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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 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, EE, O2, Three, Vodafone, BT, FreedomPop, Giffgaff, Plusnet Mobile, Sky Mobile, Tesco Mobile, SMARTY, VOXI, Lebara, Virgin Mobile, iD Mobile, Ctrl 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, and it’s up to date as of December 2018.

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

100GB

45GB

20GB

EE

100GB

30GB

16GB

O2

100GB

60GB

20GB

Tesco Mobile

50GB

100GB

8GB

BT Mobile

60GB

40GB

x

GiffGaff

Unlimited

Unlimited

Unlimited

VOXI

45GB

45GB

x

Sky Mobile

15GB

15GB

x

Plusnet Mobile

x

8GB

x

SMARTY

x

8GB

x

Asda Mobile

x

15GB

Unlimited

Lebara Mobile

x 12GB Unlimited

Ctrl Mobile

x 30GB x

FreedomPop

x

4GB

x

iD Mobile

10GB

20GB

4GB

Lycamobile

x

x

x

TPO

x

x

x

Virgin Mobile

Unlimited

Unlimited

10GB

Recommended SIM Only Deals with Tethering

Three SIM Card

Unlimited data

Unlimited minutes

Unlimited texts

£20 a month

See Deal

ID SIM Card

9GB data

300 minutes

Unlimited texts

£10 a month

See Deal

Smarty SIM Card

1GB data

Unlimited minutes

Unlimited texts

£6.25 a month

See Deal

Tesco SIM Card

15GB data

5000 minutes

5000 texts

£16 a month

See Deal

EE SIM Card

20GB data

Unlimited minutes

Unlimited texts

£20 a month

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 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 Essential plans – you need an Advanced plan.

Vodafone

Vodafone Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

100GB

SIM Only Tethering

45GB

Pay As You Go Tethering

20GB

Max Data Allowance

100GB

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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 100GB of data on Pay Monthly or 45GB on SIM Only, 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 top out at 20GB.

EE

EE Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

100GB

SIM Only Tethering

30GB

Pay As You Go Tethering

16GB

Max Data Allowance

100GB

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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 100GB 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 16GB.

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.

O2

O2 Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

100GB

SIM Only Tethering

60GB

Pay As You Go Tethering

20GB

Max Data Allowance

100GB

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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 100GB of data per month on Pay Monthly, 60GB on SIM Only, and 20GB on a Pay As You Go Bundle.

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.

BT

BT Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

60GB

SIM Only Tethering

40GB

Pay As You Go Tethering

-

Max Data Allowance

60GB

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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. On Pay Monthly this can be up to 60GB, while it’s up to 40GB 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.

Ctrl Mobile

Ctrl Mobile Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

-

SIM Only Tethering

30GB

Pay As You Go Tethering

-

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

-

SIM Only Tethering

12GB

Pay As You Go Tethering

Unlimited

Max Data Allowance

12GB

Lebara Mobile offers a small selection of SIM Only plans offering up to 12GB 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 19p 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.

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 20GB 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

10GB

SIM Only Tethering

20GB

Pay As You Go Tethering

4GB

Max Data Allowance

20GB

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iD Mobile claims not to allow tethering on any of its plans, but adds that it is possible to do so and the only consequence seems to be that you will be liable to pay any charge if you go over your allowance. However, the network makes no guarantees that tethering will work and promises no support if it doesn’t.

Lycamobile

LycaMobile Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

x

SIM Only Tethering

x

Pay As You Go Tethering

x

Max Data Allowance

Unlimited

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

Plusnet Mobile

PlusNet Mobile Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

x

SIM Only Tethering

8GB

Pay As You Go Tethering

x

Max Data Allowance

8GB

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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 8GB per month – though this is only available to Plusnet Broadband customers, otherwise the highest limit is generally 4GB though at the time of writing you can temporarily get 6GB.

Sky Mobile

Sky Mobile Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

15GB

SIM Only Tethering

15GB

Pay As You Go Tethering

x

Max Data Allowance

15GB

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Sky Mobile currently offers both Pay Monthly and SIM Only plans and these top out at 15GB 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 15GB if you use less some months.

SMARTY

Smarty Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

x

SIM Only Tethering

8GB

Pay As You Go Tethering

x

Max Data Allowance

8GB

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SMARTY allows you to use as much of your data as you want for tethering, but only offers SIM Only plans and tops out at 8GB of monthly data.

Tesco Mobile

Tesco Mobile Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

50GB

SIM Only Tethering

100GB

Pay As You Go Tethering

8GB

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 plans come with up to 50GB and SIM Only plans come with up to 100GB of data, while Pay As You Go packs come with up to 8GB.

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

View deals

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

Virgin Mobile

Virgin Mobile Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

Unlimited

SIM Only Tethering

Unlimited

Pay As You Go Tethering

10GB

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 60GB on Pay Monthly and 40GB on SIM Only. There are also Pay As You Go bundles with up to 10GB of data.

VOXI

Voxi Logo

Pay Monthly Tethering

45GB

SIM Only Tethering

45GB

Pay As You Go Tethering

x

Max Data Allowance

45GB

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 45GB each month (if you don’t use data for anything else).

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.

Then there’s Three, which offers unlimited tethering data on applicable plans though on the flipside you won’t get as good 4G speeds, so it’s a tie with EE overall for tethering.

Virgin Mobile is unlimited too if you’re a Virgin Media customer, while Vodafone and O2 also have very high data limits for tethering, so 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 and The People’s Operator, which don’t allow you to tether at all. But of the networks that do allow you to tether FreedomPop, Plusnet Mobile and SMARTY 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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