What Is Tethering?

  • Some smartphones allow you to access mobile broadband on other devices like a laptop or tablet using only your phone's data plan by either creating a mobile wifi hotspot with your phone or connecting via a usb cable.
  • Mobile networks sometimes limit this ability so it's important to buy a plan that includes tethering

Which Networks Allow Tethering?

  • Confusingly, networks have different policies for tethering (see below for details)
  • Three allow tethering up to 2gb per month
  • O2 and Vodafone allow tethering but have very limited data allowances.
  • EE allow tethering on all plans
  • Orange, T-Mobile, Virgin and Tesco don't allow it

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TAKE A LOOK >> Tethering Information Sim Only Tethering iPhone Tethering Android Tethering Mobile Wifi
  Network Monthly Cost Data Included          Tethering Information  
  Three From £20 Unlimited Star buy   Unlimited data plan SIM only plan. Use 12GB for tethering iPad - More Info
  Three From £15 Unlimited Star buy   Free tethering on all with phone plans iPad - More Info
  EE From £9.99 500mb    Tethering included in all plans See SIM only plans - See with phone plans iPad - More Info
  Three From £13 500mb    Tethering included in all plans but inclusive data is capped at 1gb. See plans iPad - More Info
  Three From £17 500mb     Tethering included in all plans but inclusive data is capped at 1gb. See plans iPad - More Info
  Three N/A N/A    Tethering is not allowed on Orange plans. See here for the full policy iPad - More Info
  Three N/A N/A     Tethering is not allowed on T-Mobile plans. See here for the full policy iPad - More Info

Tethering Your Mobile Phone

What Is Tethering And How Does It Work?

Tethering may sound confusing but it's actually quite a simple concept. If you have both a smartphone with tethering capability and, crucially, a mobile plan that allows it you can use your smartphone to create a local wifi hotspot (just like a wifi router at home) than you can connect other devices to and share your mobile broadband connection.

The way tethering works is slightly different in different smartphones. On an Apple iPhone you need to go to the settings app then select 'create a personal hotspot'. You then create a password for your local hotspot and use that to connect other devices such as a laptop or ipad and share the data connection on your phone with them - giving you mobile broadband access at no extra charge. Some Android phones work in the same way but if yours doesn't there are apps you can download such as Easy Tether or PDANet that will allow you to get up and running in no time.

Does My Network Allow Tethering?

Not all mobile networks allow tethering. It is a tricky situation for the networks, they know that a lot of customers want to tether their phones and only pay for one data connection, but they also want to be able to supply dongles, mobile wifi devices and data sims for tablets and laptops.

O2 and Vodafone allow tethering on all their pay monthly plans at no extra cost which is great for ease of use. The only problem is that in general these two networks tend to have the least generous inclusive data allowances which could easily lead to you exceeding your data limit and incurring high costs.

Three allows tethering but only on their lead tariff 'The One Plan'. The One Plan includes unlimited data allowances so is generally best for medium to heavy users but if you are on a different tariff with Three you won't be able to tether at all.

Orange, T-Mobile, Tesco Mobile and Virgin Mobile don't allow tethering on their contracts so if you are on one of their contracts you will need to consider switching or using an alternative such as a mobile wifi device.

How Much Data Do I Need?

This depends on whether you would like to use tethering occassionally for emergencies or whether you want to use it regularly as a main or secondary way of getting online.

For occasional users, especially if you don't intend to download music or attachments or stream video or TV then you needn't worry too much about the data allowance, we'd generally recommend having at least 1gb of data on a contract to minimise the risk of going over and incurring lots of extra cost but you may not need more than that.

If you intend to use tethering regularly, for example to use a laptop or tablet on a regular commute or if you plan to download or stream significant amounts of content, then it is wise to go for a much larger data allowance - preferably unlimited - and our pick is the One Plan from Three.

Choosing A Tethering Plan

If you are looking to take out a new contract that allows tethering you need to think about how much you are likely to use your phone (for calls, texts and data), how much you are likely to use tethering (as an extra data need on top), which network you want to be on (and particularly what their coverage is like in your area) and whether you want a SIM only deal with tethering or a basic plan.

As unlimited deals are becoming more and more common and more competitively priced our recommendation is to go for unlimited data if you aren't sure how much you are likely to use as the last thing you want is to go over your data allowance and incur a large bill.

Remember not all networks allow tethering but you can see:

Three tethering plans - here
O2 tethering plans here
Vodafone tethering plans here

And check local coverage maps here