There are a lot of things we need in this world—human communication, air to breathe, memes to laugh at—but do we really need a mobile hotspot too? Depending on who you talk to, the answer will vary. Some say hotspots are a necessity, while others get along just fine without one.

In this article:

What is a Mobile Hotspot?

A mobile hotspot allows you to connect other devices to your cell phone data. Your phone acts as a modem/router and you can connect your laptop, tablet, or even a smart TV to it just like you would connect to any other WiFi network.

There are two types of hotspot plans: cell phone plans with dedicated hotspot data allowances included, and “hotspot-capable” plans. Dedicated hotspot allowances are separate from your plan’s regular cell phone data allowance, while hotspot-capable plans mean that you use your primary data to connect to other devices.

How Much Hotspot Data Do You Need?

When shopping for a hotspot data plan, you’ll want to think about how you plan on using this data. If you’re mostly browsing the internet, 10GB will last you about 500 hours, which gives you about 16 hours a day to work with. This amount of hotspot data is perfect for someone who is working remotely or from home without home internet.

If you’re streaming video in standard definition on Facebook, Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, etc., 10GB of high-speed data will last you about 10 hours, which is actually quite a lot—almost a full season of your favorite show.

However, if you stream using your hotspot a lot—say 1-2 hours/day—10GB won’t last more than a couple of weeks. You might need a hotspot allowance of 20GB or more to keep up with your binge-watching schedule. 20GB would give you 20 hours of streaming in standard definition, 30GB would give you 30 hours, and so on.

If you’re using your hotspot to game, depending on the game, you’ll be using up 45MB-300MB per hour. To break this down, 1000MB = 1GB, so even on the high end of gaming usage, it would take 3 hours of gaming (about 1000MB) to use 1GB. At the very minimum, if you have 10GB of data on your hotspot, that gives you 30 hours of gaming. If you game more than 1 hour/day on average, you’ll need a hotspot that gives you more than 10GB.

Mobile Hotspot Data Usage

Activity 10GB 20GB
Basic Web Browsing 500 hours 1,000 hours
Instagram 14 hours 28 hours
Facebook 117 hours 234 hours
Video Streaming (SD) 10 hours 20 hours
Video Streaming (HD) 2-4 hours 4-8 hours
Gaming 30 hours 60 hours

Best Mobile Hotspot Plans

Plan Mobile Hotspot Data Deprioritization International Entertainment
Sprint Unlimited Premium 100GB 100GB Unlimited data Mexico & Canada, international text & basic data Hulu, TIDAL, Amazon Prime, Lookout Premium Plus
Verizon Get More Unlimited 30GB 75GB .5GB/day in Mexico & Canada, international text Apple Music, Disney+
AT&T Unlimited Elite 30GB 100GB Unlimited data Mexico & Canada, international text HBO
Boost Mobile Unlimited Plus 30GB Anytime n/a TIDAL
T-Mobile Magenta Plus 20GB 50GB 5GB data in Mexico & Canada, international text and data, unlimited in-flight WiFi Netflix
Visible Unlimited Unlimited (hotspot-capable) Anytime n/a n/a

There are a variety of mobile hotspot plans to choose from, across dozens of carriers. We’ve highlighted some of the best ones below.

Sprint Unlimited Premium

Our number one plan for hotspot use is Sprint’s Unlimited Premium plan. It comes with a whopping 100GB of dedicated 4G hotspot data—the biggest allotment on the market. Along with the 100GB hotspot, you get a free Amazon Prime membership, Hulu, Tidal, and Lookout Premium Plus, plus tons of great international perks like global roaming and unlimited international texting.

Verizon Get More Unlimited

Verizon’s Get More Unlimited plan is the most expensive hotspot plan on this list, but for good reason. Verizon’s LTE network offers the best coverage in the nation, so you can rest assured you’ll be able to use the 30GB of dedicated hotspot data just about anywhere. You also get incredible perks like:

  • 75GB data deprioritization threshold
  • Free Apple Music
  • One year of Disney+
  • 500GB of Verizon Cloud storage
  • Unlimited texting to 200+ countries
  • Unlimited talk and text and .5GB/day in Mexico and Canada

AT&T Unlimited Elite

The AT&T Unlimited Elite plan is AT&T’s flagship plan, and it includes 30GB of mobile hotspot, as well as a huge 100GB data deprioritization threshold. You also get other awesome features, such as:

  • HBO subscription
  • Unlimited talk, text, and data in Mexico and Canada
  • International texting to 120+ countries

Boost Mobile Unlimited Plus

Boost Mobile is an MVNO that runs on Sprint’s network. Out of all the small carriers, it offers the most dedicated mobile hotspot data—30GB. Other benefits include:

  • TIDAL (six-month)
  • HD streaming
  • All-in pricing (taxes and fees are included)
  • No credit check required

T-Mobile Magenta Plus

T-Mobile’s Magenta Plus plan includes 20GB of dedicated hotspot data. While that’s admittedly not as much as other plans on this list, it features many other great perks, such as:

  • 50GB data deprioritization threshold
  • Two-screen Netflix subscription
  • Unlimited data and texting in 210+ countries
  • Mexico and Canada privileges
  • Unlimited in-flight WiFi

Visible Unlimited Plan

On the less expensive end of the spectrum, we like Visible’s Unlimited plan, which is hotspot-capable, as opposed to having its own dedicated hotspot. Visible runs on Verizon’s network, so you can reap the benefits of Verizon’s robust network while saving money on your plan. This plan comes with unlimited data, text, and data, as well as unlimited hotspot use at 5Mbps speeds. 5Mbps isn’t particularly fast, and it might require you to stream at lower quality to avoid buffering.

Why You May Need a Mobile Hotspot

After going over what a hotspot is, how much data various activities use, and how you can use it, is a hotspot necessary? We recommend getting a hotspot if you:

  • Want to save money by ditching home internet
  • Travel for work and don’t have regular/reliable access to WiFi
  • Want to avoid using public WiFi for online safety reasons

Why You May Not Need a Mobile Hotspot

Hotspots aren’t for everyone. We recommend against a hotspot if you:

  • Need more than 50GB of data per month (home and mobile internet combined)
  • Already have home internet
  • Have access to secure WiFi
  • Don’t have a phone that’s hotspot capable