In the UK, only some mobile networks allow you to tether or use personal hotspot. Find out the tethering policy for each UK network.

Personal Hotspot on iPhoneTethering or personal hotspot refers to the process of sharing your smartphone’s internet connection with another device. It’s often used as a convenient way to get your laptop or tablet connected to the internet whilst you’re on-the-go.

Almost all smartphones today have the functionality for you to tether to another device or to enable a personal hotspot. This includes the Apple iPhone and Android-powered smartphones. However, there is a limitation in that only certain mobile networks will allow you to tether in their terms and conditions. For this reason, it’s important to find out the tethering policy for your mobile network before choosing a new tariff and using the personal hotspot feature.

In this article, we’ll compare the tethering policy on different UK mobile networks. We’ll also highlight some of the best value deals currently available with tethering support.

Overview of Tethering Policies By Network

The following table shows an overview of which mobile networks and tariffs you’re able to tether on. For further information, please select your mobile network for more details about their tethering policy.

Mobile Network Pay Monthly Tethering Pay As You Go Tethering
EE Yes Yes
giffgaff Yes
O2 Yes Yes
Tesco Mobile Yes Yes
Three Yes Yes
Vodafone Yes TBC
1pMobile Yes
ASDA Mobile Yes
BT Mobile Yes
FreedomPop Only with £3.99/month add-on
iD Mobile No No
Lebara Mobile Yes
Lycamobile No
Plusnet Mobile Yes
Sky Mobile Yes
Smarty Yes
Talkmobile Yes Yes
TalkTalk Mobile Yes
The Phone Co-Op Yes Yes
TPO Mobile No No
Vectone Mobile Yes (up to 10GB per month)
Virgin Mobile Yes Yes
VOXI Yes

Cheapest Deals For Tethering

Pay As You Go

Top Up LogoIf you’re looking to tether on Pay As You Go, there are nine mobile networks from which you’re able to choose from. They are 1pMobile, ASDA Mobile, EE, giffgaff, Lebara Mobile, O2, Tesco Mobile and The Phone Co-Op.

Currently, giffgaff is our recommended network for tethering on Pay As You Go. On giffgaff, a £10 top-up will give you unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and 3GB of data (increased automatically to 4GB once you’ve been on the tariff for 3 months). You’ll get 99% population coverage from O2, including both 3G and 4G, and there’s no need to undergo a credit check.

Order giffgaff SIM Card (Free) →

The following table gives a quick summary of some of the bundles available for tethering on Pay As You Go:

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
giffgaffUnlimitedUnlimited3GB£10.00
ASDA Mobile600Unlimited3GB£10.00
Tesco Mobile5005,0003GB£10.00
EE1,000Unlimited2GB£10.00
O25005,0002GB£10.00

With 2GB of Internet

iOS8 TetheringIf you’re looking to tether from your smartphone, we’d typically recommend choosing a tariff with at least 2GB of data per month as a minimum. This will allow you to tether occasionally (e.g. a couple of times per month for when a wi-fi network isn’t available).

The following table gives an quick overview of available deals with at least 2GB of tetherable data each month:

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
Sky MobileUnlimitedUnlimited2GB£6.00
Virgin Mobile2,500Unlimited2GB£6.00
SmartyUnlimitedUnlimited2GB£7.50
VodafoneUnlimitedUnlimited3GB£8.00
giffgaff500Unlimited2GB£8.00
Tesco Mobile1,0005,0002GB£9.00
Plusnet Mobile1,500Unlimited2GB£10.00
O2UnlimitedUnlimited3GB£13.00
BT MobileUnlimitedUnlimited2GB£15.00
EEUnlimitedUnlimited3GB£19.00

Please remember: the data allowance listed will need to cover your normal smartphone data usage as well as any data use through tethering or personal hotspot.

With 4GB of Internet

MacBook Pro
With tethering or personal hotspot, your laptop can get access to the internet wherever you are.

If you’re likely to tether regularly on your smartphone (e.g. a couple of times per week), we recommend choosing a tariff with at least 4GB of tetherable data per month.

The following tariffs will allow you to tether up to 4GB per month:

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
VodafoneUnlimitedUnlimited6GB£10.00
SmartyUnlimitedUnlimited4GB£10.00
Tesco Mobile1,0005,0005GB£11.00
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited4GB£11.00
giffgaffUnlimitedUnlimited4GB£12.00
Sky MobileUnlimitedUnlimited4GB£12.00
Plusnet MobileUnlimitedUnlimited4GB£15.00
BT MobileUnlimitedUnlimited6GB£18.00

With 8GB of Internet

If you’re likely to tether almost every day (e.g. on your commute into the office), we recommend choosing a tariff with at least 8GB of tetherable data per month. The following SIM-only contracts will be suitable for your usage:

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
Virgin Mobile5,000Unlimited10GB£10.00
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited8GB£10.00
Tesco Mobile5,0005,00010GB£14.00
giffgaffUnlimitedUnlimited8GB£15.00
Sky MobileUnlimitedUnlimited8GB£15.00
SmartyUnlimitedUnlimited8GB£15.00
O2UnlimitedUnlimited9GB£16.00
BT MobileUnlimitedUnlimited8GB£17.00
VodafoneUnlimitedUnlimited10GB£18.00

In Depth: Tethering Policies By Network

In the following section, we’ll discuss the tethering policies for each mobile network in more detail. For a general overview, see the summary table earlier in this article.

Popular Networks

EE

You can tether on all types of tariff from EE: it’s an integral feature of both their Pay Monthly and Pay As You Go plans.

The following SIM-only deals will allow you to tether on EE:

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
EEUnlimitedUnlimited1GB£16.00
EEUnlimitedUnlimited3GB£19.00
EEUnlimitedUnlimited20GB£22.00
EEUnlimitedUnlimited25GB£23.00
EEUnlimitedUnlimited50GB£27.00

Source: EE Help Article: Tethering your device
Tariff Information: EE Website

giffgaff

You can tether on any of giffgaff’s latest goodybags. This is explained in more detail within giffgaff’s tethering policy:

Tethering is allowed on all our goodybags, gigabags and airtime credit (PAYG).
If you tether with a gigabag or a goodybag using your data allowance, your Internet data allowance is shared between all connected devices. If you use up your data allowance before the goodybag expires, we will send a notification to your device to let you know. You will then be charged at 2p per MB from airtime credit balance (PAYG) for the remaining life of your goodybag / gigabag, but once your goodybag / gigabag expires standard rates for mobile data will apply.

The following goodybags will allow you to tether on giffgaff from £7.50/month:

TariffMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
£6 Goodybag300500500MB£5.00
£8 Goodybag500Unlimited2GB£8.00
£10 GoodybagUnlimitedUnlimited3GB£10.00
£12 GoodybagUnlimitedUnlimited4GB£12.00
£15 GoodybagUnlimitedUnlimited8GB£15.00
£20 GoodybagUnlimitedUnlimited20GB£20.00
£25 GoodybagUnlimitedUnlimitedAlways-On£25.00

Prior to August 2017, the £20 goodybag with Always-On data would only allow you to tether on the first 6GB per month. This restriction no longer applies to new £20 goodybags, although data speeds are reduced to 384kbps once you reach 9GB per month.

Source: giffgaff Support: Tethering Policy
Tariff Information: giffgaff Website

O2

On O2, tethering has been a standard feature of both Pay Monthly contracts and Pay As You Go tariffs since March 2011 (the rules may differ if you took out your contract before this).

The following SIM-only deals will allow you to tether on O2:

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
O21,000Unlimited1GB£11.00
O2UnlimitedUnlimited3GB£13.00
O21,000Unlimited1GB£14.00
O2UnlimitedUnlimited9GB£16.00
O2UnlimitedUnlimited3GB£17.00
O2UnlimitedUnlimited9GB£19.00
O2UnlimitedUnlimited18GB£20.00
O2UnlimitedUnlimited15GB£23.00
O2UnlimitedUnlimited40GB£25.00
O2UnlimitedUnlimited25GB£28.00
O2UnlimitedUnlimited40GB£38.00
O2UnlimitedUnlimited50GB£45.00

If you’re a customer of O2 Pay As You Go with an older iPhone, it might be necessary for you to install a software update to enable the tethering feature. We’d strongly recommend buying a Big Bundle if you’d like to tether on Pay As You Go (as tethering on Classic Pay As You Go will very quickly deplete your balance).

Source: O2 Help & Support: Personal Hotspot
Tariff Information: O2 Website

Tesco Mobile

On Tesco Mobile, you can tether at no extra cost on all tariffs that have an inclusive data allowance. This includes both Pay Monthly and Pay As You Go tariffs.

