A mobile hotspot can be extremely helpful if you need to get online away from home but can’t find free Wi-Fi.  

At Allconnect, we work to present quality information with editorial integrity. While this post may contain offers from our partners, our opinions are our own. Here’s how we make money.

  • Your AT&T wireless phone can give you the ability to get online with your laptop or other devices anywhere
  • You may even be able to use the mobile hotspot functionality to replace your home internet service
  • Some wireless plans already have hotspot built into them – just activate it and you’re ready to get online

A mobile hotspot allows you to connect a device – a laptop or a tablet, for example – to the internet wherever you are, by linking it to your smartphone or a standalone hotspot device. As long as the device you want to link has Wi-Fi ability, you can tether it to your phone and get online anywhere you have a signal.

You can even buy a plan that allows you to set up newer vehicles as hotspots.

AT&T offers hotspot ability with many, but not all, of its data plans. Currently, those are some of the “Unlimited” plans, as well as the AT&T 4GB plan, all Mobile Share plans and all Prepaid plans.

You may see references online to an AT&T program to increase hotspot data allowances for consumers during the COVID-19 crisis, but that offer expired September 30, 2020. However, AT&T is offering a plan to schools so more kids can connect with online classes.

Best AT&T mobile hotspot plans

Monthly prepaid data plans for mobile hotspots:

  • 3GB of data for 30 days: $25/mo. (Add 1GB of data for $10)
  • 10GB of data for 30 days: $50/mo. (Add 1.5GB of data for $10)
  • 18GB of data for 30 days: $75/mo. (Add 2GB of data for $10)
  • Note: Unused data does not roll over — use it or lose it at the end of 30 days.

Wireless phone plans that include hotspot data:

  • AT&T Unlimited Elite: 30GB/mo. hotspot data per line
  • AT&T Unlimited Extra: 15GB/mo. hotspot data per line
  • AT&T 4 GB Plan: 4GB/mo. data per line

Mobile Share plans are for data only and aren’t for your phone, but for devices like tablets or the standalone mobile hotspot devices. They range from 4GB of data for $40/mo. to 50GB of data for $335/mo. You’ll also pay a $20/mo. device access charge.

Some older wireless plans, such as Unlimited & More Premium, are no longer offered, but if you’re on them already, you can take advantage of the hotspot data that comes with them.

Can an AT&T mobile hotspot plan replace your home internet?

If you’re new to hotspots, you may be wondering if an AT&T mobile hotspot could replace your home internet. After all, it does the same thing, right?

Well, maybe. It depends on how (and how much) you use your home internet. AT&T’s plan with the highest data allotment is 30GB/mo. with Unlimited Elite. If you just check emails, send photos or download a song or video from time to time, the data caps will not be a problem for you.

But if you’re a heavy user, working from home or streaming a lot of video in HD or 4K, that 30GB will zip by and you’ll find your speeds throttled significantly. It will be tempting (or necessary, if you are working from home) to buy more data to get through the end of the month – a pricey solution if you do it more than once.

Because AT&T has a robust 4G LTE network, download speeds – generally around 40 Mbps – should not be an issue, unless you have many users online simultaneously.

If you do decide to try using this technology, you might find that the extra expense of a standalone hotspot router is worthwhile. AT&T offers several; the Netgear Nighthawk LTE mobile hotspot router will run you $249.99 (or $8.34/mo.) and this router displays how many devices are connected to it, how much of your data plan you’ve used and how many days are left on it.

How to set up your AT&T mobile hotspot

For Apple devices:

  1. Go to your device settings
  2. Choose “cellular data” and then hit “personal hotspot”
  3. Turn on the hotspot

For Android devices:

  1. Go to your device settings
  2. Choose “Connections” or “Networks”
  3. Select “Mobile Hotspot and Tethering”
  4. Turn on the hotspot

You must have an AT&T plan that accommodates mobile hotspots for these to work. If you don’t, you can upgrade your plan.

The bottom line

A mobile hotspot can be extremely helpful if you need to get online away from home but can’t find free Wi-Fi. It can also be a way for those with spotty internet but a good wireless signal to access the internet at home. And some will want to use the hotspot functionality to get rid of their home internet. The key is to determine whether a hotspot plan offers you the ability of a standard internet plan, add up all the costs before turning on that hotspot button and then make your decision.