Wireless Service

Replacing Home Internet with a Mobile Hotspot— Is it Worth it?

By
Kyle Reyes
October 6, 2022

For almost everyone, the home internet is not a want but a need. The Internet is a huge part of so many things that we do, but it is not cheap. Between internet and phone bills, people are oftentimes paying well over $100 a month to keep connected with the outside world. Due to this, some people are wondering whether it is worth shutting off their home internet entirely and working off their phone plan and mobile hotspot. A few quick words about that: 

  • Replacing your home internet with a mobile hotspot can save some monthly costs
  • Low data limits and slow speeds make a mobile hotspot a poor choice for most households
  • The highest chance of success is for people who don’t use much internet at home or are away from home a substantial amount of time. 
  • Switching to a cheaper phone carrier is another way to save money on the monthly electronics bill

It’s in the name — mobile hotspot. They are designed around the ability to provide service anywhere, like in a car that’s on the road, or on a campground. Traditional home internet is better at being internet in every way, but it bears mentioning that if you can swing it, shutting off your internet lets you cut down on your monthly bill. In this article, we will discuss the pros and cons of home internet versus a mobile hotspot, as well as other ways to save money on your monthly phone bill. 

What is a Mobile Hotspot? 

A mobile hotspot is able to create a Wi-Fi network by drawing on the data of the cell network wherever you have service. 

A hotspot is any wireless device that lets you connect other devices to it and provides access to the internet. Most smartphones have the ability to become mobile hotspots, but there are also mobile hotspot devices that provide that internet connection with faster speeds. While your phone can, likely, become a mobile hotspot, data usage is an important limit. If you drop your home internet plan and switch to using a hotspot for home internet you will face a variety of serious weaknesses and some strengths. 

This section will cover how a mobile hotspot works as well as how it fits into your home lifestyle. 

Using a Hotspot on Your Phone

Enabling the personal hotspot on your phone is likely only a few clicks away! There is likely a tab in settings that enables the hotspot mode on your phone. That mode oftentimes provides a major drain on your phone’s battery, so use it with caution. 

How Much Data Does a Hotspot Use

Hotspots use a fair amount of data, similar to the data you’d use if you were connected to your home internet with Wi-Fi or ethernet. One thing you will have to keep in mind, however, is that when you are using a hotspot to cover your house then you will have a limit to the amount of hotspot data you receive each month. If you decide to switch, then it will be important to meter out your usage so you don’t unexpectedly run out of data in the middle of a meeting! 

This table denotes, roughly, the data usage of activities on a mobile hotspot.

Surprisingly, Instagram takes the cake for the most data used per amount of time on a mobile hotspot. This may be because of the way the site functions as well as the content that you are viewing. As Instagram turns from pictures to video and becomes more intricate with stories and reels and comments and posts the data meter ticks upwards and upwards. 

These numbers will vary but expect to use roughly that amount of data through your mobile hotspot. Mobile hotspots are a valuable addition to the utility of your smartphone, but an understanding of the streaming speeds and the data usage are important to know the times and places where hotspots are most effective. 

How Much Does a Mobile Hotspot Cost? 

It is rare that turning your phone into a mobile hotspot will cost anything extra. In more cases, your mobile hotspot is tied to your phone plan, and the plan will give you all the important information regarding how much data you can use with your mobile hotspot and what happens if you exceed that allotment of data. If it’s a hard data cap you might have to pay if you exceed that data, but otherwise, the company will just slow down the speeds. These slowdowns, mind you, are pretty significant and will leave you unable to do anything that requires a lot of data. 

If you don’t have a hotspot-enabled smartphone or you want to have a dedicated device for hotspot usage there are a wide variety of devices that function only as mobile hotspots, as we mentioned earlier. These devices are your best bet for faster speeds and more efficient data usage, but they come with a fairly significant price tag. You might also have to pay a monthly fee to activate that device, as it needs to access your cellular network to be effective. 

One thing to note — being on an unlimited data plan does not always mean you have unlimited hotspot data as well. Most unlimited plans offer a limited amount of hotspot data or no hotspot data at all. That particular allotment varies greatly on your cell phone provider. In this next section, we will talk about the differences between traditional home internet and using a mobile hotspot for home internet. 

Home Internet Versus Mobile Hotspot

Having access to a mobile hotspot is nice, but no part of it was designed to support a household’s worth of internet usage. 

Home internet is a must, but with how intricate phone plans are these days, there are some scenarios where it might make sense to dispense with home internet entirely and grab a phone plan with a robust hotspot attached. The cost of throwing a net of Wi-Fi over your home is not nothing and it adds up over the months. With an expensive phone plan, it begs the question — do you still need home internet? 

Data Limits

The answer is, well, using a hotspot for home internet comes with some pretty significant disadvantages. One of these is in the data limit. One of the biggest factors in your mobile hotspot is your internet data limit. Traditional home internet plans offer basically unlimited data (some have a cap at, like 1 TB), meaning you can stream all you want whenever you want.

Mobile hotspot plans will always have limits on the amount of high-speed data you use each month. This is especially important for hotspots, as laptops use more data for just about everything now that a lot of websites and apps are optimized for mobile to be less data-intensive. Once you hit that upper limit and are relegated to low-speed data, the mobile hotspot is one step from useless for the majority of home-internet items on your list. 