From the Tesco Mobile help pages:

If your tariff has a data allowance included, you can use your device as a personal hotspot at no extra cost. If you don’t have a data allowance, or you go over your data allowance, you’ll be charged our standard rates.

The following SIM-only deals will allow you to tether on Tesco Mobile:

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
Tesco Mobile5005,0001GB£7.50
Tesco Mobile1,0005,0002GB£9.00
Tesco Mobile1,0005,0005GB£11.00
Tesco Mobile5,0005,00010GB£14.00
Tesco Mobile5,0005,00020GB£18.00
Tesco Mobile5,0005,00050GB£25.00
Tesco Mobile5,0005,00030GB£30.00

Source: Tesco Mobile Help: Using your phone or tablet as a Wi-Fi hotspot
Tariff Information: Tesco Mobile Website

Three

Three allows you to tether on most of their plans, with the exception of Essential Pay Monthly contracts taken out between July 2016 and September 2018. Providing you have an Advanced Pay Monthly contract or Three Pay As You Go, you can tether using your normal allowance in the UK and Europe.

For customers with a 100GB or all-you-can-eat data allowance, a separate 30GB allowance applies for tethering and personal hotspot (may be lower on some all-you-can-eat data plans taken out before April 2016).

The following SIM-only deals allow you to tether on Three:

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited8GB£10.00
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited4GB£11.00
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited12GB£14.00
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited30GB£19.00
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited100GB£20.00
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£22.00

Restrictions apply on tethering if you’re travelling to a Feel At Home country outside of Europe. For more information, see the Three help article on tethering from your smartphone.

Prior to April 2018, tethering wasn’t possible on Three Pay As You Go.

Source: Three FAQ: Personal Hotspot on your phone
Tariff Information: Three Website

Vodafone

Vodafone has allowed tethering on all of their Pay Monthly plans since June 2011.

The following SIM cards from Vodafone will allow you to tether:

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
VodafoneUnlimitedUnlimited3GB£8.00
VodafoneUnlimitedUnlimited6GB£10.00
Vodafone1,000Unlimited1GB£13.00
VodafoneUnlimitedUnlimited3GB£15.00
VodafoneUnlimitedUnlimited10GB£18.00
VodafoneUnlimitedUnlimited22GB£21.00
VodafoneUnlimitedUnlimited8GB£22.00
VodafoneUnlimitedUnlimited100GB£24.00
VodafoneUnlimitedUnlimited40GB£25.00
VodafoneUnlimitedUnlimited15GB£25.00
VodafoneUnlimitedUnlimited30GB£28.00
VodafoneUnlimitedUnlimited100GB£30.00
VodafoneUnlimitedUnlimited60GB£30.00

On Vodafone Pay As You Go, it should also normally be possible to tether. However, a number of readers have fed back in the comments and elsewhere online that they’ve experienced problems doing so. For this reason, we’ve listed this as “TBC” in the summary table above.

Source: Vodafone Website
Tariff Information: Vodafone Website

Other Mobile Networks

1pMobile

Tethering is permitted on 1pMobile, either using the normal 1p/MB rate or on a 30-day Data Boost bundle.

If you’re a regular user of tethering or personal hotspot on 1pMobile, buying a Data Boost would probably be our recommended option. This is because the data charges for tethering can very quickly add up at the normal 1p/MB rate.

Source: 1pMobile: Data & Internet FAQs
Tariff Information: 1pMobile Website

ASDA Mobile

ASDA Mobile allows tethering and portable hotspot on all of their Pay As You Go bundles. They’re one of the better value mobile networks for tethering on Pay As You Go as you can get 2GB of tetherable data for just £10/month. ASDA provides coverage on EE, including both 3G and 4G internet.

The following Pay As You Go bundles on ASDA Mobile are suitable for tethering:

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
ASDA Mobile300Unlimited1GB£7.00
ASDA Mobile600Unlimited3GB£10.00
ASDA Mobile800Unlimited4GB£12.00
ASDA Mobile1,000Unlimited6GB£15.00
ASDA MobileUnlimitedUnlimited9GB£20.00
ASDA MobileUnlimitedUnlimited15GB£25.00

Source: ASDA Mobile: Frequently Asked Questions
Tariff Information: ASDA Mobile Website

BT Mobile

BT Mobile has allowed tethering for all customers of their mobile network since June 2016. This includes customers with a Pay Monthly contract, with the Family SIM offer or with a normal 12-month SIM-only contract.

The following SIM-only deals will allow you to tether on BT Mobile from £7.50/month:

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
BT MobileUnlimitedUnlimited500MB£8.00
inc. £5 discount
BT MobileUnlimitedUnlimited2GB£10.00
inc. £5 discount
BT MobileUnlimitedUnlimited8GB£12.00
inc. £5 discount
BT MobileUnlimitedUnlimited3GB£12.00
inc. £5 discount
BT MobileUnlimitedUnlimited6GB£13.00
inc. £5 discount
BT MobileUnlimitedUnlimited8GB£14.00
inc. £5 discount
BT MobileUnlimitedUnlimited12GB£15.00
inc. £5 discount
BT MobileUnlimitedUnlimited15GB£18.00
inc. £5 discount
BT MobileUnlimitedUnlimited20GB£25.00
inc. £5 discount
BT MobileUnlimitedUnlimited40GB£30.00
inc. £5 discount

The prices shown include a £5/month discount for customers living in a BT Broadband household.

Prior to June 2016, clause 25b of the BT Mobile terms and conditions prohibited the use of tethering on their network:

Prohibited use
25. You must not allow our service to be used:

b. to create your own personal hotspot which provides internet access to other devices which may be used by yourself or others (this is sometimes known as ‘tethering’); or

For more information, see the thread on BT’s Community Forums.

Source: BT Mobile
Tariff Information: BT Mobile Website

FreedomPop

On FreedomPop, tethering is not permitted unless you buy the £3.99/month FreedomPop Premium add-on. Realistically, you’ll also need to be on a paid-for data plan as the basic FreedomPop service includes only 200MB of data per month. For more information, please see our in-depth FreedomPop review.

Source: FreedomPop Website
Tariff Information: FreedomPop Website

iD Mobile

Unfortunately, tethering is not permitted on iD Mobile. It’s prohibited by clause 5.3.4 of the iD Mobile terms and conditions:

5.3 You must not use the Services, the SIM Card or an iD phone number or allow anyone else to use the Services, the SIM or an iD phone number for illegal or improper uses, including but not limited to:

5.3.4 tethering (unless explicitly stated in your Agreement with us), downloading, sending or uploading content of an excessive size, quantity or frequency. We will contact you if your use is excessive;

Any such use shall give us the right to charge you any Charges due and terminate the Services immediately.

This is also confirmed on the iD Mobile frequently asked questions page:

Please note that we do not allow tethering on any of our current plans. If you do use this service it is likely to use up large amounts of your data allowance very quickly, and you will be liable to pay any charge that may occur if you go over your allowance.

Source: iD Mobile Terms & Conditions
Tariff Information: iD Mobile Website

Lebara Mobile

Lebara Mobile allows the use of tethering on their network, but typically advises customers against doing so. According to an FAQ posted on their website in January 2017:

Tethering is something that we don’t advise since our data plans are design to be use with our sim cards not to be shared. You can share data if your device lets you, but if you have connection issues or other issues related to the tethering, we won’t be able to assist you.

Previously, the use of tethering was explicitly prevented in the Lebara Mobile terms and conditions, but this clause has now been removed from the contract.

Source: Lebara Mobile Terms & Conditions
Tariff Information: Lebara Mobile Website

Lycamobile

Lycamobile doesn’t allow tethering on their network. The terms and conditions pertaining to tethering can be seen on the Lycamobile bundles page (scroll to the bottom and click the small link saying ‘Terms and Conditions’):

The offer is for non-commercial, private, personal use only – Lycamobile reserves the right to withdraw or suspend the offer or to disconnect you if we suspect that offer is being used for commercial purposes, for conferencing, or if it is not being used in a handset (in a SIM box for example), if it is being used for tethering or if any reason Lycamobile reasonably suspects that you are not acting in accordance with this policy where we consider that the usage was illegitimate.

Source: Lycamobile Bundles Page
Tariff Information: Lycamobile Website

Plusnet Mobile

On Plusnet Mobile (previously known as LIFE Mobile until November 2016), it’s possible to tether on all of their SIM-only plans.

The following SIM-only deals will allow you to tether on Plusnet Mobile:

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
Plusnet Mobile250500500MB£6.00
Plusnet Mobile1,000Unlimited1GB£8.00
Plusnet Mobile1,500Unlimited2GB£10.00
Plusnet Mobile2,000Unlimited3GB£12.50
Plusnet MobileUnlimitedUnlimited4GB£15.00

If you’re a Plusnet home broadband customer, you can benefit from double data through the Plusnet Mates Rates offer.

