What is Tethering?

Lots of people are not familiar with what tethering is, its benefits or downsides, so I thought I’d provide some information to help everyone out.

So first things first – what the heck is tethering and how does tethering work?

Tethering is using your phone or other data enabled device as a modem or router so that you can access the internet with devices that aren’t able to, such as your tablet or laptop.

You can connect to your makeshift modem using a USB cord or wirelessly, all depending on the equipment you have. You might also need (or want) to use an app or have a special data/tethering plan from your carrier.

The cost of tethering is (technically) free, but that’s only if you don’t get caught. Many carriers don’t like tethering because you’re using the internet on a device that you’re not paying to access the internet on, which goes against the terms and conditions you agreed to when you signed your contract. That said, if you’re not downloading absurd amounts of data all of a sudden then the carriers won’t be any wiser to what you’re doing.

But what if they do find out? Well, you’ll end up paying for it in fees. Why? Other than accessing the internet on a device you’re not supposed to, by using your phone or tablet as a modem and using your laptop or another tablet for accessing the internet you put more strain on the network’s bandwidth, causing congestion and such for other users.

Carriers don’t like it when you hog their bandwidth.

However, instead of fighting it many have decided to roll with it and just come up with rules and/or charge people for the service. AT&T, for example, requires that you sign up for their 5GB plan (at the lowest) if you plan on tethering. Verizon is the same way; in fact, their lowest data plan is 5GB. So you have to get that if you want to create your own “hotspot.”

Benefits to Tethering

The benefits to tethering are obvious —

For one thing, you can get internet access in areas where you wouldn’t otherwise because of the device you’re going to use. Maybe you need to download or upload some files real quick; not a good thing to do on your phone, if it’s possible at all. So you hook up your laptop to your phone and use the internet access to do it real quick.

You can also create a miniature hot spot for your friends. Maybe you’re working on a project together or are just surfing the web at your local coffee shop.

Downsides to Tethering

There are a few downsides to tethering, too:

  • You’ll drain the battery on your phone or tablet quickly. Many people have mentioned draining their battery in an hour or two.
  • You have to pay extra to tether, or risk being charged fees if you’re caught doing it and not paying.
  • The internet is much slower given that it’s mobile for one thing, and two, it has to go through your phone.
  • Phone calls might not be possible.