Typically, signing up for internet is among your first priorities when you move into a new place. But if you have an unlimited plan with hotspotting capabilities, is there any need?
When I moved into a new apartment over the summer, one of the items at the top of my to-do list was to sign up for internet service. On my first day in the new place, for the heck of it, I switched on my iPhone 6s's personal hotspot to do a quick web browse on my laptop. It’s now October and I still haven’t signed up with an ISP—and I may not, ever.
I’m on AT&T’s Unlimited Plus plan, which includes a 10GB hotspot allowance. I’ve found my phone’s unlimited data combined with the hotspot allowance ample for my internet needs. Granted, I've modified my use so that I mainly consume entertainment on my phone, and limit my laptop browsing to the essentials—plus, of course, I'm single—but if you're anything like me, you might find your cell phone plan allows you to skip regular internet service altogether.
Hotspot Allowances: 4 Major Carriers
|Plan||Hotspot Allowance / Speed||Plan Price|
|Verizon Go Unlimited||unlimited / 600 kbps||$75|
|Verizon Beyond Unlimited||15GB / 4G LTE||$80|
|Sprint Unlimited Freedom||10GB / 4G LTE||$50|
|T-Mobile ONE||unlimited / 3G||$70|
|T-Mobile ONE Plus||10GB / 4G LTE||$80|
|AT&T Unlimited Plus||10GB / 4G LTE||$90|
|AT&T Unlimited Choice||None||$60|
I've found the internet speeds I've gotten via my phone's hotspot to be fast—faster, even, than the speeds I got from WiFi at my old apartment. I'm able to do all of my everyday web browsing and streaming with ease.
Of course, all of this combined data usage doesn't come without cost; there are 18 days left in my billing cycle and I've consumed 20.2 GB of data so far. AT&T doesn't let you specifically monitor how much hotspot data you've used—instead, they bundle it with all of your cellular data usage—so it's impossible for me to know how much of that 20.2 is made up of laptop browsing.
Why even worry about usage if I'm on an unlimited plan? Carriers "de-prioritize" users who have hit certain data thresholds in given billing periods, meaning your speeds will slow in times or areas of network congestion. AT&T's de-prioritization threshold is 22GB, so theoretically my speeds should take a hit once I cross that boundary. However, I exceeded it last month and didn't notice a difference. Here's how the four major carriers compare when it comes to data-de-prioritization on their unlimited plans.
Data De-Prioritization Thresholds
T-Mobile has the most generous de-prioritization threshold in the industry at 50GB, putting AT&T and Verizon's 22GB to shame. Of course, T-Mobile can't boast the generally great coverage offered by these bigger carriers.
Another thing to think about is what happens once your hotspot allowance has been used up. In my case, AT&T slows tethering speeds from 4G LTE to 128 Kbps once 10Gb has been consumed. I must not have hit that thus far, as my hotspot speeds have been uniformly good.
We all have different needs, and forgoing home internet service for your phone's hotspot may not be realistic for you. But hopefully you'll take my experience to heart and start tapping into your plan's hotspotting allowance, if you haven't already. It's a pretty killer benefit.
Check out some unlimited plans with hotspot allowances below, or head over to WhistleOut's comparison tool.