Is Your Internet Down? Turn Your Smartphone Into a Hotspot (But There Is a Catch)

TM Roh, president & head of mobile communications business of Samsung Electronics, unveils the Galaxy S20, S20+ and S20 Ultra smartphones during Samsung Galaxy Unpacked 2020 in San Francisco, California, U.S. February 11, 2020. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
April 2, 2020 Topic: Technology Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: InternetTechnologyAT&TVerizonHot Spot

Is Your Internet Down? Turn Your Smartphone Into a Hotspot (But There Is a Catch)

Don't break your data caps. 


With millions of Americans hunkering down in their respective homes and taking classes and working remotely, it’s not a surprise to see that internet outages are on the rise.

Before this health pandemic, internet traffic was much like your average morning/afternoon rush hours, which had busy times and not-so-busy times. But these days, with constant unrelenting demand, some internet service providers have had to navigate surges that sometimes temporarily destabilized them.

That’s where your phone’s mobile data can come in handy. After you push a few buttons in the settings menu, your phone's hotspot feature can act as a mini Wi-Fi router to deliver the internet to other devices like laptops and tablets (some hotspots can handle up to 10 devices).

Your personal hotspot feature can really save you in a pinch. Maybe you have that big PowerPoint presentation that your boss wants to look over immediately, or maybe you have a history paper due in a few hours. Then, all of a sudden, your internet is down. With the mobile hotspot, you don’t skip a beat and are able to send those important files.

Hotspots, though, aren’t recommended to be a full-fledged replacement for your home internet service. The speeds that you’ll likely encounter will be slower because your phone will be pulling double duty as a Wi-Fi access point. It will have to relay that information to the wireless carrier and back to your connected device or devices. Also, keep in mind that hotspots would not work smoothly for your gaming console or high-end streaming.

If your phone's hotspot feature allows it, always try to change the network band from 2.4 GHz to 5 GHz, as this will provide a more reliable wireless network signal from your phone. This option will have less range, but that shouldn’t be a problem if the phone is right next to you.

Be sure to stay conscious of your data caps as well. Many wireless carriers like Verizon and AT&T have set data limits just for mobile hotspot use, and if you surpass that data allotment, you’ll have to deal with 3G or even lower connection speeds, which would make video calls or streaming nearly impossible. Most of the larger carriers have a mobile app that can help you keep track of your data usage.

Finally, try to keep your mobile hotspot network secure. You may have the option to not use a password, but that is definitely not recommended. And try to settle on a password that is at least a bit challenging. Understand that if you don’t use a password, anyone nearby could hop on your personal hotspot and maybe even see what you’re doing on your laptop or tablet.

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek and Arirang TV.