Source: Plusnet Mobile: Tariff FAQs
Tariff Information: Plusnet Mobile Website

Sky Mobile

On Sky Mobile, it’s possible to tether on all tariffs at no extra charge. A unique feature of the network is you can also save unused data allowances in a “data piggybank” (this can be useful if you only need to tether very occasionally).

The following SIM-only deals will allow you to tether on Sky Mobile from £5/month:

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
Sky MobileUnlimitedUnlimited2GB£6.00
Sky MobileUnlimitedUnlimited4GB£12.00
Sky MobileUnlimitedUnlimited8GB£15.00
Sky MobileUnlimitedUnlimited25GB£25.00

If you’re a Sky TV customer, you’ll receive unlimited calls and unlimited texts as part of your tariff.

Source: Sky Mobile website
Tariff Information: Sky Mobile website

Smarty

Customers of Smarty are able to tether without any restrictions. This is detailed in the Smarty Support Centre:

You’re entitled to use your data however you like, no matter which of the 3 SMARTY plans you’re on. So you can tether and use your phone as a mobile hotspot with your full allowance if you want to.

The following 30-day plans from Smarty will allow you to tether from £7.50/month:

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
SmartyUnlimitedUnlimited1GB£6.25
SmartyUnlimitedUnlimited2GB£7.50
SmartyUnlimitedUnlimited4GB£10.00
SmartyUnlimitedUnlimited8GB£15.00
SmartyUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£25.00

Source: Smarty Help – Tethering and mobile hotspots
Tariff Information: Smarty Website

Talkmobile

With Talkmobile, you can tether on any of their plans. For more information, go to their help pages and search for ‘tethering’. This will give you the tethering policy for their network:

Tethering (using your mobile as an internet hotspot for other devices) is included in all Talkmobile plans. You can tether if you have a data plan and have enabled Wi-Fi hotspot functionality on your phone.

As of April 2017, the Talkmobile brand is being gradually phased out. The mobile network is no longer available to new customers.

Source: Talkmobile Help Pages
Tariff Information: Talkmobile Website

TalkTalk Mobile

You can tether on all current tariffs from the legacy TalkTalk Mobile service. There’s a FAQ page on TalkTalk’s website explaining how to tether on their network. Please note that TalkTalk Mobile is in the midst of being closed down, as of January 2018.

In 2015, TalkTalk Mobile offered an All-in SIM card where tethering was prohibited. The All-in SIM card is no longer available to new TalkTalk Mobile customers.

Source: TalkTalk Help: Mobile Tethering
Tariff Information: TalkTalk Mobile Website

The Phone Co-Op

On The Phone Co-Op, it’s possible to tether on both Pay Monthly and Pay As You Go plans. This was confirmed by an Internet & Data FAQs page on their old website (the page has since been removed during a website redesign):

Can I use tethering?
We are happy for you to tether your phone to any other device, to share its internet connection, though we cannot guarantee that every phone will be compatible.

You can use the following Pay As You Go bundles to tether on The Phone Co-Op:

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
Co-operative Mobile5001,0001GB£10.00
Co-operative Mobile7501,0002GB£15.00
Co-operative Mobile1,0001,0004GB£20.00

Source: The Phone Co-Op: Internet & Data FAQs
Tariff Information: The Phone Co-Op Website

TPO Mobile

On TPO Mobile (The People’s Operator), tethering is prohibited on both Pay Monthly contracts and on Pay As You Go tariffs. The condition is specified in the network’s fair usage policy:

Using your phone as a modem (tethering) is not permitted.

Source: The People’s Operator: Fair Usage Policy (7th January 2015)
Tariff Information: The People’s Operator Website

Vectone Mobile

Vectone Mobile allows tethering, but only up to a maximum of 10GB per month. If you exceed this 10GB limit, your services might be suspended. This is stated in clause 4e of their network terms and conditions:

4(e) Tethering of up to 10GB mobile data is permitted; post which, it might result into suspension of your services.

Source: Vectone Mobile Terms & Conditions
Tariff Information: Vectone Mobile Website

Virgin Mobile

As of April 2018, Virgin Mobile has removed the restrictions on tethering previously found in their terms and conditions. The following SIM-only deals from Virgin Mobile will allow you to tether:

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
Virgin Mobile2,500Unlimited2GB£6.00
Virgin Mobile1,500Unlimited1GB£7.00
Virgin Mobile5,000Unlimited10GB£10.00
Virgin Mobile5,000Unlimited50GB£20.00
Virgin MobileUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£27.00

Prior to April 2018, it wasn’t possible to tether on Virgin Mobile contracts taken out after the 24th January 2013. This was stated in the old terms and conditions for the Virgin Mobile service:

Data usage on some Virgin Media tariffs is for mobile internet services and data consumption actually on your handset. It does not include using your handset as a modem to connect other devices such as laptops and tablets – also known as “Tethering”. Please refer to your terms and conditions and other communications from Virgin Media to check whether this applies on your tariff. This applies to all new and upgrading customers since 24 January 2013.

If your contract was originally taken out before the 24th January 2013, you should check as the specific terms and conditions may differ for your tariff.

Source: Virgin Media: Terms and conditions of service
Tariff Information: Virgin Media Website

VOXI by Vodafone

On VOXI, the sub-brand of Vodafone for under-25s, it’s possible to tether or use personal hotspot without any restrictions. From the VOXI Benefits page:

Tether without restrictions
Turn your VOXI mobile into a personal Wi-Fi hotspot, letting other devices use your data.

Source: VOXI Website – Network Benefits
Tariff Information: VOXI Website

More Information

For more information on your network’s tethering policy, please refer to their official website. For information on how to tether from your smartphone, see our article on how to use your smartphone’s tethering functionality.

Your Comments 125 so far

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 125 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

    • Hi Michael,
      Thanks very much for your comment! Yes, I believe iD Mobile have recently relaxed this restriction due to a recent Ofcom ruling on the topic of net neutrality. Essentially, this is the principle that traffic shouldn’t be discriminated on based on the device on which you use the data (so data used via tethering shouldn’t be treated any differently to normal data usage on your smartphone).
      I’ll make sure this is all reflected when it comes to next updating this article 🙂
      Ken

  • Hi Ken,

    I am currently with Virgin Mobile wherein I am subscribed into 100GB of data allowance.I am just curious why my data usage reached 64GB every month though my data is not working okay as it doesn’t load pages.How is it possible?

    • Hi Coby,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, I’m not aware of any good reason why your data connection would stop working after 64GB of usage. This is something the Virgin Mobile customer services team will have to look into for you – sorry about that!
      Ken

  • Hi Ken,
    Many thanks for pulling together so much useful information.
    You show how some networks have limits for how much of a data package can be used for tethering.
    What are the rules for using a SIM in a wifi router?
    I understand some providers ban it for some of their products?

    • Hi Tom,
      Many thanks for your comment. Yes, I believe the terms and conditions of some mobile SIM card products do not allow you to place the SIM card in a mobile wi-fi router. I don’t know off the top of my head which mobile networks have this restriction, but it’s probably best to choose a mobile broadband SIM card for this use case.
      Ken

      • After pressure from Ofcom, Three now allow unlimited tethering on their Advanced plans with an ordinary (phone) SIM card.

        Three has:
        “withdrawn restrictions on the use of handset SIMs in dongles and mifis” and “allow customers on all Advanced Plans to tether without restriction”.

        See https://www.ofcom.org.uk/about-ofcom/latest/bulletins/competition-bulletins/all-closed-cases/cw_01218

        I’m unsure whether this applies to other operators but it’s looking as though distinctions between handset SIMs and mobile broadband SIMs will disappear.

        • Three may have removed restrictions on SIMs in dongles and mifis – I don’t know. However, according to the Ofcom statement Three also made the following commitment :
          “Three has also confirmed that, from December 2018 (or earlier), it will:
          ……
          remove any specific tethering or hotspot allowance for new or upgrading customers, to allow for unrestricted tethering (within the UK or EU)”

          Yet as of 14th Feb 2019, according to Three’s own website, they STILL impose fair use limits.

          See http://www.three.co.uk/go-roam#FAQ

          In the FAQs it says
          “Use of your data allowance in Go Roam in Europe destinations is included subject to a fair use limit. If you have a data allowance of 19GB or more, you can use up to a fair use limit of 19GB of your data allowance (or 15GB if you’re on Pay As You Go) at no extra cost.”
          and
          “In Go Roam in Europe destinations, use of your data allowance over our fair use limit of 19GB (or 15GB for Pay As You Go customers) is not included and incurs a surcharge of up to 0.46p/MB.”

