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Mobile Data; Settings & Using it Instead of Broadband or Wi-Fi

Almost anyone who has a mobile phone will know what mobile data is - anyone who uses their phone to access the internet while away from home Wi-Fi anyway! But how can you use your mobile data to access the internet from you Computer, Laptop, Tablet, or other non-data (non SIM) enabled device? As you will probably know, data is simply another service that you can access through your mobile phone using a SIM. The most basic phone connection is obviously voice - your normal telephone use - though this is often no longer the main use for many people nowadays, as lots of people use text more, plus of course free digital voice, text and video messaging services, such as WhatsApp, Skype and Signal. These all us the third one, data, which is also needed to access the internet and visit web sites, download apps., music and video, etc..
Mobile Phone However, most people don't use their data connection for this a lot of the time, they use the Wi-Fi provided by their home broadband connection, or Wi-Fi provided by their service proider, or businesses like BT, airports, shops, and other large organisations. Why - because it is generally cheaper (effectively free if your package is already 'paid for') and often 'unlimited'. Mobile data on the other hand is almost always capped, or limited, or paid for depending on how much you use. So why would you want to use it to connect you PC/Laptop etc. to the internet - and how do you do it?
Well, the reason could be cost, as you would then not need a broadband connection at home, possibly saving doubling up on contracts and bills. Yo could even choose to do away with your phone land line altogether, saving even more! How? Well, the answer is, well, Wi-Fi again. If you phone is receiving it's internet connection via mobile data through your SIM, then you are not using your Wi-Fi connection - and your phone has it's own built-in Wi-Fi, which other devices can connect to!
By using your mobile data and switching on something called a Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot, you can share your mobile data with your other devices. This is also often called Wi-Fi 'Tethering', though tethering can also refer to using a USB cable or Bluetooth for the same purpose. Staying with Wi-Fi for the moment, this effectively changes your phone's Wi-Fi connection from
Receiving
(from a Wi-Fi source, such as your broadband router) to
Transmitting
from
your phone to your PC/Laptop/Tablet etc., or any device with Wi-Fi receiving capability! Simples! All you need to do is switch this on, set it up with a transmitting ID (name) and password and then set up you receiving device to pick up this signal, the same way you would set it up to receive normal broadband wi-Fi. If you buy into a contract with a high enough data allowance, you could use only mobile internet to access the internet on all (or almost all) of your devices at home!
So, what are the downsides of this - there must be some, right? Well, whatever mobile data contract you take out, there will likely be some sort of data limit or condition. There are
unlimited
deals out there, but be careful and make sure that this applies to you Local Hotspot too, as for many that are listed as 'unlimited', or with a very high data limit, this only applies as far as data on your phone itself goes and there may well be a limit on how much you can use on other devices - or they may not allow HotSpot use at all! Finding how much data you need can be difficult though, as most broadband connections are now unlimited, so do not tell you how much you have used, so you probably won't be able to use this as a guide. There are download-able programs that you can run on your computer to tell you how much you use, such as Glasswire and Networx, which might be helpful, but check that you're checking ALL of your broadband data use, not just that to your laptop, PC, or phone! If these don't work for you, there are more options, just search for 'monitor broadband data usage' or similar. These will be able to give you a guide to what size data package you will need. There are of course apps. for your phone, though this is built in on most, if not all, phones nowadays, so you could try that with your current data allowance for a few days/weeks and work it out from there. If you only use the internet for general browsing, you will not likely need very much, especially if it's for evenings and weekends only, 5-8GB would probably be plenty, but if you download music, watch/download videos or use your (phone) internet for catch-up on your TV (yes, that is possible, see below), you will need a lot more than this!
If your mobile data is limited though, you might be better off finding a truly unlimited deal. Before you switch though, make sure that you can get decent 4G/5G reception and that your download speed is going to be sufficient for what you need - and that you're not likely to be movinin the near future, as these services and signals vary considerably wherever you go, as I'm sure you've already found out!
Another limitation is that not everything that connects to the internet can use Wi-Fi. The worst culprit in this respect is usually your TV, or TV Receiver box (Freeview, Sky, etc.). Some of the later, internet specific boxes will have wi-Fi connectivity, but many of the older/cheaper Freeview and Sky boxes can only connect to the internet via an Ethernet connection. If you choose to go down the road of using mobile data for all of your internet connections, this is something to keep in mind and to investigate before changing over, or dumping your broadband connection, otherwise you may well find that you have no access to catch-up services, or even be able to use the search function on your TV box, as these often require an internet connection too!
Also check for any other items you may have that need an Ethernet connection, like a wired network printer. If you decide to go down this route, but also need or want to keep using your wired internet devices (Freeview, Sky, etc.), look online for a Wi-Fi to Ethernet adapter, often call an 'Ethernet Bridge'. They are readily available, but be careful, as the most common adaptors connect the other way round - Ethernet in, Wi-Fi out! They can be a little tricky to set up, but they use little power and plug directly into the mains and, once set, that should be it and you can just leave it running, or power it from the mains outlet used for you TV and switch them both on or off at the mains at the same time - You DO power off your TV at the mains at night, or when you're not using it for more than about 20 minutes, don't you?
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This page was last updated on: 08 November 2023
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