Mobile hotspots have become increasingly popular in recent years as more people work remotely or need internet access on the go. A mobile hotspot allows you to turn your smartphone into a portable WiFi router, providing internet access for other devices like laptops, tablets, and gaming consoles. Many carriers now offer unlimited mobile hotspot plans, but with different data speeds, allotments, and prices. In this guide, we‘ll compare the best unlimited mobile hotspot plans available and provide tips on choosing the right one for your needs.
What is a Mobile Hotspot?
A mobile hotspot utilizes your phone‘s cellular data connection to create a WiFi network that can be accessed by other devices. For example, if you have a smartphone with an unlimited data plan, you can turn on the mobile hotspot feature and then connect your laptop to access the internet through your phone‘s data connection instead of relying on public WiFi.
Mobile hotspots are extremely useful for getting internet connectivity anywhere there is cellular service. They provide an alternative to carrying around a separate WiFi router or paying for public WiFi access. Most modern smartphones have built-in mobile hotspot capabilities.
A brief video explaining mobile hotspots
The video above provides a quick overview of what mobile hotspots are and the different types available. The main thing to understand is that a mobile hotspot plan utilizes your phone‘s data to create a WiFi network for other devices.
Best Unlimited Mobile Hotspot Plans Compared
Many major carriers now offer unlimited data plans that allow you to use your phone as a mobile hotspot. However, the meaning of "unlimited" can vary between carriers. Some plans slow your speeds after passing a certain data threshold, while others limit video streaming quality.
Below, we‘ll compare some of the best unlimited mobile hotspot plans based on data amounts, speeds, and pricing.
T-Mobile Magenta MAX
Hotspot Allowance: 40GB high-speed, unlimited 3G speeds afterward
Price: $85/month for one line
T-Mobile‘s Magenta MAX plan is one of the best options for heavy mobile hotspot use. You get:
- 40GB of high-speed 5G/LTE hotspot data
- Unlimited 3G speed hotspot data after 40GB
- 5G access with speeds up to 400Mbps
- 100GB of high-speed data before throttling to 3G speeds
- Unlimited talk, text, and smartphone data
- Taxes and fees included
- Netflix, Paramount+, and Apple TV+ included
T-Mobile has the largest 5G network among carriers, so you‘ll get fast hotspot speeds in most areas. The high 40GB hotspot data allowance makes this a great choice if you need to connect multiple devices.
Verizon Premium Unlimited
Hotspot Allowance: 50GB high-speed, 600kbps afterward
Price: $80/month for one line
Key features of Verizon‘s Premium Unlimited plan include:
- 50GB of high-speed 5G Ultra Wideband and 4G LTE hotspot data
- Speeds reduced to 600kbps after 50GB
- Highest priority on the Verizon network
- 720p HD streaming
- 5G Ultra Wideband access with speeds up to 2Gbps
- Unlimited talk, text, and smartphone data
- Unlimited talk, text, and data in Mexico and Canada
Verizon has the best 5G coverage of any carrier, so with this plan you‘ll get ultra-fast hotspot speeds in many areas. 600kbps is still fairly usable after the 50GB limit.
AT&T Unlimited Extra
Hotspot Allowance: 15GB high-speed per line, 128kbps afterward
Price: $50/month for one line
AT&T‘s Unlimited Extra plan provides:
- 15GB of high-speed hotspot data per line
- Speeds limited to 128kbps after 15GB
- Unlimited talk, text, and data
- 5G access (where available)
- Unlimited talk, text, and data in Mexico and Canada
- HBO Max included
The 15GB hotspot data amount is lower than other carriers, but may be sufficient for light usage. You can add multiple lines to increase the hotspot allowance. AT&T also has strong 5G coverage in many regions.
Xfinity Mobile Unlimited
Hotspot Allowance: 20GB high-speed
Xfinity Mobile uses Verizon‘s network and offers these features:
- 20GB of high-speed 4G LTE hotspot data
- Unlimited but throttled data after 20GB
- 5G access for no added cost
- Unlimited talk and text
- 720p video streaming
- 100 Mbps max LTE speeds
As an MVNO of Verizon, you get Verizon‘s coverage and speeds. 20GB of high-speed data is less than the major carriers, but the $45 price point is budget-friendly. This is a good option if you already have Xfinity home services.
Google Fi Unlimited Plus
Hotspot Allowance: 30GB high-speed
Google Fi leverages T-Mobile, Sprint, and US Cellular‘s networks. The Unlimited Plus plan includes:
- 30GB of high-speed mobile hotspot data
- Unlimited 2G-speed hotspot data after 30GB
- Unthrottled data up to 22GB
- 5G access
- Unlimited calls and texts
- Free VPN app
- International coverage in 200+ countries
Google Fi is a great choice for global travelers thanks to free international roaming data and calling in many countries. You get T-Mobile‘s 5G network along with extra coverage from US Cellular and Sprint.
