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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 February 2020.

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

20GB

O2

Unlimited

Unlimited

20GB

Tesco Mobile

100GB

100GB

16GB

BT Mobile

100GB

100GB

x

GiffGaff

Unlimited

Unlimited

Unlimited

VOXI

Unlimited

Unlimited

x

Sky Mobile

25GB

25GB

x

Plusnet Mobile

x

22GB

x

SMARTY

x

Unlimited

x

Asda Mobile

x

15GB

Unlimited

Lebara Mobile

x 25GB Unlimited

Ctrl Mobile

x 30GB x

FreedomPop

x

4GB

x

iD Mobile

Unlimited

Unlimited

8GB

Lycamobile

x

x

x

Virgin Mobile

Unlimited

Unlimited

x

Audacious

x 10GB x

Talkmobile

12GB 12GB x

Recommended SIM Only Deals with Tethering

Three SIM Card

Unlimited data

Unlimited minutes

Unlimited texts

£18 a month

See Deal

ID SIM Card

10GB data

Unlimited minutes

Unlimited texts

£8 a month

See Deal

Smarty SIM Card

2GB data

Unlimited minutes

Unlimited texts

£7 a month

See Deal

Tesco SIM Card

8GB data

3000 minutes

5000 texts

£10 a month

See Deal

EE SIM Card

80GB data

Unlimited minutes

Unlimited texts

£20 a month

See Deal

Compare SIM Only Deals

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 is a rarity among mobile networks in that it offers unlimited data plans with unlimited tethering.

This is true 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

20GB

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 20GB.

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 1000GB/month to be commercial use and have the right to move you to a business plan.”

O2

O2 Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

Unlimited

SIM Only Tethering

Unlimited

Pay As You Go Tethering

20GB

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 may not use your Unlimited Data for (a) commercial or illegal purposes, (b) as a mobile hotspot where you are tethering more than 12 devices to your device. Where you regularly tether to 12 or more devices or have used 650GB of data twice within a 6 month period then we may investigate your usage further to ascertain whether your Unlimited Data usage is for the permitted use.”

Asda Mobile

Asda Mobile Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

x

SIM Only Tethering

15GB

Pay As You Go Tethering

Unlimited

Max Data Allowance

15GB

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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 15GB of data) are available.

Audacious

Pay Monthly Tethering

x

SIM Only Tethering

10GB

Pay As You Go Tethering

x

Max Data Allowance

10GB

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Audacious only offers plans with up to 10GB of data at the time of writing and only SIM Only, however you should be able to use any or all of this data for tethering.

BT

BT Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

100GB

SIM Only Tethering

100GB

Pay As You Go Tethering

x

Max Data Allowance

100GB

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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 100GB on Pay Monthly and 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.

Ctrl Mobile

Ctrl Mobile Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

x

SIM Only Tethering

30GB

Pay As You Go Tethering

x

Max Data Allowance

30GB

Ctrl Mobile only offers SIM Only plans and these come with up to 30GB of data, any or all of which can be used for tethering.

Lebara Mobile

Lebara Mobile Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

x

SIM Only Tethering

25GB

Pay As You Go Tethering

Unlimited

Max Data Allowance

25GB

Lebara Mobile offers a small selection of SIM Only plans offering up to 25GB of 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 only 80GB of this can be used at full speed, after that 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.

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.

iD Mobile

iD Mobile Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

Unlimited

SIM Only Tethering

Unlimited

Pay As You Go Tethering

8GB

Max Data Allowance

Unlimited

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iD Mobile lets you tether with as much data as your plan offers – up to unlimited if you’re on a Pay Monthly or SIM Only plan.

Lycamobile

LycaMobile Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

x

SIM Only Tethering

x

Pay As You Go Tethering

x

Max Data Allowance

Unlimited

View deals

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

Plusnet Mobile

PlusNet Mobile Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

x

SIM Only Tethering

22GB

Pay As You Go Tethering

x

Max Data Allowance

22GB

View 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 10GB per month on standard plans and 22GB on ‘special offers’ (which could change) – though these allowances are only available to Plusnet Broadband customers, otherwise the highest limit is generally 5GB, with a current special offer giving you 20GB.

Sky Mobile

Sky Mobile Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

25GB

SIM Only Tethering

25GB

Pay As You Go Tethering

x

Max Data Allowance

25GB

View deals

Sky Mobile currently offers both Pay Monthly and SIM Only plans and these top out at 25GB 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 25GB 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

View deals

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.

Talkmobile

Pay Monthly Tethering

12GB

SIM Only Tethering

12GB

Pay As You Go Tethering

x

Max Data Allowance

12GB

Compare deals

Talkmobile lets you use any or all of your data for tethering, but as allowances top out at 12GB at the time of writing it’s still quite restrictive.

Tesco Mobile

Tesco Mobile Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

100GB

SIM Only Tethering

100GB

Pay As You Go Tethering

16GB

Max Data Allowance

100GB

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 100GB of data, while Pay As You Go packs come with up to 16GB.

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 if you’re a Virgin Media customer then 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).

If you’re not a Virgin Media customer, plans top out at 40GB in general, temporarily boosted to 120GB on both Pay Monthly and SIM Only at the time of writing.

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

Three, Vodafone, O2, Giffgaff, VOXI, Virgin Mobile, Smarty, and iD Mobile 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 of course there’s Lycamobile, which doesn’t allow you to tether at all. But of the networks that do allow you to tether FreedomPop, Plusnet Mobile and Audacious 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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