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Mobile Hotspots: What They Are & How They Work

Explore the world of mobile hotspots: their types, benefits, costs, and how they work. Stay connected anywhere with the right hotspot for your needs.

What are hotspots and how much do they cost? Find out that and more below.

People use the Internet every day for multiple functions that make it easy to stay in touch, find entertainment, and even work from home. However, traditional Internet services can have trouble reaching less populated areas or keeping up with the demands of a mobile lifestyle.

Mobile hotspots are a means for Internet users to access services from anywhere they have a cell signal. This approach allows Internet providers to deliver digital content to users remotely without the need for wired infrastructure.

What Is a Mobile Hotspot and How Does It Work?

Modern mobile hotspots allow Internet users to share their mobile Internet signals as a physical LAN or WiFi connection. A WiFi hotspot offers the flexibility to connect more devices without adding extra cost or overhead.

Many modern devices operate using a 5G hotspot or 4G LTE. Connected devices can be used while traveling, in coffee shops, or in homes with poor existing Internet infrastructure. With the right hotspot device, users have access to the Internet no matter where they are.

Investing in a personal hotspot means mobile, high-speed Internet is just a click away.

Types of Mobile Hotspot

Mobile hotspots come in various forms, each catering to different user needs and scenarios. Here are the most common types:

  • Smartphone Hotspot: Most (if not all) modern smartphones have a built-in hotspot feature. This allows a cellular data connection between your phone and other devices.
  • Portable Hotspot: The portable hotspot is a standalone device. It’s usually about the size of a small wallet or hard drive. Its only function is to provide Internet access on-the-go to multiple devices.
  • Dongle: This is a smaller USB device that can be plugged directly into a computer or laptop. Like the portable hotspot and smartphone, the dongle also requires a SIM card.

Each type has its advantages, and the best choice depends on your specific needs, the number of devices you need to connect, and how often you'll need to use the hotspot.

Internet Speed With a Mobile WiFi Hotspot

The speed of a mobile hotspot mostly depends on the cellular network it's connected to and the device itself. With the invention and implementation of the 5G network, many mobile hotspots can offer blazingly fast Internet speeds (50 Mbps - 1000 Mbps), which is on par with what traditional broadband connections offer. 4G LTE networks typically max out around 30 Mbps.

However, it’s important to note that factors like a network’s congestion, bandwidth limitations, and the number of devices connected can affect the speed. This is especially true regarding public hotspots.

Average Cost of a Mobile Hotspot

The cost of a mobile hotspot depends on many factors like the device, data plan, and service provider. Many providers offer prepaid and postpaid accounts. Further, some have unlimited data plans — though you should read the fine print as many have data caps on their “unlimited plans.” Overall, here’s a general cost breakdown:

  • Device: $50 - $400+ depending on the type of device
  • Internet Plan: $10/mo - $100+/mo depending on data usage.

Need help finding the best hotspot and mobile plan for your needs and budget? We can help. Get connected with the best mobile plans today.

Xfinity Mobile

Xfinity Mobile offers a By the Gig data plan and an unlimited mobile hotspot data plan. Both mobile hotspot plans include 5G and 4G LTE access (where available) and 600 kbps personal hotspots. The By the Gig plan supports data sharing between multiple lines (up to 10GB).

Optimum Mobile

If you’re an Optimum Internet customer, you have nationwide access to millions of WiFi networks. Optimum mobile hotspots allow users to experience the same fast Internet speeds they enjoy at home. Using Optimum mobile hotspots only requires customers to enter their Optimum login credentials when connecting to an available mobile hotspot.

Spectrum Mobile

Individuals who are already Spectrum mobile or Internet customers automatically get free unlimited mobile hotspot access where available. If you’re not yet a Spectrum customer, you can sign up for the “Spectrum Free Trial” to test out its mobile hotspot for up to 30 minutes.

What Can a Mobile Hotspot Be Used For?

Mobile hotspots are useful for delivering Internet to remote, hard-to-reach areas or locations with poor existing Internet infrastructure. This can be incredibly useful for work-on-the-go professionals and digital nomads.

This flexibility makes mobile hotspots useful for home monitoring with IoT and wireless home security systems. Users should be aware of monitoring fees that might go along with added data consumption.

