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Tethering – Personal Hotspot 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 when you tether 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, almost all networks allow 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, and it’s up to date as of August 2022.

Tethering Allowances Compared

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

Network Tethering Allowances

Network

Pay Monthly

SIM Only

Pay As You Go

Three

Unlimited

Unlimited

Unlimited

Vodafone

Unlimited

Unlimited

Unlimited

EE

Unlimited

Unlimited

100GB

O2

Unlimited

Unlimited

100GB

Tesco Mobile

Unlimited

Unlimited

100GB

BT Mobile

x

Unlimited

x

GiffGaff

Unlimited

Unlimited

Unlimited

VOXI

Unlimited

Unlimited

x

Sky Mobile

50GB

50GB

x

Plusnet Mobile

x

52GB

x

SMARTY

x

Unlimited

x

Asda Mobile

x

Unlimited

Unlimited

Lebara Mobile

x Unlimited Unlimited

FreedomPop

x

4GB

x

iD Mobile

Unlimited

Unlimited

Unlimited

Lyca Mobile

x

Unlimited

Unlimited

Virgin Mobile

Unlimited

Unlimited

x

Talkmobile

x 100GB x

Recommended SIM Only Deals with Tethering

Three SIM Card

Unlimited data

Unlimited minutes

Unlimited texts

£16 a month

See Deal

ID SIM Card

30GB data

Unlimited minutes

Unlimited texts

£10 a month

See Deal

Smarty SIM Card

30GB data

Unlimited minutes

Unlimited texts

£10 a month

See Deal

Tesco SIM Card

12GB data

5000 minutes

5000 texts

£11 a month

See Deal

EE SIM Card

160GB data

Unlimited minutes

Unlimited texts

£12.50 a month

6 months half price

See Deal

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Network Tethering Policies

Three

Three Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

Unlimited

SIM Only Tethering

Unlimited

Pay As You Go Tethering

Unlimited

Max Data Allowance

Unlimited

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Three was one of the first networks to offer unlimited data plans with unlimited tethering, and it still stands out as one of the best networks for tethering.

That’s because you can get up to unlimited tethering data on both Pay Monthly and SIM Only contracts, as well as Pay As You Go plans. Note however that tethering isn’t available on the network’s older Essential plans, but it is included on all current plans.

Vodafone

Vodafone Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

Unlimited

SIM Only Tethering

Unlimited

Pay As You Go Tethering

Unlimited

Max Data Allowance

Unlimited

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Vodafone allows you to use all of your data towards tethering at no extra cost, on all of its plans.

That means you’ll be able to use up to unlimited data for tethering on Pay Monthly and SIM Only plans, depending on your tariff. On Pay As You Go it depends how much you want to spend, though its standard pay as you go bundles also top out at unlimited data.

EE

EE Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

Unlimited

SIM Only Tethering

Unlimited

Pay As You Go Tethering

100GB

Max Data Allowance

Unlimited

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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 unlimited data on Pay Monthly and 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 100GB.

EE also has the advantage of offering more and faster 4G than other UK networks, as well as more 5G at the time of writing, so you should get a superior tethering experience, though it can be on the pricey side.

Note also that EE’s fair use policy states that “If you regularly tether 12 or more devices, we will consider this non-personal use and have the right to move you to a more suitable plan. We will consider usage above 600GB/month to be non-personal use and have the right to apply traffic management controls to deprioritise your mobile traffic during busy periods or to move you to a business plan

O2

O2 Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

Unlimited

SIM Only Tethering

Unlimited

Pay As You Go Tethering

100GB

Max Data Allowance

Unlimited

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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 unlimited data on Pay Monthly and SIM Only, and 20GB on a Pay As You Go Bundle.

Having said that, there is a fair use policy which states that you shouldn’t use 650GB or more data twice within a six-month period, and you shouldn’t regularly tether to 12 or more devices.

Asda Mobile

Asda Mobile Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

x

SIM Only Tethering

Unlimited

Pay As You Go Tethering

Unlimited

Max Data Allowance

Unlimited

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Asda Mobile allows you to use your data allowance towards tethering. Both pay as you go (4p per megabyte) and 30-day bundles (of up to unlimited data) are available.

BT

BT Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

100GBx

SIM Only Tethering

Unlimited

Pay As You Go Tethering

x

Max Data Allowance

Unlimited

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BT Mobile allows tethering on all of its tariffs, and as with most networks your only limit is your monthly data allowance, which is up to unlimited– though you need BT Halo for this, otherwise data tops out at 100GB. Note that BT Mobile currently just offers SIM Only plans.

