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Tethering – Mobile Tethering Allowances Compared

Tethering

Tethering, or a portable hotspot as it’s sometimes called, is a handy extra feature offered by many networks which lets you get Wi-Fi only devices (such as laptops and tablets) online using your phone’s mobile data connection.

For in depth information on how to get started, check out our guide to tethering, but essentially you start broadcasting your mobile data as a Wi-Fi network, so Wi-Fi devices can detect it and get online.

This is especially useful when travelling, as there’s not always a Wi-Fi network available, but it can also be handy if the internet in your home or office ever goes down.

In the UK, EE, O2, Three, Vodafone, BT, FreedomPop, Giffgaff, Plusnet Mobile, Sky Mobile, TalkTalk, Tesco Mobile and Asda Mobile all offer tethering, but the terms and allowances differ from network to network. That’s where this guide comes in, as we’ve collected all the information on tethering on every significant UK network.

Tethering Allowances Compared

Quickly compare the maximum tethering allowances by network in the table below.

Network

Pay Monthly

SIM Only

Pay As You Go

EE

40GB

30GB

5GB

Vodafone

30GB

25GB

12GB

O2

50GB

20GB

20GB

Three

30GB

30GB

x

BT Mobile

30GB

15GB

x

FreedomPop

x

5GB

x

GiffGaff

6GB

6GB

Unlimited

Plusnet Mobile

x

4GB

x

Sky Mobile

x

5GB

x

TalkTalk

4GB

2GB

x

Tesco Mobile

30GB

30GB

4GB

Asda Mobile

x

6GB

Unlimited

Please Note: LycaMobile, The People's Operator, iD Mobile and Virgin Mobile don't offer tethering on any plans.

Network Tethering Policies

EE

EE Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

40GB

SIM Only Tethering

30GB

Pay As You Go Tethering

5GB

Max Data Allowance

50GB

Network Speeds

4G

EE Deals

EE offers tethering as standard on all of its plans, whether Pay Monthly, SIM Only or Pay As You Go, and you can use any or all of your monthly data towards it.

That means you can use up to 40GB of data on Pay Monthly, 30GB on SIM Only and, well, as much as you want to spend on Pay As You Go, though its Pay As You Go bundles top out at 5GB.

EE also has the advantage of offering more and faster 4G than other UK networks, so you should get a superior tethering experience, though it can be on the pricey side.

Vodafone

Vodafone Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

30GB

SIM Only Tethering

25GB

Pay As You Go Tethering

12GB

Max Data Allowance

30GB

Network Speeds

4G

EE Deals

Vodafone allows you to use all of your data towards tethering at no extra cost, on all of its plans. Technically you can even exceed your data limits and keep on tethering, but you will be charged extra for this, so it’s something to keep an eye on.

Assuming you don’t exceed your standard limits, you’ll be able to use up to 30GB of data on Pay Monthly or 25GB on SIM Only, depending on your tariff. On Pay As You Go it depends how much you want to spend, though their standard pay as you go bundles top out at 12GB.

O2

O2 Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

50GB

SIM Only Tethering

20GB

Pay As You Go Tethering

20GB

Max Data Allowance

50GB

Network Speeds

4G

EE Deals

O2 also allows you to tether on its Pay Monthly, SIM Only and Pay As You Go plans, with the only limit being your overall data allowance.

That means you can use up to 50GB of data per month on Pay Monthly, 20GB on SIM Only, and 20GB on a Pay As You Go Bundle.

Three

Three Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

30GB

SIM Only Tethering

30GB

Pay As You Go Tethering

x

Max Data Allowance

Unlimited

Network Speeds

4G

EE Deals

Three is a rarity among mobile networks in that it offers unlimited data plans – but you can only use up to 30GB for tethering.

This is true on both Pay Monthly and SIM Only contracts, though a further restriction is that you must be on a Three Advanced Plan. Essential Plans don’t allow tethering. Three also doesn’t allow tethering on Pay As You Go.

iD Mobile

iD Mobile Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

x

SIM Only Tethering

x

Pay As You Go Tethering

x

Max Data Allowance

10GB

Network Speeds

4G

EE Deals

Tethering is not currently allowed on any iD Mobile plans.

BT

BT Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

30GB

SIM Only Tethering

15GB

Pay As You Go Tethering

N/A

Max Data Allowance

30GB

Network Speeds

4G

EE Deals

BT Mobile allows tethering on all of its tariffs, and as with most networks your only limit is your monthly data allowance. On Pay Monthly this can be up to 30GB, while it’s up to 15GB on SIM Only. BT Mobile doesn’t currently offer any Pay As You Go plans, so by extension you won’t be able to tether on Pay As You Go.

FreedomPop

Freedom Pop Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

x

SIM Only Tethering

5GB

Pay As You Go Tethering

x

Max Data Allowance

5GB

Network Speeds

4G

EE Deals

FreedomPop doesn’t include tethering as standard, but does allow you to use it if you subscribe to its £3.99 per month FreedomPop Premier service.

Given that the basic tier of FreedomPop is free that’s potentially the only cost you’ll have to pay each month – though in that case you’ll be limited to just 200MB of data.

FreedomPop also offers a range of other tariffs (at a cost) with up to 5GB of data, and you can use as much of it as you like towards tethering, assuming you’ve also got FreedomPop Premier.

Technically, you can even exceed 5GB, as FreedomPop also offers data rollover services, letting you bank up to 20GB.

