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Updated: 11 Nov 2021

How to set up a mobile phone wi-fi hotspot

Got a problem with your broadband at the worst possible time? Your mobile phone could save the day. Find out how to set it up as a wi-fi hotspot.
Paul Lester
Wi fi hotspot main

We’re more reliant than ever on broadband – but it’s still far less reliable than most people would like. If broadband is down it’s important to have a plan B – and wi-fi could be your answer.

While you could head out to your local coffee shop or library to enjoy some free wi-fi on the go, a far more comfortable and convenient solution that you can use in the home requires nothing more than a mobile phone. Read on to find out how these mobile wi-fi hotspots can help.

Most modern smartphones can work as wi-fi hotspots. Browse our Best Buy mobile phones if you're on the lookout for a new model.

Using your phone as a wi-fi hotspot

When you configure a mobile phone to work as a wi-fi hotspot, it will mimic a regular wi-fi network that you can connect to with a device such as a computer, laptop, tablet, or even another mobile phone.

To do this, the mobile phone uses its data connection to send and transmit information. For this reason it’s not ideal as a permanent solution, since this could get quite expensive. But as a temporary way to continue working more comfortably on a computer or laptop, it’s far more practical than trying to hammer out emails or do important work on a handheld.

How much data do I need?

One potentially large caveat to using your phone as a wireless network is data. You’ll ideally need a decent amount of data on your monthly bundle to avoid overpaying – without it, the costs could be significant. Below you’ll see rough approximations of how much data common tasks use up:

Data usage for online activities

ActivityAmount per hour
50 emails (no attachments)1MB
sharing two photos1MB
One hour of web browsing20MB
One hour of music streaming80MB
One hour of SD video250MB
One hour of HD video600MB

Usage figures approximate and for illustrative purposes only

Ideally, you’ll only be using your mobile phone as a wireless hotspot in an emergency – so watching Bridgerton in HD wouldn’t usually count. As you can see, this is the sort of thing that will really hit your data limit, but stick to tasks such as emailing and browsing the internet and you should be fine.

Regardless, it’s especially important to know how to monitor your data if you’re using your phone as a hotspot. Read our guide to find out how to keep track of your data and minutes.

How fast will it be?

If you’re fortunate enough to have a strong 4G signal in the home, you may not notice a difference at all between using your phone’s connection and your regular broadband. This is especially the case with activities such as sending emails, browsing the internet, and other less intensive tasks.

If there’s a ‘sweet spot’ in your home where the signal is strongest, try placing the phone there. Since your phone is acting as a wi-fi hotspot there’s no need for it to be right next to the laptop or computer you want to connect to, though being too far away, or on the other side of obstacles, such as electronic equipment, glass, solid walls or floors, could result in a slower or inconsistent connection.

How do I set up a wireless hotspot?

Setting up your phone is far more straightforward than you might think, although it does differ, depending on whether you’re an Apple or Android user.

Setting up a wireless hotspot on Android

This will vary slightly depending on what version of Android you’re using. 

  • Open the settings menu and search for ‘hotspot’, or you can look directly under the Connections menu, or under Wireless & Networks (you might need to select ‘more’ to see more options).
  • Look for a menu item called Mobile hotspot and tethering or similar, and select it.
  • Switch the toggle to turn it on, then tap the menu item to open the hotspot configuration page.
  • Here you’ll see the name of the hotspot – in this case AndroidAP, or you may be asked to enter a network name yourself, which can be anything that’s easy to remember. This is what you look for on another device in exactly the same way you’d usually connect to your home or another wi-fi network.
  • You’ll also see a password, or may be asked to choose one yourself, which you can enter on the laptop, computer, or other device you’re trying to connect to your phone.

Setting up a wireless hotspot on Apple iPhone

This will vary slightly depending on what version of iOS you’re using. 

  • Open the Settings app and choose Mobile Data or Mobile.
  • Select Personal Hotspot from this menu.
  • Tap the toggle to turn Personal Hotspot on.
  • You should now see instructions on how to connect - note the wi-fi name in the 'To Connect Using Wi-Fi' section, and the password above it.
  • Note: you may be asked if you want to turn on Bluetooth to connect - you can choose to connect over wi-fi and USB only unless you specifically want to use a Bluetooth connection between devices.

Is my mobile hotspot secure?

By default, most modern mobile phones should use secure settings to protect your newly created wi-fi network from intruders. This should include encryption (most likely WPA2, the most secure available for most mobile providers at the moment), and a randomised password. 

However, if you are concerned you can configure the mobile hotspot from the hotspot page. This allows you to change the default network name, choose to hide your device (this means that it will not appear to people scanning for wi-fi networks in the vicinity - you'll have to enter the network name manually on a device you're trying to connect) and the password. 

Regardless, you should always remember to switch off the mobile hotspot when you are not using it - this is not a setting that's recommended to leave on all the time. Not only will it drain battery, but it also increases the chance of someone else piggybacking your network and using up precious data.

You'll need a decent-sized 4G data package to make the most of mobile hotspots. Fortunately, these are far cheaper than they used to be. Read our round up of the best mobile networks to help you choose the best provider.