One major item that strains these data limits is just the amount of devices that are oftentimes connected to the internet. For instance, if anyone is working from home, or if there are more than two people in the household then a hotspot for mobile internet will almost never work. The average household’s data usage is just so much higher than where mobile hotspots are comfortable which makes the replacement just not feasible for most families. Where a hotspot really shines is someone who lives alone or with one other person and where everyone in the household is a low-data user. If you are someone who spends a lot of time out of the house or doesn’t go on the internet much at all, then dropping out of your home internet could be a good move for you. 

Data Speeds

Alongside a data limit, data speeds are also significantly lowered for mobile hotspots. Home internet has the potential to be many hundreds of MBps, which is enough to support, say, multiple people playing video games and streaming. Most of the fastest hotspots only deliver 30-60 MBps, a tiny fraction of their older brother. This is enough to support a single user using a medium amount of data but not much more than that. 

Pricing

There is no easy way to compare the price of home internet to the price of a mobile hotspot. The average cost of home internet is $65 a month, but it varies a lot based on the speed you are looking for. 

Cell phone plans also vary tremendously in the amount of money you pay each month. Some crest over $100 a month for one line, while some are in the low teens of dollars a month. So much depends on what you are getting. With an MVNO, you can get unlimited talk and text and, say, 5 GB of high-speed data for $10, whereas you can get unlimited talk, text, data, and 50 GB of a hotspot for, say, $90. 

Instead of just thinking about dropping your home internet to lower your monthly cost, you can also switch to an MVNO and save a ton of money every month. MVNOs are awesome, and there are a lot out there to choose from. 

Having a stable internet connection is something that many of us take for granted where we live. It comes with a sense of security and comfort. 

MVNO Phone Plans

MVNOs are an excellent alternative to save some money on your monthly phone bill. An MVNO is a phone company that supplies phone plans but does not have a network of its own. MNVOs piggyback off of existing cell phone towers of one or multiple major network providers. This means that MVNO customers are able to enjoy the same high-speed data that major wireless customers use at a fraction of the cost. 

Pros of MVNOs

The big pro of an MVNO is that they can offer cheaper plans than major carriers. Alongside that, MVNOs are able to operate in a different sphere. AT&T is competing mainly with Verizon and T Mobile for its customers while MVNOs are competing with other MVNOs. In terms of service, there are not too many differences between getting your cellular plan through an MVNO and getting it through one of the major providers. 

MVNO plans are so cheap because they don’t have to run their own network. They can focus on providing high-quality and affordable plans with all of their perks and incredible multi-line discounts since they are an MVNO and not a major service provider. 

Alongside that, MVNOs are not a new kind of service provider. They have provided great service to lots of people for decades, making them a reliable source of affordable phone plans. 

Cons of MVNOs

The major con of using an MVNO is the deprioritized service. When a major company is under stress from high data usage, the MVNOs are the first customers to experience a slowdown in internet speeds. Of course, this does not affect Wi-Fi speeds, just the speed of your cellular data.

Replacing Home Internet with a Mobile Hotspot — Is it Worth it?

For households where someone is working from home, the data used in even the smallest tasks will add up as time goes by. The low data cap of mobile hotspots makes it very difficult to support a household with significant internet usage.

While it might seem sneaky to replace your home internet with a mobile hotspot — you’re paying for it already, right? — there are too many advantages to a strong home internet network for us to recommend it. Home internet providers provide fast and reliable internet for, most likely, less than your monthly cell phone bill. There are also fewer options for a strong home internet connection. Mobile hotspots are not fast enough or deep enough to compete with them on that front. 

Switching Phone Plans

If you are looking to save on your monthly phone bill, there are other ways to do it. Switching phone plans or carriers opens the door to a lot of very cheap plans that come with far fewer disadvantages than the attempt to switch to a mobile hotspot as your primary source of home internet. 

There are loads of affordable phone plans that deliver almost the same amount of features. The main ones are unlimited talk and text, and then a limited amount of data, usually a slice of or a few gigabytes. This means that your house becomes your home base where you have normal internet and then you have to watch your data usage outside of Wi-Fi zones, rather than watching your data usage inside your home. 

Mobile Hotspots are Designed to be on the Move

One of the biggest draws to having a plan with a mobile hotspot is that it can be used anywhere that you have cell service. Tying it down to one location turns it into something for which it was not designed. The ability to keep a fairly strong signal in a moving car, in the bus, or when out camping is a fantastic boon to having that mobile hotspot as a part of your phone plan, but using a hotspot for home internet is a needlessly complicated solution to saving some extra money each month. 

For people who are often on the move, be it with traveling, work, or something else, cutting off your home’s internet might be worthwhile. If you notice that you aren’t ever really using your devices at home and instead are working a lot in areas where there are Wi-Fi connections then you might not have to keep paying that monthly bill. In fact, do you need a mobile hotspot in that situation? If you are on a phone plan with unlimited data then you can comfortably stream from home! Your cell phone can become your primary device for searching the web while you are at home if that is the case. 

Other Ways to Save 

Speaking of the internet and phone bills, there are other ways to save money on your monthly bills. You can lower your internet speeds at your company, look to get a cheap phone upgrade or find a less expensive phone plan to lower your monthly costs. Think about what parts of your current situation are the least necessary. Try to stay away from sacrifices that you will feel every day, as the savings might not be worthwhile if it makes it harder to get done what you need to do in terms of work or relaxation.

Kyle Reyes
Kyles Reyes is a journalist from Pittsburgh, PA that specializes in the wireless industry, phone plan comparisons & advice.