  • Usually in Greece we buy a Wind data sim and use it to tether our devices during our stay. Recently I bought a GiffGaff £20 data goody bag before leaving the UK, having confirmed they use the Wind network in Greece. The connection did indeed use Wind, but it absolutely would not allow tethering. £20 as good as thrown away.

    • On giffgaff, you need to establih that you’re UK-based, by using your SIM for a while in the UK prior to going abroad. If you don’t do this then your bundle can’t be used while roaming in the EU.

  • Vectone claims not to allow tethering but I use a vectone payg sim in a mifi router and benefit from their ridiculously generous data allowances. OK it’s only 3G and their customer service is woeful but who needs it anyway?

    I also use a vodafone payg sim in the same mifi router so they must allow tethering too.

    • Hi Ken,
      Thanks for the feedback! I just had another quick look at the Vectone terms and conditions and it appears it now says the following under condition 4(e):

      (e) Tethering of up to 10GB mobile data is permitted; post which, it might result into suspension of your services.

      Have you ever used more than 10GB of tethering in one month? Occasionally, some mobile networks prevent the use of tethering in their T&C but they don’t always fully enforce the restriction.
      Ken

  • Three only allow tethering on their Pay Monthly contract by taking out an add-on.

    Personally I don’t see what right a mobile carrier has to dictate how you should or shouldn’t use your data allowance, after all you’re paying for it, it just seems like another way of fleecing customers in the UK.

    • Hi there,
      I believe Three only requires you to buy an add-on if you’re on one of their “Essential” Pay Monthly plans. These have recently been withdrawn from sale, so all new Pay Monthly contracts should now include tethering.

  • This is a really useful site and Ken has obviously put in a lot of effort. I sometimes use PAYG tethering (giffgaff 5p/Mb or 1pmobile 1p/Mb) and it would be helpful if Ken included the basic no-bundle PAYG tethering rates for each network.

    • Hi Neil,
      Many thanks for the feedback! This is something I’ve previously considered in the past, but I thought it was probably a rare occurrence for people to tether on traditional Pay As You Go (mainly because the charges will add up very quickly when calculated on a per-megabyte basis). Out of interest, how much data do you typically use via tethering? Another option for low frequency tethering is something like Vodafone’s Pay As You Go 1. They charge £1/day for up to 500MB of data and unlimited minutes, with the fee only being charged on the days when you use it.
      Ken

      • Basic out of bundle PAYG tethering is not the cheapest but its easy and I only pay for what I use, which varies greatly from month to month. On average I spend about 7gbp a month tethering with 1pmobile. If the 1pmobile signal is poor the giffgaff signal is usually okay but basic GG out of bundle tethering is 5 times more expensive than 1pmobile. I don’t know of any basic out of bundle PAYG tethering allowed other than 1pmobile and giffgaff. Virtual operators on Vodafone allowed it at one time (eg. talkmobile) but not anymore.

  • Tony Witton said:

    Hi Ken. I have 10 gb allowance on this tablet (Nexus 7) through 3 on open ended £15 pm contract. Far too much data allowance for my needs as usually only use less than 2gb per month. Also paying virgin £10 pm on pay as you go big talk deal for my phone Samsung J3. Wondered if could tether the phone to the tablet to save the £10 pm with virgin and use up some of the spare capacity on the 3 mobile broadband Nexus device?

    • Hi Tony,
      Many thanks for your comment. There’s no reason why you couldn’t tether from your tablet to your mobile phone, though usually people try to do it around the other direction! Typically, you’ll need to continue paying for a mobile phone plan of some kind anyway as you’ll want to be able to make & receive phone calls on it. Also, you’ll only have a mobile internet connection when you bring your tablet everywhere with you (which kind of defeats the point of having a smaller mobile phone!).
      There are now some great SIM-only deals available on the market (e.g. unlimited minutes, unlimited texts & 12GB data for £15/month on Three). Have you considered changing your mobile phone to use a SIM card like this, and then tethering from your mobile phone to your tablet where necessary? This should save you £10/month compared to your current arrangement, will include unlimited calls & texts and will possibly even give you a slightly larger data allowance).
      Ken

      • Tony Witton replied:

        Hi Ken. Yes – this has helped. Very well explained. Thank you. Think I got myself in this state as when I bought the tablet (from Argos) I didn’t have a smartphone (just an old non smart one with virgin big talk deal at 10.00 per month). When I opened the tablet box it said I had to ring 3 to get the Sim activated (I think it was originally supposed to be 2gb for 7.50 per month). The 3 tele sales man cleverly convinced me i needed 10gb at 15.00 per month – which I now know I didn’t as monthly I’ve never been above 2gb. Hey ho! You live and learn .kind regards

  • So, I changed from Lycamobile to Three, same price 35 -35 unlimited Internet. Three has much better speeds and support online than Lyca. If with Lyca I couldnt get above 3mbps, with Three I see even 15 Mbps. Tethering is ALLOWED on Three if you are in UK at the 35 pounds Option. I have over 30GB of tethering in one week and like 10GB of Mobile usage and speeds are the same and everything is okay. For real average download in London from Three I see around 0.6-1.2 real MB speed downbload, but mostly on lower end than higher end, but is enough for Streaming Movies, download some games and not wait 1 week for the to finish. Also I do not recommend waiting for them to deliver your sim if you need it fast and just pay 99pences at any shot that has Three Sim.

  • Also I do not agree with tethering allowance and that is just straight hustle the amount they charge for tethering.
    I can get up to 100GB per month just by watching YOUTUBE, not counting anything else. They should make like a 100GB tether allowance on unlimited bundles and I think everyone will be happy with that much

  • Hello! I would like to know how is possible with my windows 10 mobile that I can use tethering with lycamobile who doesn;t allow tethering. Is like some kind of trick windows 10 mobile has ? Or that my phone is not actually from uk, but from belgium

    • Hi Michael,
      Many thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, the restrictions on tethering are found in Lycamobile’s terms and conditions (so this is very much a legal restriction, as opposed to a technical restriction). Whether they actually have any technical measures to determine whether you’re tethering, I’m not currently sure (and if they do, how you might be able to get around those checks).
      Ken

      • Michael replied:

        Well, I will actually try Three unlimited internet this month and see how is it tethering at them. Lycamobile Speeds are so so bad for the 35 pounds internet. Like 165kb/s download at 4g at the most. Like I am coming from eastern europe and there internet is like under 10 euros on mobile, unlimited everything , tether as much as you please and get like real 2 mb/s downloads. I hope I will not trick myself with three. You have any idea of real three 4g download speeds?
        Or is there any way to test their tethering blockage on Three before I actually decide to spend the 35pounds for the unlimited internet? Thank you

        • Hi Michael,
          Many thanks for your comment. I think speeds are fairly reasonable for 4G on Three – at least I haven’t heard too many complaints about it. I haven’t tried it myself in the last few months (and I imagine your mileage will vary depending on your local mast, etc) but previously I found it to be fine. Perhaps someone else reading this article might have some further feedback?
          Ken

  • Tim Clacy said:

    Why do UK mobile network operators feel they can limit personal hotspot usage more than their *normal* Internet usage limit?

    From a purely data usage viewpoint (bandwidth and capacity), there is *absolutely no difference* to the network operators between the two ways of using data. One method of connection doesn’t cost anymore to them than the other.

    Could this be the next PPI-like scandal resulting in refunds for all UK mobile phone users?

    • Hi Tim,
      Many thanks for your comment, and a very good question!
      The situation has been slowly improving over the past few years. When I first started this guide back in 2015, I think probably about half of the networks at that time had restrictions on tethering. Those restrictions are now slowly coming off (e.g. with Lebara & Virgin being some recent names to relax their restrictions).
      I agree with your assessment that it makes no difference to the network operator whether you’re using the data directly on your phone, or via tethering on another device. I think these restrictions originated from a very different time, where smartphones were much less powerful and people were less likely to use it for lots of media consumption. At that time, many offers were available such as “unlimited data”, but this was offered in the knowledge that people were unlikely to use more than 1GB or 2GB on their phone. The assessment changes dramatically when you allow for tethering, as someone could theoretically use hundreds of GB, through the use of tethering rather than using their home broadband connection. With more people now using their phones for iPlayer, Netflix, etc, this assumption about data usage per device is now probably a little less correct (and hence, the restrictions on tethering now being removed).
      It’s worth noting that some mobile networks still like to push people towards very large data plans (e.g. 20GB for £20/month, and deals like that). Again, the average user is unlikely to use anywhere near that amount of data, so it means a lot more revenue for the mobile network without them actually needing to deliver that amount of data. Nowadays, restrictions on tethering are much looser than before, but it still applies that if someone uses tethering instead of a home broadband connection, they’re likely to use a much larger proportion of their allowance, and the unit economics for the mobile network can look substantially different in the cost of delivering the GB vs the revenue they get from it.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

      • Tim Clacy replied:

        Interesting. I’ll definitrely look into Lebara & Virgin.

