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Tethering vs Hotspot: What is the Difference?


Thanks to our smartphones, we're always connected: We can keep in touch with the office from the beach, check our email in the school pick-up line, or post a picture of our lunch to social media just for fun. But what about the rest of our devices? When we're not connected to our office or home Internet, how do we get our laptops and tablets online?

You can utilize tethering and hotspots to stay connected on the go. Tethering turns your phone into a mobile WiFi hotspot, so your devices can use your phone's data to establish an internet connection. With a WiFi hotspot, you can connect to the internet wirelessly while away from your network.

Here we'll look at how to use WiFi hotspots and smartphone tethering to make sure that wherever you go, whichever device you want to use, you can always stay connected.

Enjoy WiFi access on the go with millions of free Xfinity WiFi hotspots nationwide - Learn About Xfinity WiFi Hotspots

What is tethering?

With tethering, you can turn your phone into a mobile WiFi hotspot, so your devices can use your phone's data to establish an internet connection. This creates a more secure, convenient network. Tethering allows you to use your cellphone's data plan instead of a public network, and enables you to move around and still stay connected. It's known as a mobile hotspot.

A mobile hotspot is more secure than a public hotspot because it uses your data stream. It's often faster, as the internet connection isn't affected by any network traffic, whereas lots of people using a public hotspot at the same time will cause it to slow down.

A few common uses of tethering include:

  • Driving in the car: Your passengers can tether their tablets and laptops to your phone's data plan.
  • Working on your laptop in a public place: Use it for sensitive work, such as banking, so you're not sending passwords over a public network.
  • Connecting in a place that has a weak signal: If you can't establish a good internet connection from the available public WiFi networks, tethering to your phone can provide a stronger, more reliable connection (as long as you have a good cellular signal).

How do I connect via tethering?

To start tethering, just turn on your cellphone's hotspot feature. For iPhone users, go into "Settings" and toggle Personal Hotspot to "On". A password will appear, and you use this to connect your other devices to the new network your phone has created, normally called [Your Name]'s iPhone.

You can also tether devices with a USB cable. This process is known as USB tethering. Simply connect your laptop, tablet, or other device to your mobile hotspot with a USB cable to start USB tethering.

USB tethering offers a few benefits that WiFi or bluetooth tethering doesn't. When USB tethering, your computer or tablet doesn't need to have WiFi capabilities, as the internet connection is being provided by the mobile hotspot. Additionally, a USB cable will typically provide faster internet connection to your connected device than WiFi or bluetooth tethering can.

What is a WiFi hotspot?

A WiFi hotspot is a way to connect to the internet wirelessly when you are away from your home or office network. These public hotspots are generally in a fixed, physical location such as a hotel, airport, or coffee shop, and require a password or permission from the owner to get online. Once your internet connection is established, you need to remain in the immediate area to stay online. WiFi hotspots are often free, but in some cases, the owner may charge a fee. You can also connect your phone to WiFi hotspots to save your cellular data.

There are two categories of WiFi hotspots: secured and unsecured. While public WiFi is inherently insecure, an unsecured public WiFi hotspot is not as ideal. If you can, opt for the network name with a small padlock next to it that requires a password for access.

Xfinity offers its customers free access to its network of secure WiFi hotspots. Xfinity networks are indicated by the padlock and are public, unsecure networks, similar to public WiFi connections offered at a coffee shop.

How to connect to public WiFi

To connect to a public WiFi hotspot, simply select the name of the network from the list of available networks on your device, and enter the password given to you by the establishment. Alternatively, you may be routed to a sign in page where you'll have to answer some questions and agree to Terms of Service.

To access an Xfinity hotspot, just enter your Comcast email and password. The Xfinity WiFi Hotspot app - available for download on both iOS and Android devices - can help you locate these hotspots. 

Xfinity WiFi

Xfinity Internet customers enjoy access to over 20 million secure nationwide WiFi hotspots at no extra cost. These WiFi hotspots allow you to stay securely connected to the internet with ultra-fast speeds on the go. Xfinity customers can also download the Xfinity Wifi Hotspot app to view a map of our offered WiFi hotspots, allowing you to quickly locate and connect to them.

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Xfinity WiFi Hotspots

Xfinity WiFi Hotspots

Enjoy WiFi access on the go with millions of free Xfinity WiFi hotspots nationwide while shopping, dining, traveling, and more. Even better? Easy, instant hotspot access is included at no extra charge for Xfinity Internet customers.

Learn About Xfinity WiFi Hotspots