Helpsheet – Tethering and personal hotspots

Tethering and personal hotspots

Tethering is a term that gets used a lot by mobile networks and technology websites, but what does tethering actually mean and how does it work? And can you use it on your smartphone without paying extra?

What is tethering?

Tethering is a way of turning your smartphone into a mobile hotspot or portable Wi-Fi router. Turning on the tethering feature of your phone creates a small localised wireless internet connection. You can then use this to connect to the internet with Wi–Fi enabled items such as tablets, PCs and laptops.

Why would I do it?

Tethering is useful when you have no other way of connecting to Wi–Fi, and you want to connect to a bigger screen. For example you may need to edit work documents and spreadsheets on a larger screen or you may want to watch shows on the BBC iPlayer while you’re on the go, but haven’t got a mobile data contract for your tablet.

You might also need it because:

  • Your internet supplier may not be delivering a consistent service
  • Too many devices from your family are sharing the bandwidth
  • You are away from your home, at a cafe or in the park
  • You don’t want to risk the security of your device by using unknown Hotspot connections

Some benefits for you:

  • Better security and control
  • Internet access while away from home
  • Fewer arguments with family!

How does it work?

Most modern smartphones enable tethering via Wi–Fi. However, you can also connect your tablet or laptop via Bluetooth or with a USB port and cable. Turning on tethering essentially creates a Wi–Fi hotspot which will show up in the list of available Wi–Fi networks on the device you want to connect.

How much does it cost?

Some networks don’t allow you to tether your smartphone at all. If your network does allow you to tether, there are some important pitfalls you need to be aware of:

  1. Tethering is often not included in your monthly data allowance, so can be very expensive. You must check with your provider to find out the costs involved.
  2. Tethering uses more data when you connect to laptops and tablets, because websites often load in their full desktop form, rather than the simpler smartphone mode.
  3. Tethering can be a real drain on battery life, so only use it when you have easy access to a power source. However, if you tether via USB, remember your phone will charge up via your laptop or PC. So you’ll be powering-up your phone and sharing your connection at the same time

How to set up a Personal Hotspot on your iPhone or iPad

Apple tends not to use the word ‘tethering’ but talks about using a Personal Hotspot instead. This Hotspot allows you to connect to other devices, and is protected by a password you can control. A Personal Hotspot lets you share the mobile data connection of your iPhone or iPad (Wi-Fi + Mobile) when you don’t have access to a Wi-Fi network.

Set up Personal Hotspot

Open the Settings app on your iPhone and tap Personal Hotspot.

Press the toggle which will Allow Others to Join.

On the same screen you’ll see a password which is required the first time you connect your laptop or tablet to your phone. You can change this password but it must be 8 characters long. If you change it, it will disconnect any devices that are currently connected.

To connect to your phone

Once you have allowed your phone to use Personal Hotspot you now need to turn to the device you want to connect to it. This will be either a tablet, a laptop or a PC. On THAT device go to the options to connect to a Wi-Fi device and you will see that name of your phone in that list. Choose that option and type in the password that is displayed on your phone screen. Stay on this screen until you’ve connected your other device to the Wi-Fi network.

If you can’t see the option for Personal Hotspot, contact your network provider to make sure you can use Personal Hotspot with your plan.

Tethering Android phones

Turn on your Hotspot:

  1. Swipe down from the top of the screen.
  2. Tap Hotspot

If you don’t find Hotspot, at the bottom left, tap Edit and drag Hotspot into your Quick Settings.

Connect another device to your phone’s Hotspot:

  1. On the other device, open that device’s list of Wi-Fi options.
  2. Pick your phone’s Hotspot name.
  3. Enter your phone’s Hotspot password.
  4. Click Connect.

If you don’t want your Hotspot to require a password:

  1. Swipe down from the top of the screen.
  2. Touch and hold Hotspot.
  3. Under “Security,” tap None.

Tip: You can share your phone’s mobile data with up to 10 other devices.

Connect to Personal Hotspot with Bluetooth or USB

You can also connect to a Personal Hotspot using Bluetooth or USB.


To make sure that your phone is discoverable, go to Settings > Bluetooth and stay on that screen. Then, on your other device, follow the manufacturer directions to set up a Bluetooth network connection.


Use your phone cable to connect to your PC or laptop.

Let your family join automatically

You can set up Family Sharing so that your family can join your Personal Hotspot automatically – without needing to enter the password. Here’s what to do:

  • On your device with Personal Hotspot, go to Settings > Personal Hotspot > Family Sharing.
  • Turn on Family Sharing. If you can’t see the option, learn how to set up Family Sharing.
  • Tap the name of each of your family members and set whether they need to ask for approval or join your Personal Hotspot automatically.

Disconnect devices

To disconnect a device, turn off Personal Hotspot, turn off Bluetooth or unplug the USB cable from your device.