        When my wife and I switched to 3, we had unlimited Internet usage with no distinction between tethered or untethered usage. After about a year, 3 changed the terms of the contract and set a 4GB limit on tethered usage.

        We can both use Netflix and Amazon Prime without any limit on our phones and, with an HDMI adapter, also on the TV.

        However, if we connect the TV to our phones’ hotspot and use Netflix or Amzon Prime, the tethered usage vanishes after 2 HD films.

        To me, this is like 3 (and all other mobile networks) saying “watch as many films as you like on a tiny screen but we’ll sting you for watching the same films on your TV”. Pretty poor service from customers’ perspective.

        Cheers

        Tim

        • Tim Clacy replied:

          Just looked into both Lebara & Viirgin and am a litlle disappointed.

          There is no clear indication anywhere I could find that specifies how much tethered usage is allowed.

          In a Virgin forum, they did confirm that tethered usage is allowed “for reasonable usage” but with no definition of what that means.

          Most of the operators seem to charge £5 per 1GB of tethered usage, which is verging on extortion.

          Cheers

          Tim

          • Hi Tim,
            Three did offer all-you-can-eat data with no limits on tethering on ‘The One Plan’ back in the good old days. I think they had to withdraw it from sale – the official explanation being that some users were using much more data than they expected! If you’re looking for a tariff with unlimited tethering, the only one I’m currently aware of is Virgin Mobile’s £25/month unlimited everything tariff (offers 4G coverage from EE). You’ll need to be a Virgin Media home phone or broadband customer to get access to that tariff.
            Another thing that might be worth looking into is something like Relish (which is actually owned by Three). They provide a 4G-based internet connection with unlimited downloads (though it’s currently available only in London and Swindon). It’s designed to purely be used in one location, however, so doesn’t provide you with the full flexibility of tethering from your mobile phone.
            Ken
            Ken

    • Hi Shaun,
      I just wanted to say a massive thank you for bringing this to my attention! I’ve amended the article above, based on your information. There’s also a press release here from February 2018 discussing the launch of an unlimited data tariff with the ability to tether!
      Thanks again – much appreciated,
      Ken

    • Hi Ming,
      Many thanks for your comment. As a starting point, you can probably assume that most networks will have the same tethering policy abroad as in the UK (within the EU, this normally be the case). In some cases, there will be a different tethering policy abroad outside of Europe – I know this applies on Three Feel At Home but not sure of other networks with this restriction.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • You 100% can Tether Vodafone PAYG Big Value Bundle data allowance, i am doing so now to make this post with my £30/20GB PAYG Bundle i’ve signed up to with an Android device tethering with my laptop.

    • Hi Robin,
      Many thanks for the feedback on this. Based on your feedback, I’ve just updated Vodafone in the table above to show ‘TBC’ in the Pay As You Go Tethering column. I’ve received really mixed feedback on this issue in the past and Vodafone doesn’t seem to officially confirm the policy anywhere on the website.
      Thanks again,
      Ken

  • hello

    i have just brought a vodafone sim so i can use my phone as a moblie hotspot on pay as you go.

    This does not work, i have contacted vodafone payasyougo support and they say that they do not allow tethering on pay as you go 🙁

    • Hi Fred,
      Many thanks for your comment. Are you using an iPhone or another device (e.g. Android)? I’ve previously heard conflicting reports around Vodafone PAYG, as people have suggested that tethering should now work. So I’d really like to gather a bit more information on why it doesn’t seem to work for everybody (e.g. I wonder if Vodafone’s carrier settings on the iPhone are stopping you from using this feature?).
      Thanks,
      Ken

      • Hello Ken

        Thank you for replying

        I am using a Microsoft Lumia 550

        I only purchased the Vodafone sim card 2 days ago due to the data allowance being able to be used as a hotspot.

        This all worked fine for the first day.
        Then on the 2nd day the hotspot is refusing to work, when I try to turn it on I get a message in yellow stating ‘we can’t set up a mobile hotspot.’

        I have now spent the last two days being a human tennis ball in the game of Vodafone customer service tennis.

        I so far have had two Vodafone tecs tell me two different things, one saying yes pay as you go does support tethering and the other saying only pay monthly supports tethering.

        I have had online support tell me no, pay as you go do not allow tethering.

        but the latest tec sent me a new APN with proxy address and port numbers and now I can not access the internet on my phone at all let alone turning it into a hot spot.

        do you have any advice on how to get the £30 Vodafone credit back from them as I will have you use another network if they can not supply the service I require.

        • Hi Fred,
          Thanks for the feedback, and sorry to hear about the problems you’ve experienced from Vodafone. It is indeed very hard to get a clear answer from them, and I’m not quite sure what has happened in this case. Unfortunately, Pay As You Go credit is typically non-refundable. However, it’s worth putting in a formal written complaint to Vodafone. This will help to escalate the issue, and will be the only way to get a refund for your credit if applicable.
          Ken

  • Rae Sewell said:

    Hi, I am looking for a network that allows bluetooth tethering whilst abroad.
    I am with Three at the monent and I have a Feel at Home plan which is great and does everything that I want except the thethering while abroad.

    I tried phoning a couple of networks yesterday and the representatives were really nice but I knew more about Bluetooth Tethering than they did, so I never really got a definitive answer.

    • Hi Rae,
      Many thanks for your comment. As far as I know, only Three places a restriction on tethering whilst you’re travelling abroad. I believe most other mobile networks allow you to tether (assuming your plan normally supports it), though it’s worth double-checking this in the terms and conditions if you opt-in to a specific deal for roaming (e.g. if you choose a fixed price package for a certain amount of data).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

      • Rae Sewell replied:

        Thanks for the answer Ken. I am happy with Three in every other respect apart from the tethering abroad.

  • I can quite categorically state that Three do NOT allow tethering whilst abroad. I pay for 30G data on pay monthly basis work in Germany for 2 weeks each month and am NOT allowed to tether my iphone on 3 to any other device. I am allowed to use my data on my phone just not on any other device. When questioned 3 customer service stated that “no phone company in the world will allow tethering abroad” unquote. After talking to my colleagues at work it appears that same networks ie Vodafone UK allow tethering on Vodafone DE network. Whereas 3 use Telekom network in Germany. Three state this is to do with there agreements with foreign networks.
    To me this is a bit like being sold a car say a VW and being told you can’t drive it down a certain road because VW won’t allow it. I mean I’ve paid for the data up front so what diference does it make what device is using it!!!
    Another annoyance is that another colleague is on EE which connects to Telekom here too. He gets a 4g signal, I on the other hand with my 3 contract only get 3g, same model of iphone! Guess this is just 3 being tight and not paying as much to Telekom??

  • Hi,
    I’m on Three with 4GB allowance for tethering, and unlimited data. I have a Samsung S7.
    I’ve just got a new car and there is a WLAN feature. What it does is use your phones data connection and broadcasts a strong WiFi signal for passengers devices. So you connect the car to your phones hotspot, and then connect the passengers devices to the car. The benefit is a stronger more consistent connection as it uses the cars antenna. I can get it all to connect but the passenger devices (I pads etc) show “no internet” on the cars wifi. However if I connect the car to use the Internet from my girlfriends iPhone which is on O2, it all works perfectly! Any ideas at all? Thank you for this article I’ve learnt a lot 🙂

  • Could you tell me please what exactly does 30g internet data mean I am currently on the 3 pay as you go 25pound all you can eat data. I’m unsure how long I could tether for.thank you

    • Hi Kevin,
      Thanks for your comment. There’s more information here on what you can do with your gigabytes. However, please be aware that tethering isn’t permitted on Three Pay As You Go (if they aren’t blocking it outright, it’s likely their system will notice eventually and your internet connection could be cut off). You’ll need a Pay Monthly Advanced price plan if you’d like to tether on the Three network.
      Ken

  • Ken – O2 PAYG will allow tethering – at least on a Big Bundle. I have been tethering my laptop to my Moto G (Ist Gen) and now to my Moto G4 when wifi has not been available for several years now.

    Excellent website, by the way. I cannot understand how I haven’t found it before.

