How Much Data Does a Hotspot Use?

11 August 2017

We--heart--hotspots. What's not to love about sharing our cell phone's internet with our poor, unconnected laptops and tablets? 

Yet how much does this convenience cost us in cell phone data? Read on to find out...

Do mobile hotspots use data?

Yes. Any device connected to your mobile hotspot will be using your cell phone plan's data allotment. If your connected device(s) is streaming videos or downloading sizeable files of any kind, it will burn through a lot more data than checking email or browsing the internet would. 

Mobile hotspot data usage
Activity Data per 30 min Data per hour
Web browsing Approx. 30MB Approx.60MB
Email Less than 1MB Less than 1MB
Streaming music Up to 75MB Up to 150MB
Netflix From 125MB From 250MB
Facebook Approx.40MB Approx.80MB
YouTube Approx.150MB Approx.300MB
Instagram Approx.360MB Approx.720MB

Why is this important? Some cell phone plans don't include this hot spot feature or will charge you an additional fee per 1GB of hotspot use (which covers less than an hour and a half of Instagram browsing). 

Some carriers' plans make all of their set data on a plan available for mobile hotspot usage (i.e. if you're on a 6GB data plan, all 6GB can be used for mobile hotspot data). Other carriers' offers assign specific amounts of hotspot usage. 

Most of the major carriers' unlimited plans come with a hotspot data allotment of 10GB. Once that is used up, speeds will decrease to 3G, or if you're with Sprint, drop to 2G.

How does a mobile hotspot work?

A mobile hotspot is a feature that lets you share your network connection with other devices so they can access the internet. Devices connect to your mobile hotspot using their WiFi feature. While they're connected you'll be charged for any data they use per your monthly data plan.

Setting up a hotspot is as simple as going into your phone’s WiFi settings and enabling your mobile hotspot option. Once you do this, your phone should appear as an available WiFi network. The network will either have the name of your device (i.e. “Alex’s iPhone”) or a generic name given to the phone by the manufacturer such as “AndroidHotspot5956.”

Make sure the default security settings of your personal mobile hotspot include a strong password so as to avoid any freeloaders soaking up your data. 

How do I know if I'm using my mobile hotspot data up?

You should be able to track your monthly data and hotspot usage by logging onto your carrier account online. Many apps such as Data Tracker also help you keep tabs on your data usage.

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