Do Hotspots Cost Money? The Truth Revealed


Do Hotspots Cost Money? The Truth Revealed

Key Points

  • Hotspots are useful for getting internet connectivity without relying on public wireless infrastructure, especially in rural areas with weak internet infrastructure.
  • A hotspot is a mobile device that serves as a gateway to a cellular network, allowing you to use the same data plan as your phone on other devices.
  • There are two types of hotspots: phone-based hotspots that use your existing device to create a short-range wireless network, and dedicated hotspots that are standalone devices with stronger signal output.
  • The cost of a hotspot is typically bundled into your mobile coverage, but there may be additional fees for exceeding data limits or using it on business plans.
  • Hotspots can be a handy tool for reliable wireless access on the go, and many smartphones already have the capability to be used as a hotspot if needed.

Does a hotspot cost money? Generally, when users are looking at adding a hotspot to their cellular plan, there can be a question of cost. For many mobile providers, such devices and services can be a bonus item.

Hotspots are very handy for users looking to get internet connectivity without having to rely on public wireless infrastructure. In urban areas, you get the option of great speeds.

Rural areas are really where it shines, provided you have coverage, as these areas aren’t typically covered with strong internet infrastructure.

Hotspots can be a vital lifeline for nomadic workers, allowing them to access company resources and send communications without a hitch. As with all things networking, there are costs to consider when looking at them.

What Is a Hotspot?

A hotspot is a wireless access point, created by a dedicated device, that serves as a gateway to a cellular network. You can use laptops, tablets, or whatever other devices you’d use to connect to the internet. This can be helpful because devices like laptops typically forego having a cellular modem, especially with space at a premium.

Hotspots access the same cellular network you would use with your mobile phone. In many cases, a hotspot will actually use the same exact data plan you might already have. Instead of it being solely relegated to your phone, you can use that same data access with a completely different device.

In areas where internet coverage isn’t a given, this can be great. They’re especially useful for travelers and digital nomads. This is thanks, in part, to having reliable internet access in covered areas.

Now, public utilities, like Wi-Fi for public libraries, are great. However, it isn’t always feasible to end up in a public library.

If you aren’t able to reliably access a fixed internet connection, then this particular solution is a great option. It may not have the speeds you’d expect from home-based internet plans, but it sure beats trying to connect on whatever connection you might find.

The Types of Hotspots

Dedicated wireless connectivity can be useful if you’re on the move.


Unsurprisingly, there has been enough development and integration of technologies that there are separate categories of these devices. They all function in the same manner, it just depends on what your preferred method of delivery may be.

In any case, you won’t notice any pronounced connectivity issues regardless of the option you choose. That said, a dedicated hotspot will generally have stronger signal output due to strong transmitters.


You’ve already got your phone with you 99% of the time, so it only makes sense to take advantage of some of its capabilities. A phone hotspot uses your existing device to broadcast a short-range wireless network you can access with other devices.

If you’ve got an iPhone and Mac, you may have already experienced using this. Modern smartphones that support this capability generally have the functionality built into a menu, or something easily accessible.

Once enabled, it uses your phone’s pre-existing wireless radio and other components to create a private network. Generally speaking, this may rely solely on your data plan, but can also be an additional fee, depending on your mobile carrier.

Make sure to check with your provider before just assuming you have this functionality.

Dedicated Hotspots

As the more premium option, dedicated hotspots are standalone devices that can take advantage of your data plan. These have the added benefit of being stronger when it comes to outputting a connection.

Dedicated hotspots are sometimes thrown in your mobile coverage, but can also be purchased separately. On the one hand, they have a great amount of utility, as you have a dedicated device for connecting your internet-capable devices.

On the other hand, it is an additional device to keep track of, charged, and stored safely while traveling. If you’re looking for the best possible connection you can get for your devices, having a dedicated hotspot can do wonders.

However, if you’d prefer just to have something you keep on hand, a phone-based hotspot might be a better option, despite the less powerful signal output.

How Much Does It Actually Cost?

Hotspots enable you to get internet access in areas where it might not be available.


The cost of a modern hotspot being bundled into your mobile coverage can be relatively affordable. For most modern contracted plans, you’d have this bundled into the overall cost of your monthly charges.