    Thanks
    David R

    • Hi David,
      Thanks for the heads up about this & for the kind comments about the website!
      Everything I’ve seen on the O2 community forums suggests tethering isn’t allowed on Pay As You Go. However, I’m not actually able to find this in their terms and conditions, so it’s possible their forums are mistaken or perhaps this is a policy they no longer actively enforce. If anyone else has further experiences, I’d love to hear them (or also if you’ve seen an official confirmation from O2 that tethering is now allowed on PAYG).
      Thanks,
      Ken

  • Hi Ken

    We are traveling to London and then throughout Spain for two weeks. I read from your postings that Asda allows tethering. How about when we get to Spain? We will have our own mobile for voices. Most probably tether through a tablet.

    Or alternatively is there a mifi / wifi hotspot device we could rent?

    cheers

    • Hi Rob,
      Thanks for your comment. ASDA Mobile does indeed allow tethering and I see no reason why you wouldn’t be able to tether in Spain as well. Regarding that, however, your UK bundle allowances can’t be used in Spain (instead, you’ll need to pay 5p/MB for data in the EU). Depending on how much data you’re planning to use, this is likely to make ASDA Mobile a cost-prohibitive option. I’d say if you’re planning to use more than 100MB of data (which no doubt you will over a 2-week trip), you’ll probably be better off getting a local SIM card in Spain.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Hi

    It appears that Vodafone do NOT allow tethering on their PAYG products, at least on iPhones. Which is a bit of a pity.

  • Maurizio Atzori said:

    I have a week of remote work planned in the U.K. and I could not believe my eyes reading your post.

    Thanks a lot, Ken!

  • Thank you Ken, very informative site.
    I currently have a Nokia Lumia 610 ‘phone which is low usage PAYG – used just for emergencies. I have now bought a new MacBook and wish to Tether or buy a dongle so that I can get the internet when WiFi is unavailable. It will be low usage. Do you have any comments on best way to achieve this?
    Please excuse my ignorance but can you also clarify the PAYG packages listed above at say £10 per month? My PAYG means I only pay if I use it, so how does the monthly cost come in? Thanks. Keith

    • Hi Keith,
      Thanks for your comment. You can use the tethering or portable hotspot feature on your Lumia 610 to achieve this – there’s information here on how to tether from Windows Phone. With regards to the PAYG packages listed above, these are actually Pay As You Go bundles where you convert your PAYG credit into a one-month allowance of calls, texts & internet. As you say, you can actually tether on traditional Pay As You Go without getting a bundle (e.g. for 5p/MB on ASDA Mobile). However, this is only really suitable for very low usage (e.g. if you’re only using a couple of megabytes). Most people will probably be better off using a bundle (look out for automatic updates and other software on your laptop which can use up data very quickly).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Hi Ken. Great page, thank you.

    Just an update suggestion – If I understand it correctly, the Vodafone comment about 20GB tethering being the biggest of all UK SIM cards appears to be out of date. The Three allowance is bigger and O2 have a 25GB plan I believe.

    • Hi Alan,
      Thanks – you make a really good point – it was the largest available data allowance when this article was first written but that’s no longer the case now O2 and Three have released larger data packages. I’ll update the article above to reflect this ASAP.
      Thanks,
      Ken

    • Hi Hayden,
      Fantastic news – thanks for sharing! I’ve just updated the article above to reflect this information 🙂
      Ken

  • chris wilkinson said:

    Whether PAYG SIMs will work in a mobile wifi hotspot device or only a phone or tablet seems to be a prohibition not easily found on most of the networks. I’m looking for a PAYG that allows this but it’s hard to know.

    The talkmobile PAYG doesn’t seem to prohibit it but doesn’t explicitly allow it either.

    http://talkmobile.co.uk/current-tsandcs

  • Russell Scott said:

    I note that by pairing my MotoE Moby (‘3’ SIM) with my old Nokia 300 (Tesco SIM) by Bluetooth, I can gain Internet access on the Tesco network from my MotoE. I guess this still counts as tethering and might be useful in a location where ‘3’ has poor coverage. Would the network be able to detect it in the same way as tethering from a tablet or laptop?

    • Hi Russell,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, I don’t know the exact method each mobile network is using to detect tethering, but it’s possible they’ll still be able to detect this activity. Out of interest, is there any reason why you don’t want them to be able to detect this? Tesco Mobile allows tethering on all of their tariffs.
      Ken

  • Thank you for an informative article. One thing I have never understood is why the mobile networks have such an aversion to tethering on PAYG in the first place. I mean, surely 10/50/200MB consumed by a smartphone places the same load on the network as 10/50/200MB consumed by a tethered tablet or laptop.

    From the end user’s point of view a tethered device means he doesn’t have to squint at or scroll around a tiny phone screen to read stuff. And that shouldn’t be any of the network’s business.

    And if a user did decide to take advantage of the larger screen on a tethered device to go on a multimedia extravaganza, he would have to pay for the extra data from his PAYG airtime credit anyway, which would act as a natural deterrent to the temptation to use it to excess. He would either have to top-up generously, paying for what he uses to the benefit of the network, or see his credit rapidly drop to zero. The network doesn’t lose either way, so why are networks so reluctant to allow tethering on PAYG?

    (Writing as a user of Three’s 3-2-1 PAYG who would dearly love to surf through a tethered tablet rather than a piddly phone screen.)

    • Hi Sean,

      Thanks for your message. I actually totally agree with you and also subscribe to the principle that if you’ve paid for some data you should be able to use it however you like.

      However, just to explain it from the mobile network’s perspective: when they sell you a certain amount of data they aren’t actually expecting you to use it all. For example, you might buy a 10GB/month package for £20/month. They’ll sell you the package with the full knowledge that it’s actually very very difficult to use all of the data (for the reasons you suggested, it isn’t particularly comfortable to go on a multimedia extravaganza when using a smartphone with a tiny screen!). Therefore, you might use only a fraction of your allowance (say you only actually use 2GB/month, then they’d actually be charging you £10/GB). When tethering is permitted, it’s much easier to use up the entirety of your allowance (you can easily stream lots of Netflix or YouTube in great comfort from your tethered laptop or tablet). This has a massive effect on the average price per gigabyte (e.g. if you used all 10GB, then they’d only be making £2/GB on average).

      Now, of course, this argument only applies to when you’re using a fixed price monthly bundle. In the example you mentioned where you need to pay on a per-megabyte basis, I can’t actually think of a a good reason why they shouldn’t allow tethering. Saying that, the chances are if you’re using a significant amount of data, you’ll be wanting to upgrade to a fixed-price bundle instead (in which case, the above argument will apply). I think it would just be untenable for the PAYG networks to allow tethering on their basic tariff but not on their monthly bundles (hence it’s much easier just to have blanket ban on tethering for all PAYG customers).

      In practice, most Pay Monthly mobile networks now allow you to tether (they’re building it into the cost and a ban on tethering is a big deterrent for new customers). Some of the lower-cost Pay Monthly networks still block tethering on their service, but these are gradually becoming more rare which I think is great news!

      Ken

  • Dean Williams said:

    Three have just told me of a great offer they have:

    All you can eat data + 30 GB Personal Hotspot + 200 Minutes for £23 a month rolling contract.

  • Hello,

    Thanks for this brilliant summary of all the UK phone operators – it helped me to find a plan cheaper than my current one while getting double the data I was getting previously!

    I’d just like to point out that the Talkmobile plans have since been changed, and the prices and plan components need to be updated.

    • Hi Vincent,
      Thanks for this and glad to know you found the website useful! I’ve just updated the Talkmobile tariffs – thanks so much for pointing this out!
      Ken

  • PETER HOBBS said:

    Hi i didnt realise that Talk Mobile allowed tethering on their payg and monthly tariffs, is this a new development.

    • Hi Peter,
      I’m not aware of the Talkmobile policy having changed recently, but it’s possible they’ve changed the tethering policy at some point in the past!
      Ken

  • Hi,
    Very informative article. I am looking to switch to Three as am in Spain quite a lot and all your UK allowance can be used there, but disappointed to read that you can’t tether your phone as a hotspot to use the data for other devices.
    Does anyone know of a network/contract where that’s possible? I know o2 and EE have add-ons but for me that’ll work out too costly.
    Thanks.

    • Hi Lee,
      Thanks for your comment. Sorry, unfortunately I’m not sure which mobile networks allow you to tether when abroad. The article above gives you general information for when you’re in the UK, but some bolt-ons & add-ons for travelling abroad may have additional tethering restrictions. Your best bet would probably be to check the T&Cs on the website on each network operator. You could also consider getting a local Pay As You Go SIM card from Spain.
      Ken

  • Ken,

    I wanted to thank you for this brilliant article, well organized.
    “The One Plan” I had with Three came to an end. Tethering is the most important aspect of the mobile for me. — I was in limbo where I’ll go next. Some of these providers I never heard of before. Just ordered my subscription from Life Mobile. Thank you.

