Connect On The Go: What Is A Hotspot and How Does A Hotspot Work?

Summary: This brief blog explains hotspots and the types available. WiFi hotspots can keep you connected when you are away from your home or office. For further information on hotspots and other mobile device management issues, contact GEEK-AID Computer and Network Support at

People have always traveled for work and pleasure. But in recent times, especially since the pandemic, mobile connectivity through cell phones, tablets and laptops has become a way of life for most of us. Many cell phones have built-in hotspots. However, there are a variety of mobile hotspots available you take along that can support connection speeds up to 1,000 Mbps.

How Does A Hotspot Work?

Hotspots are wireless access points that allow your mobile devices to connect to the internet when you’re away from home or the office. Smartphones have built-in hotspots, but using a separate mobile hotspot device makes faster connection speeds possible.

With speeds of up to 1,000 Mbps, hotspot devices offer a secure and more seamless connection than built-ins, but they provide limited data restrictions and rarely offer unlimited data plans. Mobile hotspots connect to 4G LTE networks and provide signal speeds of up to 30 Mbps. However, next-generation hotspots with 5G networks offer speeds up to and exceeding 1,000 Mbps. As with all wireless connections, speeds can fluctuate with signal interference. The signal can be affected by the distance from a cell tower, trees, mountains, canyons and inclement weather conditions. Therefore, we don’t suggest replacing your home or office internet just yet. Hotspots require cellular service to initiate a WiFi connection. So, if you have a weekend cabin in a remote area without cell service, a mobile hotspot won’t work.

Using your cell phone’s built-in hotspot is by far the easiest and least expensive option. In fact, your built-in hotspot is free.

How To Use A Hotspot On Cell Phones

Connecting to WiFi using your phone’s built-in hotspot is a simple process. However, the process is different for Android vs. Apple devices:

Note: The menu you used to turn on your hotspot will also allow you to configure other hotspot settings, including your network’s password.

If your use of hotspots is infrequent, the cell phone's built-in hotspot should be sufficient. However, as there are significant data restrictions related to cell phone hotspots, if you plan on using hotspots frequently, purchasing a separate dedicated mobile hotspot device is the way to go.

Do Mobile Hotspots Work Well?

The short answer is, “Yes!” You won’t get as fast a connection or as much data as you get on your home network, but they are often the best option for a reliable connection in places with limited internet access. Also, although many users refer to public WiFi in airports, coffee houses or train stations and other free WiFi networks as hotspots, we strongly recommend not using unsecured public WiFi. Instead, use your phone or mobile hotspot device to connect.

For some users who live in rural areas, a dedicated mobile hotspot might be the only viable connection available. When traveling here or abroad, you might not be able to know in advance what Internet connection challenge you will face. Your hotspot can come to your rescue wherever you are, as long as you have cellphone service.

Are 5G Hotspots Worth It?

As we’ve already stated, 5G hotspots, connected via 5G wireless networks, offer dramatic increases in connection speeds. But they also allow many more users to share the same connection. 5G networks are WiFi 6 capable and offer more stable connections for multiple users. The faster speeds, in tandem with multiple user connections, make 5G hotspots perfect for sharing with co-workers on business trips, in congested urban areas and for any time multiple users need to work together outside home or office networks.

It is worth noting that although all hotspots are meant for travel, some are specifically designed to work globally through a special data plan or by using a special SIM card from your cellphone provider.

There are many ways to connect to the internet. Network connectivity is easier and faster than ever. However, every user’s needs and budgets are different. Decide what you need and can afford, and if you are still undecided, reach out to a local IT maintenance consultant to decide what hotspot is best for you.