That isn’t to say it is free by any means, but you’d be getting charged the same amount per month regardless of if you used your data on a phone or hotspot. So, it becomes a balancing act instead.

You might find yourself on a commute where catching a few episodes of a show is feasible. That would absolutely count against your premium data allotment, meaning you’d have less overall data to use with your hotspot.

For some business plans, this can be an additional monthly surcharge. Once you exceed the allotted data provided, you could possibly expect to pay overages. For most consumer plans, you’ll find once your premium data is depleted, you’re stuck with 3G wireless access.

The Cost of Data

Being charged per hour or per gigabyte has largely fallen out of favor, but it is important to understand how much data you might be using for a given task.

Generally speaking, for web browsing, you’re looking at around 50MB to 60MB an hour. This number can jump up exponentially if you’re browsing sites with a lot of images and the like.

Using social media sites, you’ll see this jump to 120MB an hour. If you’re watching a lot of Instagram Reels or TikToks, it can jump up substantially, however.

Streaming video is the real killer, using up to 3GB an hour. High-resolution content is quite heavy. If you can settle for standard definition, you’d still be looking at around 300MB an hour.

Video calling is also quite costly, with a standard Zoom call taking up about 400 to 500MB per hour.

Which Mobile Providers Support Hotspots?

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12/03/2023 11:51 pm GMT

Most major mobile providers have support for hotspots. A particularly noteworthy plan is Verizon’s Unlimited Plus. You’d be paying $80 a month for a single line, but you get unlimited data to use on your phone or hotspot.

Other providers like AT&T and T-Mobile also offer similar levels of coverage. Few offer up unlimited data to the same extent as Verizon, however.

AT&T does come with support for mobile hotspots out of the gate but will charge for overages if you’re on a limited data plan. If you’re only using it to browse the web on your laptop or send emails, it isn’t much of a consideration.

If you need to spend hours upon hours in teleconference calls while on the road, you might run into issues.

Finding the right provider to support a mobile hotspot can be tough, but the best overall pick would be Verizon or Visible by Verizon if you prefer prepaid plans. You get flexible pricing, unlimited data, and support for a mobile hotspot.

With most carriers, they will have officially endorsed hotspots you can purchase, like the Orbic Speed 5G UW. These are generally a monthly add-on charge to your overall bill, running between $2 to $12 a month extra.

If you’re after reliable access, it might be a great choice.

Closing Thoughts on Hotspots

Hotspots can serve a crucial purpose for people looking for reliable wireless access on the go. It might not be a great fit for everyone, but it certainly is handy to have on hand when needed.

You likely have already got the capability on your smartphone as it is. If you have a contemporary mobile coverage plan from any major provider, there may even be provisions to use your smartphone as a wireless hotspot in a pinch.

At any rate, be sure to explore your options, as this only serves as a brief overview of mobile coverage. You can speak with your provider about any concerns or questions you might have about using your wireless hotspot access.

Summary Table

Type of HotspotDescription
Phone-basedUses your existing device to broadcast a short-range wireless network you can access with other devices. It uses your phone’s pre-existing wireless radio and other components to create a private network.
Dedicated HotspotsStandalone devices that can take advantage of your data plan. These have the added benefit of being stronger when it comes to outputting a connection. They are sometimes included in your mobile coverage, but can also be purchased separately.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a hotspot different from a modem?

A modem and a hotspot effectively allow your devices to connect to the internet. Where a hotspot differs is by using your existing mobile network to connect.

Can I use a gaming console with a hotspot?

Online gaming is very data-intensive, but you could certainly blow through your premium data with a hotspot if you’d like.

Is a phone hotspot better than a dedicated hotspot?

It can really depend on your intended use. Phone hotspots are great because you generally have them with you wherever you are. If you’re already lugging a laptop, it can be as simple as enabling the hotspot functionality and connecting.

Dedicated hotspots have stronger output, however, and don’t rely on your phone’s battery to get the job done.

Does every mobile plan have hotspot support?

It can depend on the carrier. Before deciding on a plan, make sure to check the provided services.

Can I use a hotspot for sending emails?

Absolutely, you can send emails normally with a mobile hotspot.

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