Giffgaff

GiffGaff Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

6GB

SIM Only Tethering

6GB

Pay As You Go Tethering

Unlimited

Max Data Allowance

Unlimited

Network Speeds

4G

EE Deals

Giffgaff lets you tether on any of its ‘goodybags’, which can be bought alongside a phone or with SIM Only. They top out at unlimited data, but only 6GB of this can be used for tethering.

You can also tether on Pay As You Go at a cost of 5p per megabyte – so although you can get plenty of data that way, it’s far pricier than a goodybag.

Lycamobile

LycaMobile Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

x

SIM Only Tethering

x

Pay As You Go Tethering

x

Max Data Allowance

10GB

Network Speeds

4G

EE Deals

Lycamobile does not currently allow tethering on any of its plans.

Plusnet Mobile

PlusNet Mobile Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

x

SIM Only Tethering

4GB

Pay As You Go Tethering

x

Max Data Allowance

4GB

Network Speeds

4G

EE Deals

Plusnet Mobile only offers SIM Only tariffs, but you can tether on these and use as much of your monthly allowance as you want. Depending on what plan you’re on that allowance could be up to 4GB per month.

Sky Mobile

Sky Mobile Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

x

SIM Only Tethering

5GB

Pay As You Go Tethering

x

Max Data Allowance

5GB

Network Speeds

4G

EE Deals

Sky Mobile currently only offers SIM Only plans and these top out at 5GB of monthly data. However, you can use all of this for tethering, and the network also lets you roll over unused data from one month to the next, meaning you can go above 5GB if you use less some months.

TalkTalk

TalkTalk Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

4GB

SIM Only Tethering

2GB

Pay As You Go Tethering

x

Max Data Allowance

4GB

Network Speeds

3G

EE Deals

TalkTalk Mobile offers Pay Monthly and SIM Only plans and you can use your data allowances on either of them for tethering. On the former the maximum offered is 4GB per month, while for the latter it’s 2GB.

Tesco Mobile

Tesco Mobile Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

30GB

SIM Only Tethering

30GB

Pay As You Go Tethering

4GB

Max Data Allowance

30GB

Network Speeds

4G

EE Deals

All Pay Monthly, SIM Only and Pay As You Go Tesco Mobile plans with any data allow you to use that data towards tethering. If you have a plan without a data allowance or go over your data allowance, you’ll be charged Tesco’s standard rates of 10p per megabyte.

Pay Monthly plans and SIM Only plans both come with up to 30GB of data, while Pay As You Go packs come with up to 4GB.

The People’s Operator

The People's Operator Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

x

SIM Only Tethering

x

Pay As You Go Tethering

x

Max Data Allowance

8GB

Network Speeds

4G

EE Deals

Tethering is not currently permitted on any of The People’s Operator’s plans.

Virgin Mobile

Virgin Mobile Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

x

SIM Only Tethering

x

Pay As You Go Tethering

x

Max Data Allowance

20GB

Network Speeds

4G

EE Deals

Tethering is not allowed on any of Virgin Mobile’s plans.

Asda Mobile

Asda Mobile Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

x

SIM Only Tethering

6GB

Pay As You Go Tethering

Unlimited

Max Data Allowance

6GB

Network Speeds

3G

EE Deals

Asda Mobile allows you to use your data allowance towards tethering. Both pay as you go (5p per megabyte) and 30-day bundles (of up to 6GB of data) are available.

Conclusion

All of these networks have their own advantages and disadvantages when it comes to tethering (well, the ones that allow tethering anyway).

If you’ve read this article in full you should have a good idea of which is the best fit for you, but some are worth highlighting. EE is perhaps the single best network for tethering, as not only does it have widespread 4G coverage and higher speeds than rivals, but it also has some of the highest data allowances that you can use towards tethering.

BT is similarly worth highlighting, since it uses EE’s infrastructure and also has high data limits, plus potentially lower prices.

Then there’s Three, which, although you can’t use unlimited data for tethering, you can use up to 30GB and then still have an unlimited amount left for general use (if you opt for an all-you-can-eat data tariff), though on the flipside you won’t get as good 4G coverage or speeds, so it’s not quite as good for tethering overall as EE.

O2 also has very high data limits for tethering, and better 4G coverage than Three, but still worse than EE, but any one of these networks would be a strong choice if you want to tether a lot.

At the other end of the scale of course there’s LycaMobile, The People’s Operator, iD Mobile and Virgin Mobile, which don’t allow you to tether at all. But of the networks that do allow you to tether FreedomPop, Plusnet Mobile and Sky Mobile are among the weakest, as they only offer SIM Only tethering and have relatively low data limits.

FAQs

Can you tether with mobile broadband?

Mobile broadband in its very nature is essentially a tethering service. You buy a MiFi device or dongle, coupled with a SIM card and its own data allowances, and the sole purpose of the device/dongle is to get other electronics online.

If it’s a MiFi device this is handled wirelessly, by broadcasting a Wi-Fi network using the SIM card, while with a dongle you’ll usually plug this into the device that you want to get online. These tend to connect via a USB port.

Data limits for this vary from network to network but are often similar to are slightly lower than SIM Only ones.

Can you tether with a tablet?

If you have a tablet with a SIM card and a mobile data allowance you can theoretically use this to tether to other devices, exactly as you would with a smartphone. Whether or not this is allowed will vary from network to network.

Can you tether with a data SIM?

A data SIM is what you would use to get a tablet online, so the same principle applies here. There’s no technical reason why you wouldn’t be able to tether with a data SIM, but whether or not it’s allowed will depend on your network.

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