  • I just switched from o2 after ten years to ee. The reason is that they were unable to offer me a tethering enbled contract for the latest iphone. Can’t see how they expect to stay in business at this rate. What is the point of selling 20gb of data if you can’t use it?

    • Hi Jeff,
      Thanks for your comment. I believe O2 does now offer tethering on all of their Pay Monthly contracts (so it’s odd you were told that tethering wasn’t possible!).
      Ken

  • Hi there,

    I was told by a Vodafone colleague that personal hotspot/tethering is only available for pay monthly plans, i.e. not available on PAYG plans. They have been very misleading as the sales team told me that it is allowed, but when I tried to enable it, the function is locked and the technical support staff told me that there is no way they can enable this feature as it is not supported.

    • Hi Clement,
      Thanks for your comment & for the heads up on this. I had also previously heard that tethering was possible on Pay As You Go tariffs. However, on further investigation, it looks like it probably isn’t possible (there are also multiple reports on the Vodafone online community saying that tethering isn’t possible on Vodafone PAYG). Sorry for the confusion previously – I’ve now updated the article above to reflect this information.
      Ken

    • Hi Chris,
      Thanks for the feedback! I believe the social media team at iD Mobile is wrong in this instance – you can see it here on their website:

      Please note that we do not allow tethering on any of our current plans. If you do use this service it is likely to use up large amounts of your data allowance very quickly, and you will be liable to pay any charge that may occur if you go over your allowance. Please check for updates on our website as this may change in the future.”

      I believe this is still the case unless there are some upcoming changes only that only the Twitter team know about!
      Ken

  • Caleb Woodbridge said:

    Something that this article misses out is that some of the cheaper MNVOs such as Asda Mobile and Life are 3G-only rather than utilising 4G, which is a rather important if connection speed matters to you.

    • Hi Caleb,
      Thank you for your feedback on this! You’re right: this is a really important point for people who care a lot about data speeds and 4G. In the tables above, you can hover your mouse over the data allowance to see further information about whether 4G is provided. I’ve also produced a coverage table here with information on which networks have 4G internet. I’ll have a think about whether there any ways we can make this clearer in the article above – thanks again for your feedback on this!
      Ken

  • Hello Ken and others.

    Can you please clarify? 3 doesn’t allow tethering when abroad, even though it does in UK.

    We travel fairly freely in Europe for 8 – 12 weeks at a time. I don’t yet have a smartphone (just a non-smart one!), and am trying to choose best phone and network.

    I take a laptop and normally use this on wifi where available. However, for those occasions where wifi is not available, I should like to use mobile internet. So, maybe once or twice per week on average.

    Main use is checking e-mails (TalkTalk webmail), accessing a forum, and Google Earth to research locations.

    I had assumed a phone that allowed tethering would be the best solution to this, giving me both the phone and the mobile internet access.

    I’ve been all over your superb website looking for the answer. Apologies in advance if it is there, but I can’t find it. Is there one?

    Many thanks. Brian Kirby.

    • Hi Brian,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, Three doesn’t allow you to use tethering abroad in Feel At Home countries (I suspect this is simply to reduce data usage, as it costs them money for every MB of data you use when abroad). If you want to use your laptop abroad, may I suggest getting a mobile broadband tariff from Three. It starts at £10.49 for 1GB of data and you’re able to use it abroad at no extra charge in Feel At Home countries.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • You can use a 2.5G to tether but it is slow as internet pages have so much more data in these days. I believe if you get an EDGE connection then this is 236kb/sec – half the original broadband speed but at least 5 times faster than dial-up. only if you get a G will you be on the 64kb/secs

    Keep up the good work ken this is the best mobile comparison site I have ever seen.

    Amir

    p.s you also forgot you can tether on bluetooth and that uses the least battery life! However speeds are limited to about 1.5MB/sec

  • Hello Ken,

    Thanks for your valuable information.

    I have a problem while tethering the portable hotspot, when I receive calls the internet connection slow slow slow down. In some cases I need to make calls and share internet from my mobile to my laptop specially when runing concall throught mobile and need to share my laptop (which connected by internet using hotspot) screen with others.

    I called call center trying to get resolution for that problem all what they said that this is a problem related with my mobile device, but i face this problem on my last samsung mobile S3, and with my current one sony xperia Z3. I need to ensure if this is problem related to the mobile operator or mobile device.

    Appreciating if you have a solution or feedbak,

    Thanks,
    Yosry

    • Hi Yosry,
      Thanks for your comment. I wasn’t quite clear on the problem you’re experiencing: does the internet connection disappear entirely when you’re on a phone call? If so, this is probably because you have 2G coverage (with 2G, it’s not possible to use data whilst also on a phone call). If it’s only a problem with the internet getting slower, this could be due to either your handset or your network. It might be worth ordering a free SIM card from another mobile network – you might have better luck there depending on your coverage.
      Ken

  • Hi.

    I use T-Mobile Smart Pack £10. Pay as you go. That allow tethering? I can’t find info online. I use iPhone.

    Just worry if I try and get charge if they don’t allow.

    • Hi Jay,
      I don’t believe there’s any restriction on tethering from T-Mobile Pay As You Go (in fact, EE definitely allows this on their Pay As You Go ‘Everything Packs’ service). If you’d like an official confirmation, I recommend asking Customer Services directly (you can reach them by calling 150 on your T-Mobile handset).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Hi, Thanks for the article, but i am still unsure what to do, I am not sure if it has changed since you published this site, but i am travelling to the UK in about a month and want to get a SIM to use in my (unlocked) iphone, and then tether to another device (either my wifes phone, so she can check mails etc, or my iPad) I am thinking Vodafone PAYG. According to your table above they DO allow tethering on PaYG, but from what i can find on their site (not much) they don’t.
    http://forum.vodafone.co.uk/t5/Pay-as-you-go-products-services/Tethering-and-use-with-Iphone-5S/td-p/2421346
    if that link does work (or i shouldn’t post it – sorry) to quote a highly ranked forum user he said on
    01-08-2015 11:58 PM, Re: Tethering and use with Iphone 5S, “Tethering is not available on any PAYG tariffs.”
    Please help. Cheers,
    Matt.

    • Hi Matt,
      Thanks for your comment & for sharing the link in your message. I’m not able to find anything on the Vodafone website which says tethering is not available (e.g. it’s not mentioned in the help & support and it also isn’t prohibited by the terms & conditions. It’s possible I might have missed it on their website but in general: if a certain type of usage isn’t explicitly prohibited in the terms & conditions, you can use the data allowance as you see fit for that purpose. Happy to stand corrected if anyone can provide me with a source!
      Thanks again,
      Ken

      • Hi Ken, Thanks for taking the time to check, I am still deciding which provider to go with, someone told me yesterday they use EE and the coverage is better and they can tether, although, they are on a contract, so doesn’t help for the PAYG. I will keep my eyes open and let you know if i find anything out, or failing that, once i am on my trip, i will post the outcome. Cheers.

  • Tesco Mobile’s PAYG deal is actually better than the SIM-only contract offer. Top-up £20, then use it to buy an 8GB bundle which lasts 30 days. This allows tethering (as stated in the T&C, and I can confirm I’ve been tethering with it for the last couple of weeks).

    You can even squeeze out a further 0.9GB from the tariff: they give you a free 500MB bundle just for topping up £15 or more; and you also get “triple-credit”, meaning you have £40 which makes another 400MB of data (at 10p/MB).

    For short-term use e.g. summer holidays, this is much easier than signing up to a monthly SIM-only contract then remembering to cancel before getting charged for another month.

    My only complaint with this deal is that 8GB may not be enough for a modern family on a week’s holiday!

  • Thanks for this info. Ken, I have one query though: what of Talkmobile?

    I know that both Talktalk Mobile and Talkmobile use the Vodafone network (the latter now being owned by it), however, since the Carphone Warehouse ceased to represent Talkmobile last week, I am unclear as to which of their previous Vodafone gizzmos they utilize.

    George

    • Hi George,
      Thanks for your comment. I presume your contract with Talkmobile was started before February 2015? If so, tethering is prohibited by clause 7.8 of their network terms and conditions:
      “Your SIM Card and Tariff can only be used in a mobile phone or tablet device. Your SIM Card and/or Mobile Device cannot be used in conjunction with or as a modem, dongle or Mobile Hotspot device unless stated at point of sale.”
      For customers joining after February 2015, I couldn’t see any clauses in their new terms and conditions which prohibit tethering. But, as you say, the Carphone Warehouse no longer offers contracts from Talkmobile – it’s now been replaced by iD Mobile (Talkmobile only remains as an online-only brand, operated by Vodafone).
      Ken

  • I’m looking to take out a contract with 3 on all you can eat. Can the phone be used to make and take calls whilst tethering ?