Lebara Mobile

Lebara Mobile Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

x

SIM Only Tethering

Unlimited

Pay As You Go Tethering

Unlimited

Max Data Allowance

Unlimited

Lebara Mobile offers a small selection of SIM Only plans offering up to unlimited data, any or all of which can be used for tethering. It also offers a Pay As You Go service with which you can seemingly also tether, but at a rate of 9p per megabyte.

FreedomPop

Freedom Pop Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

x

SIM Only Tethering

4GB

Pay As You Go Tethering

x

Max Data Allowance

4GB

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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.

FreedomPop’s plans come with up to 4GB 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 4GB, as FreedomPop also offers data rollover services, letting you bank up to 40GB, though this costs extra.

Having said all this, tethering and its other extras aren’t visible on its site at the time of writing, with the network claiming that “we are in the process of realigning our pricing and policies”, so this may all soon change.

Giffgaff

GiffGaff Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

Unlimited

SIM Only Tethering

Unlimited

Pay As You Go Tethering

Unlimited

Max Data Allowance

Unlimited

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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 be aware that there’s also an ‘always-on’ option in which only 80GB of data can be used at full speed, after which your speeds are reduced to 384kbps between 8am and midnight. Technically it seems you can still tether at that point, but the speeds will be very slow. These restrictions don’t apply to the unlimited goodybag though.

However, on either goodybag, you shouldn’t regularly tether 12 or more devices, and you shouldn’t use 650GB or more of data twice within a 6-month period.

You can also tether on Pay As You Go at a cost of 10p per megabyte – so although you can get plenty of data that way, it’s far pricier than a goodybag.

iD Mobile

iD Mobile Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

Unlimited

SIM Only Tethering

Unlimited

Pay As You Go Tethering

Unlimited

Max Data Allowance

Unlimited

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iD Mobile lets you tether with as much data as your plan offers – up to unlimited, and that applies whether you’re on a Pay Monthly, PAYG or SIM Only plan.

Lycamobile

LycaMobile Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

x

SIM Only Tethering

Unlimited

Pay As You Go Tethering

Unlimited

Max Data Allowance

Unlimited

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Lyca Mobile currently offers SIM Only plans with up to unlimited data and you can use as much as you want to tether. You can also tether on Pay As You Go, but it will cost you 15p per megabyte.

Plusnet Mobile

PlusNet Mobile Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

x

SIM Only Tethering

52GB

Pay As You Go Tethering

x

Max Data Allowance

52GB

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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 50GB per month on standard plans and 52GB if you’re a Plusnet Broadband customer.

Sky Mobile

Sky Mobile Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

50GB

SIM Only Tethering

50GB

Pay As You Go Tethering

x

Max Data Allowance

50GB

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Sky Mobile currently offers both Pay Monthly and SIM Only plans and these top out at 50GB 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 50GB if you use less some months.

SMARTY

Smarty Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

x

SIM Only Tethering

Unlimited

Pay As You Go Tethering

x

Max Data Allowance

Unlimited

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SMARTY allows you to use as much of your data as you want for tethering, and it comes with up to unlimited data, so there’s potentially no real restrictions. However, it just offers SIM Only plans.

Talkmobile

Pay Monthly Tethering

x

SIM Only Tethering

100GB

Pay As You Go Tethering

x

Max Data Allowance

100GB

Compare deals

Talkmobile lets you use any or all of your data for tethering, but as allowances top out at 100GB at the time of writing it’s still more restrictive than some networks.

Tesco Mobile

Tesco Mobile Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

Unlimited

SIM Only Tethering

Unlimited

Pay As You Go Tethering

100GB

Max Data Allowance

Unlimited

Compare 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 and SIM Only plans come with up to unlimited data, while Pay As You Go packs come with up to 100GB.

Virgin Mobile

Virgin Mobile Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

Unlimited

SIM Only Tethering

Unlimited

Pay As You Go Tethering

x

Max Data Allowance

Unlimited

View deals

Virgin Mobile allows tethering on its plans and you can get up to unlimited data. Nothing in its terms says that you can’t then use an unlimited amount for tethering (though it also doesn’t explicitly say that you can).

VOXI

Voxi Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

Unlimited

SIM Only Tethering

Unlimited

Pay As You Go Tethering

x

Max Data Allowance

Unlimited

View deals

VOXI also lets you use as much of your data as you want for tethering. In practice that means you can use up to unlimited data if you opt for VOXI’s priciest plan.

Conclusion

All of these networks have their own advantages and disadvantages when it comes to tethering.

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, rapidly growing 5G, and higher speeds than rivals, but it also offers unlimited data.

Most other networks also offer unlimited data, but either on more restrictive terms or just with lower speeds and/or worse coverage than EE, so they’re arguably not quite as good – though some are cheaper.

At the other end of the scale, FreedomPop, Sky Mobile and Plusnet 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 or 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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