Home Security

Home security systems that rely on Internet connectivity suffer from potential outages. Homeowners who want a reliable wireless home security system should backup their existing Internet connection with a mobile-ready solution.

Companies such as Frontpoint provide quality monitoring and equipment to users who want the most out of their smart home security systems. Users can prevent break-ins by deploying one of Frontpoint’s DIY home security kits.

IoT Integrations

Smart home devices have become a popular way for users to automate their daily lives, but intermittent Internet connections can make managing them difficult. With a mobile hotspot, IoT devices can be better integrated.

Companies such as If This Then That (IFTTT) give users access to digital packages that allow them to program their own services. This approach gives users a way to choose which events are triggered and for what reasons.

How Do I Create a Mobile Hotspot?

Mobile hotspots require devices connected to a mobile network that can be used as a router to deliver Internet to multiple end-points.

Portable WiFi devices that offer a mobile hotspot to users include:

  • Verizon Mifi Jetpack
  • T-Mobile Inseego
  • Netgear Nighthawk 5G Router
  • Alcatel Linkzone

Users can even purchase an extra SIM card for a constant data connection while on the go.

Mobile Hotspot Vs. Phone Hotspot

For the most part, a dedicated mobile hotspot device is used exclusively to provide Internet access. In many cases, a dedicated device has a much longer battery life than a cell phone, can handle multiple connections, and may offer more data network options (depending on the brand).

On the other hand, turning on your cell phone’s hotspot feature will usually result in very fast battery drain. Although, the convenience and cost effectiveness of turning your Android or iOS device into an access point is undeniable. At the end of the day, both options have their pros and cons, and the best choice depends on your needs.

Pros And Cons Of Using a Mobile Hotspot

Mobile hotspots are nearly everywhere and everyone has them. However, much like any tech, there are both advantages and disadvantages of mobile hotspots.


  • Portability: Compact and perfect for travel or working in public spaces.
  • Secure Connection: Much safer than public WiFi if configured right.
  • Multiple Device Connectivity: Connects several devices at the same time.
  • Flexible Plans: Ranges from pay-as-you-go to unlimited data options.


  • Data Limits: Can be easy to exceed data caps depending on the plan.
  • Battery Life: Can drain quickly, especially on smartphones.
  • Dependent on Cellular Network: Performance will vary based on signal strength. So, not as reliable as fixed broadband Internet.
  • Cost: Potentially more expensive than traditional broadband for heavy users.
  • Limited Range: Shorter WiFi signal range compared to home Internet routers.

Are Mobile Hotspots Safe?

In comparison to public WiFi, mobile hotspots offer much more security, but there are still some potential risks. That’s why it’s recommended that you configure your hotspot with a strong password, stay away from using defaulted SSID names (i.e., iPhone 61), and consider using a VPN. Taking these steps can make it much harder for potential hackers to intercept your sensitive information.

Is it Worth Getting a Mobile Hotspot?

Despite having higher costs and data caps, mobile hotspots are a convenient option for users who need better Internet. A mobile hotspot offers many benefits, including a wider service area, simplified pricing structures, and a range of available deployment methods.

Flexible Coverage

A mobile hotspot makes budgeting easy with simplified monthly pricing structures and no-contract options available. More locations can be covered with mobile hotspots, making them a good choice for users who need to stay connected on the go or in hard-to-reach locations.

Simplified Account Management

With mobile hotspots, users have only a single account across mobile and Internet services. This unification streamlines the billing process. It also makes it easier for customers to track and manage networks across multiple users and devices.

More Choices

Mobile hotspots have more device options, giving users a greater range of choices when setting up their networks. Whether they want to have specialized equipment or simply use their existing smartphones, users can easily access the Internet from anywhere. With more providers, everyone is able to find the plan that meets their needs.

Improve Your Mobile Data Service with SmartMove

Internet service providers (ISPs) have a variety of options available for users who want continuous access to the Internet no matter where they are.

At SmartMove, we bridge the gap between ISPs and their customers by partnering with ISPs to deliver the best service possible. Whether you're moving to a new address or simply looking for a better mobile data provider, SmartMove’s Internet, cable TV, and mobile services will ensure you stay connected no matter what.

Make sure you have the right Internet for your needs. Find out for yourself how SmartMove can improve your mobile data connection!

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