How to Choose the Right Unlimited Hotspot Plan
With so many options, choosing the best unlimited mobile hotspot plan for your needs takes some research. Here are key factors to consider when deciding:
Data Amount Needs
Consider how much monthly data you need when using your phone‘s hotspot capabilities. If you stream HD video or play online games daily through the hotspot, you may need a plan with at least 50GB before throttling. But if you only use a hotspot for web browsing or sending emails, 15-20GB may suffice. Examine your current usage on other devices to estimate your needs.
Make sure the carrier you choose has strong LTE and 5G coverage in your area and places you frequently travel to. Verizon and AT&T generally have the best nationwide coverage right now, especially in rural areas. But T-Mobile is quickly expanding its 5G network. Look at coverage maps and test speeds in your location before committing to a carrier.
Determine how many devices you need to connect through your phone‘s hotspot at once. Some carriers limit mobile hotspot connections to just 5-10 devices. If you need to connect laptops, tablets, and other gadgets concurrently, find a carrier without device connection limits.
Mobile hotspot speeds will depend on the type of data connection – 4G LTE vs. 5G. If you need the absolute fastest speeds look for providers with broad 5G coverage. But LTE hotspots can still provide respectable speeds of 25-50Mbps for most uses. Just don‘t expect to game or stream HD video at the highest quality.
Unlimited data plans with generous hotspot allowances can get expensive, especially for multiple lines. Prioritize carriers like Xfinity Mobile and Visible that offer cheaper unlimited plans if budget is a concern. You may sacrifice some speed or data amounts compared to premium carriers.
If you travel abroad frequently, Google Fi provides free roaming data in over 200 countries. Other carriers charge exorbitant roaming fees or don‘t include international coverage at all. For domestic travel, stick to major carriers like Verizon, AT&T, or T-Mobile for the best nationwide coverage.
By evaluating these factors specific to your usage, you can narrow down the ideal unlimited mobile hotspot plan for your needs and budget. Don‘t pay for extra data amounts or speeds you won‘t utilize.
Using a Mobile Hotspot for Home Internet
With some unlimited data plans offering hotspot allowances upward of 50GB, you may wonder if you can use a mobile hotspot as your primary home internet connection. While possible in some cases, using a smartphone plan to completely replace a traditional home internet setup has some significant drawbacks.
Speed Limitations – Even 5G mobile hotspots max out at around 400Mbps under ideal conditions. Fixed home internet can deliver gigabit speeds over fiber or cable. Performance will be inconsistent when connecting multiple devices.
Data Caps – Most unlimited plans still throttle speeds after you hit 20-50GB of use per month. Light internet users may be fine with this, but multi-person households can easily exceed those amounts through video streaming, gaming, and other data-heavy activities.
Reliability Issues – Cellular data relies on external towers and spectrum availability. Connection stability and latency aren‘t as robust as wired home internet. Congestion issues are more likely during peak usage times.
Higher Cost – Unlimited hotspot plans with decent data allowances can cost $50-100 per month. Compare that to cable or fiber internet plans starting as low as $30-50 per month. The monthly costs add up, especially if you need extra lines.
Device Limits – Most hotspot plans only allow a limited number of device connections concurrently. This can be problematic for larger households with many phones, computers, TVs, and gadgets needing internet access.
The main scenario where using a mobile hotspot as home internet is viable is for a single person living in an area without wired broadband options like cable or fiber. Even then, connecting multiple devices can be problematic. For families or homes with higher data needs, traditional home internet is still the better option.
Final Tips for Choosing a Plan
- Check prepaid vs postpaid plan pricing – Sometimes prepaid offers better deals.
- Look at seasonal promotions – Carriers often discount plans around holidays.
- Ask about any employer discounts – Many companies partner with carriers for employee rate plans.
- See if bundling services lowers the price – You can potentially save by getting wireless and home internet from the same provider.
- Purchase your own hotspot device to avoid monthly equipment fees – Just make sure it‘s compatible with the carrier.
- Use a wireless amplifier if signal strength is poor in your area – This can boost speeds.
- Disable auto-updates, streaming, and downloads when connected via hotspot to conserve data amounts.
- Monitor your monthly data usage within the first billing cycle and adjust to a higher or lower plan as needed.
- Consider purchasing a separate dedicated mobile hotspot device instead of using your phone if you need consistently fast speeds for gaming or video streaming. Dedicated hotspot devices typically have better antenna capabilities.
Choosing the right unlimited data plan with sufficient hotspot allowances takes some upfront research. But having unlimited high-speed internet access anywhere through your smartphone can be a game changer for on-the-go productivity. Compare the options outlined above and factor in your particular needs to select the best mobile hotspot plan.