    • Hi Hayley,
      Thanks for your comment. You can indeed make and receive phone calls when tethering from your phone on the Three all-you-can-eat (in fact, it’s possible to do this on any 3G network!).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

      • Hi ken
        Im thinking of getting a samsung s5, im on the virgin network with unlimited data, i currently tether devices from my sony m2 phone which is 3g, i would like to know if i buy the Samsung galaxy s5…using my current virgin sim, which is 3g only will the s5 be able to update ok by tethering…as i dont have wifi at home?
        Many thanks
        Gill.

        • Hi Gill,
          Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, I don’t believe Virgin allows you to tether on their network. According to their website small print: “You cannot share your data connection with other devices – known as ‘Tethering’ – or use your phone for peer to peer file sharing.”
          Leaving aside the issue of whether you’re allowed to tether on your tariff, it should be OK to download software updates on a 3G internet network. Do be warned: it’s likely to use up a huge amount of data. Nevertheless, if your have enough 3G data, there’s nothing to stop you from downloading updates on 3G.
          Hope this helps,
          Ken

  • Julia Hardiman said:

    Hi, this was fantastic. I couldn’t finish it all right now. Do you have any information for mobile networks in Australia by any chance? Can you recommend any one’s forum? I am on a low income. Trying to streamline : my mobile, daughter’s mobile, landline. Using amaysim prepaid at the moment. Takes a lot of data. Anyway, thanks for your site.

    • Hi Julia,

      Thanks for the kind feedback! I’d definitely recommend using the tethering feature to streamline your outgoings: particularly if you can find a tariff with suitable data allowances & the ability to tether. In the UK, we have a number of networks offering large 4G data allowances or unlimited downloads. They also permit tethering so you don’t need a separate contract for mobile broadband. Unfortunately, I’m not aware of the ins-and-outs of the Australian market (I live in the UK) but if you find a suitable tariff then all of the information relating to how you can tether will still apply in Australia!

      Ken

  • Hi Ken

    I hope you can answer this one.

    I am about to move to the one plan with an unlocked iPhone 5s. I currently have a three mobile dongle at £20.99 a month with a 15gb limit, so it makes sense to move to the one plan. My question is: When tethering on the one plan will I see image compression artefacts on my iPad like I do with my work phone when tethered, and if so is there anything that can be done to work around this. I had heard you can change the APN settings to bypass the scripts that cause the compression, but am not sure. hope you can help.

    Matt

  • Hi Ken,I have a Three MiFi device on an 18 month contract expiring soon. I am considering buying a new phone (HTC One) on The One Plan. Will utilising the phone as a mobile wifi give the same quality of signal that I have enjoyed on the specialist MiFi device (Huawei)

    • Hi Austin,

      The quality of signal should be just as good on the HTC One, yep! In fact, you might even notice an improvement as the HTC One is an ultrafast enabled. This means it supports DC-HSPA+ download speeds (around 8Mbit/s typically, up to 42Mbit/s). It'll also support 4G download speeds (typically around 15Mbit/s, up to 100Mbit/s) when it launches later this year.

      AFAIK the Huawei MiFi supports only supports up to HSPA+ speeds (typically around 4Mbit/s, but up to 21Mbit/s).

      Hope this helps,

      Ken

  • Hi Ken,

    I have a question which no one I have asked, has been able to answer definitively.
    (This includes, Mobile phone technical departments etc.)

    My question is: "Does using tethering/mobile wifi use more data than other methods, eg USB Dongle?"

    At the moment I have a Vodafone dongle and would like to start using my phone's tethering/personal wifi feature instead.

    I have calculated my average data usage with the dongle over the past year and have negotiated a tariff that provides me with this level data on my phone.

    Some people have suggested that I will need much more data if I am going to tether/personal wifi as this will result in: "more data being used/data being used up more quickly".

    Others insist that there is no difference between using the dongle and hotspot.

    To me, it would seem there there should be no difference – all that is being done is that you are using a different means to connect to the internet – the number of webpages viewed, emails downloaded isn't changing, just the means of accessing them.

    Essentially, I can't understand why viewing the same webpage via dongle or via tethering should result in different data usage.

    Many thanks for any help you can give.

    • Hi Rob,

      You're totally right: it's simply another way of connecting to the internet so there should be no difference in data consumption whether you connect over a USB dongle or a wi-fi hotspot. Just be careful of automatic software updates as they can quickly use up your data allowance without you even being aware!

      I wonder if the misunderstanding comes from the fact that you can connect up to 5 devices at a time over wi-fi as more connected devices obviously mean more data consumption.

      Ken

      • Captain Stuart Konrad Anthony replied:

        After having considered conducted several months worth of rigorous testing of the various portable connection methods available currently in the UK; for all types and level of user; there is absolutely no difference whatsoever in the levels of data used when accessing the exact same content etc using any number of different connection.

        However, many people, including a large number of ‘tech experts’ do claim that they believe it does for one reason of another. My theory on this same thought I being shared by such a large number of users, however, is simply that the vast difference in cost per MB of access from a Mobile Broadband and a Mobile Phone tariff on most operators, certainly does serve to give the impression that much more data is used by certain methods, because the resulting data charges are so much higher!

        The only rule is to ensure that regardless of whether you connect via a dongle; a SIM that is directly inserted into the device, or via any tethering method, is that your tariff firstly, allows that type of usage, and secondly, that your tariff allowances/add-ons etc, are sufficient to meet your data consumption needs, or you could end up with a nasty surprise when the bill lands through your letterbox!

        • Hi Stuart,
          Thanks for this: your research is absolutely fantastic and will prove super useful to other readers of this website!
          I both agree and disagree with the findings: you’re right, there’s no difference in data consumption when accessing the *exact* same content on different devices (e.g. the file size of your 8MP photo or HD video is totally independent of the device you use to actually download it).
          The reason why I would advise a bit of caution is because higher bandwidth versions are sometimes served to users with a laptop. To give an example, your mobile phone might default to playing videos at 480p quality whereas your laptop might default to 1080p quality. In this case, you would use drastically more data when tethering & watching the video on your laptop. True, you’re technically accessing a different version of the video. However, I’d contend that most people simply think about the end-product they’re consuming (e.g. how much data do I need to watch a 1-hour TV programme at the default quality settings).
          Would love to get your thoughts/comments!
          Ken

  • Hi Ken,

    Very good article. Thank you.

    Vodafone data tariffs now include tethering. I had a detailed online chat with a support technician yesterday on this subject. Here is the relevant section of the chat:

    You: I want to know whether the 250MB of data would include both browsing on the phone, and browsing on a tethered laptop. The reason I am asking is because the advice on the forums is contradictory: some people say tethering is included, some say it is not included in the 250MB data limit.
    In my local shop, in Carlisle, the staff say tethering is NOT included.
    Salim: Tethering is included in the price plan and the data will come out of the allowance
    However if you go over your data allowance standard charges will apply
    You: Thank you. Is that permanent or does it only last for the 3 month trial period?
    Salim: Permanent
    You: Thank you. And is it the same for all phones – for example, would it be different with an iPhone?
    Salim: No same for all handsets. Tethering is included in the Price plan
    You: Thank you. So, to be clear, if I get the Samsung Galaxy S2 with 300 minutes, 250MB and unlimited texts, I would be able to browse the internet up to the 250MB limit either on the phone or on a tethered computer, and the data would come out of the 250MB allowance regardless of which method I was using?
    Salim: Yes that is right

    Hope this helps.

  • what is the speed of tethering on laptop? I would like to watch stream HD video. Is the speed of mobile 3G connection able to stream easely on laptop? Thank you!

    • Hi Shinar,

      Have a look at this article for an idea of the speeds you might expect.

      In order to stream HD video, I suggest you probably need a reliable connection in the region of 2Mbit/s.

      Ken

  • I've been on Orange's Racoon 30 plan for the last 2 years with added 500mb free internet on an HTC Touch 3G with Windows Mobile. I had no idea tethering was frowned upon and this has made up almost all of my internet usage over the contract period (granted, not a great deal, but I do use it to connect my personal laptop when I'm away from home and sometimes when I'm out in the field at work to avoid hogging one of the few dongles).
    I've never incurred any additional charges for this data usage.
    I have a new phone due tomorrow, but now am thinking I should go with 3 instead.

  • Your articles on 3's 'The One Plan' has both converted me and saved me from getting the Galaxy S on 100mb per month. Will be sining the contract next week. Thanks man..now just have to figure out how to use the phone ¬¬

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