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Tethering vs. Hotspot: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on January 7, 2024
Tethering is connecting one device to another for Internet access via USB, Bluetooth, or Wi-Fi, while a hotspot refers to a physical location offering Internet access, often wirelessly, to multiple devices.

Key Differences

Tethering typically involves a direct connection between a smartphone and another device, such as a laptop, using a USB cable, Bluetooth, or Wi-Fi. A hotspot, conversely, is a wireless access point, often provided by a smartphone or dedicated device, allowing multiple devices to access the internet simultaneously.
In tethering, internet access is usually shared with a single device, providing a secure and stable connection. Hotspots allow multiple devices to connect, but the connection might be less secure, especially in public hotspots, due to the increased number of users.
Tethering can consume less battery power if done via USB, as it also charges the phone. Hotspots, especially mobile hotspots, tend to drain the battery faster due to the wireless connectivity required to support multiple devices.
Setup for tethering can be slightly more complex, requiring device pairing or physical connections. Setting up a hotspot is generally straightforward, often involving just a few taps on a smartphone or turning on a hotspot device.
Data usage in tethering is generally lower, as it's typically used by a single device. In hotspots, data usage can escalate quickly with multiple devices connected, especially if they are performing data-intensive tasks.

Comparison Chart

Connection Type

Direct connection to another device.
Wireless access point for multiple devices.

Number of Devices

Usually one device.
Multiple devices.

Battery Usage

Lower, especially with USB tethering.
Higher due to wireless activity.

Setup Complexity

Can require device pairing or cables.
Generally simple and quick to activate.

Data Usage

Typically lower as used by single device.
Can be higher with multiple connected devices.

Tethering and Hotspot Definitions


Direct internet sharing, often offering a more secure connection.
For secure online banking, I prefer using USB tethering.


A device that provides wireless internet connectivity on the go.
I bought a mobile hotspot device for my road trip.


Sharing a mobile device's internet connection via USB, Bluetooth, or Wi-Fi.
Tethering my tablet to my smartphone helped me access emails on the go.


A service offered by telecommunication companies for internet access.
My mobile plan includes a hotspot option for internet sharing.


Using a mobile phone as a modem for another device.
Tethering is convenient when there's no Wi-Fi available.


A physical location providing wireless internet access to multiple devices.
The cafe offered a free Wi-Fi hotspot for customers.


Connecting one device to another for Internet sharing.
I used tethering to connect my laptop to the internet through my phone.


A feature on a smartphone or device that creates a Wi-Fi network.
I turned on the hotspot on my phone to share internet with friends.


A method of using a smartphone's cellular data to access the internet on another device.
During the power outage, I relied on tethering for my internet needs.


An area where Wi-Fi access is publicly available, like in airports or cafes.
While traveling, I often look for hotspots to connect to the internet.


A rope, chain, strap, or cord for keeping an animal within a certain radius.


An area in which there is dangerous unrest or hostile action
"opportunities ... for United Nations forces to play a constructive role in some of the world's hot spots" (Paul Lewis).


(Informal) A lively and popular place, such as a nightclub.


An area of intense heat, radiation, or activity.


A location where Wi-Fi is publicly available.


Alternative form of hot spot


A place of political unrest and potential violence;
The United States cannot police all of the world's hot spots


A point of intense heat or radiation


A lively entertainment spot


Is tethering faster than a hotspot?

Tethering can be faster and more stable, especially if connected via USB.

Does tethering use mobile data?

Yes, tethering uses the data plan of your mobile device.

Can hotspots be secured?

Yes, hotspots can be secured with passwords and encryption.

Are public hotspots safe to use?

Public hotspots can be risky for sensitive activities due to potential security vulnerabilities.

Can I use a VPN with a hotspot?

Yes, you can use a VPN over a hotspot for enhanced security.

Can I tether a tablet to a smartphone?

Yes, tablets can be tethered to smartphones for internet access.

Is Bluetooth tethering as fast as Wi-Fi tethering?

Bluetooth tethering is generally slower than Wi-Fi tethering.

How secure is a tethered connection?

Tethered connections, especially USB, are typically very secure.

Can tethering be done with all smartphones?

Most modern smartphones support tethering, but it's best to check with the device specifications.

How many devices can connect to a hotspot?

It varies, but most hotspots support 5-10 simultaneous connections.

Does tethering work without a cellular signal?

No, tethering requires a cellular signal as it uses mobile data.

Do I need a special plan to use a hotspot?

Some carriers require a specific plan or add-on for hotspot usage.

Can hotspots work in rural areas?

Hotspots work in areas with cellular coverage, which may be limited in rural regions.

Are there any additional costs for tethering?

This depends on your carrier and plan; some may charge extra for tethering.

Does tethering drain the battery quickly?

Wi-Fi and Bluetooth tethering can drain the battery faster than usual.

Does USB tethering charge the phone?

Yes, USB tethering often charges the phone while it's connected.

Are there data limits for hotspot usage?

Yes, data limits depend on your mobile plan and carrier.

Is tethering suitable for gaming?

Tethering can be suitable for gaming, but latency and speed vary with the network.

How do I set up a hotspot on my device?

Hotspot setup usually involves enabling the feature in your device's settings.

Can hotspots support video streaming?

Yes, hotspots can support video streaming if the network speed is sufficient.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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