more processes than it usually does.
Your phone will not only be sending and receiving data via its 4G connection with the mobile network, but it will have to broadcast a WiFi signal and process the incoming signals from the device that is benefitting the tethering process.
A way you can potentially avoid this is by plugging your phone into your laptop (if you are tethering your laptop to your phone). This cuts out the need to broadcast a WiFi signal as the phone is connected directly via the cable. Additionally, your phone will be charging at the same time. You may need to select slightly different settings to tether via USB, however.
Last reviewed: 01 September 2021
Next review: 01 October 2021