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What is tethering?

tetheringA lot of people get confused when talking about tethering with their mobile. It’s a slightly complex issue and with modern smartphones, you can end up tethering without actually realising it. Especially when many mobile networks have internet packages that don’t allow you to tether your data allowance, it’s an important issue that needs clearing up.

Simply put, for the purposes of mobile networks, tethering is defined as sharing your mobile’s data connection with another device. So for example, sharing your mobile internet with a tablet or PC.

Tethering originally required a physical data cable connecting the two devices, hence the name. However, nowadays, it’s far more common to use wifi or other wireless communication standards such as Bluetooth to tether devices together. Common examples of tethering are using your mobile phone as a wifi hotspot to connect computers or tablets to the internet.

Tethering can be very useful when travelling as you can use your phone’s high speed internet connection to act as a mobile router and get all your other devices online. You can also save money by avoiding having to buy a data plan for each device. However, it’s important to note that you should always check that tethering is allowed on your plan otherwise you risk getting cut off. Also, tethering can use data very quickly so keep an eye on how much of your allowance you have left.

Is using wifi internet tethering?

No. Using wifi to connect your phone to the internet isn’t tethering. Only sharing your phone’s mobile data connection over wifi as a mobile hotspot is.

Can I tether with my iPhone on Giffgaff?

Yes, any iPhone from the 3GS can tether on any network as long as you have iOS 4 and Apple has activated the feature. Sometimes this requires jailbreaking the device and installing an app as otherwise iOS is locked down and prevents you from doing it.

Is there any other way to tether with an iPhone if Apple’s locked it down and I can’t/won’t jailbreak it?

Unfortunately Apple have banned all the apps that allow this. However, there is a paid-for HTML5 web app called Tether that allows you to tether just using the iPhone’s web browser.

What goodybags allow you to tether with Giffgaff?

Only the gigabags and the £10 goodybag can be used to tether. None of the unlimited internet goodybags can be used if you want to tether your data connection. However, you can tether with PAYG data.

How do I tether with an Android phone?

Simply go to the Home Screen, press Menu -> Settings -> Wireless & networks -> Tethering & portable hotspot. Then you can choose between tethering with a USB cable or bluetooth or even setting up a portable wifi hotspot sharing your data connection over wireless.

Are there other ways to set up tethering?

Yes, there are also apps available to download to automate setting up a tethered connection.

If I have unlimited internet can I tether anyway?

No, if tethering is disallowed the size of your data allowance doesn’t matter at all.

Can I use my SIM outside of my phone?

If tethering is banned on your tariff, it means you’re only meant to use your mobile internet allowance on your phone. You can’t use the SIM in a non-mobile device such as a dongle, laptop or tablet as this is effectively tethering.

Can my mobile network tell if I’m tethering?

Probably yes! There are numerous methods networks can use to detect tethering. These range from simple techniques such as bandwidth and traffic analysis or user-agent testing to more complex techniques such as protocol sniffing, deep packet inspection and other advanced analytical tools. Long story short, it’s quite likely you’ll get found out if you try to pull a fast one.

Got any other tethering questions? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll answer them in this article.

by Jon M

8 Responses to “What is tethering?”

  1. whobiggs 8 July 2016 at 14:28 Permalink

    I’m slightly wiser now but still don’t know the best way to get my new netbook online. I’m looking to change provider (O2 is expensive) but my phone is not very smart ie no wifi. Can I still do it?

  2. skyfall 22 October 2014 at 00:21 Permalink

    1. Am I able to tether an apple macbook to my phone 2. If so, what giffgaff tariff allows this.

  3. TommyT 5 February 2014 at 14:18 Permalink

    Where do I find out if a network tariff allows tethering? I have been using Vodaphone and now want to go to a sim only contract

  4. mailene 2 January 2014 at 19:14 Permalink

    Hi,i have abit of a problem with my goodybag £12. I still have minutes but i cant ring anyone.we use tablet for tethering.does tethering affect my minutes?? Please get back to me as im really gutted.

    • Mobile Network Comparison 2 January 2014 at 22:47 Permalink

      You’re not allowed to tether with the £12 goodybag. But if you have minutes it should still work. Have you tried asking an agent?

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