A hotspot is an internet connection that has a physical location. What that basically means is that a particular physical location allows you to connect to the internet. It’s a term that has different meanings in different contexts. It does refer to a physical location that will give you internet access but that was back when wireless technology wasn’t a thing. Now, you have internet on the go and that means hotspots aren’t confined to physical locations. Any portable device that can connect to the internet can turn into a hotspot. You can also use VPNs for hotspots if you want some extra privacy.
Hotspots were a simple, non-controversial thing so long as they were just the equivalent of public WiFi networks. With wireless connectivity, things changed and the term mobile hotspot became common place. A mobile hotspot is basically a network that multiple devices can connect to and you can take this connection anywhere.
The difference though is that mobile phones rely on network providers like AT&T and T-Mobile to power the internet connection. The phone then makes this connection available to other devices. This results in a lot of network congestion and not many network providers were too excited about it. When smartphones became capable of becoming mobile hotspots, network providers weren’t too happy about it and had the feature blocked as much as they could. It was one of the major reasons iPhone owners jailbroke their phones, and Android users rooted their devices.
Since then, network providers have eased up and creating a mobile hotspot on an iPhone or an Android phone is incredibly easy, no jailbreak or root required. Laptops likewise can now become mobile hotspots if they have a network card, or they can use their WiFi network or Ethernet to create a hotspot. The signal strength will of course vary because your phone or your laptop isn’t as powerful as a router.
Connecting To Hotspots
Connecting to hotspots is more or less the same as connecting to any WiFi network. You may at times have to accept a few terms and conditions. Hotspots aren’t open to everyone to connect to; you can set passwords to make sure only authorized users can connect to it so in addition to accepting terms, you will need to enter a password.
Windows 7, 8/8.1, 10, iOS, Android, and macOS all let you create hotspots one your device. If you use your iPhone or Android phone to create a hotspot, and you’re using your network data then anyone connecting to your hotspot will also be using that same data plan.
There are two ways to connect to a hotspot; wireless, or wired. With hotspots created on a phone, only one device can connect via a wire but other devices can connect wirelessly. When you connect to a hotspot wirelessly, all you have to do is open the Settings app on your phone, tap WiFi networks, and look for the hotspot to connect to it.
Creating a mobile hotspot on Windows 10 is ridiculously easy. Tap the Win+A keyboard shortcut to open the Action Center. Click the Expand option at the bottom and look for ‘Mobile hotspot’. Click it to enable a hotspot.
Your laptop or tablet is now a mobile hotspot however anyone wanting to connect to it will need the password. To get to the settings panel that gives you the password, the quickest way to go is to open Action center again. Right-click the Mobile Hotspot toggle, and select ‘Go to settings’.
The settings panel will give you the password that you need to share with anyone wanting to connect to it. You can also choose to allow connections over WiFi or Bluetooth.
Open System Preferences and click Sharing. In the column on the left, select Internet Sharing in the list of services. Select how you want to enable it i.e., via WiFi, Bluetooth, Ethernet, etc, and turn it on.
Open the Settings app and look for Personal Hotspot. Tap it, and turn on the Personal Hotspot switch. The same screen has a password that you need to share with whoever needs to connect to it. You can change the password if you want.
Open the Settings app and tap Network & Internet. Tap Hotspot & tethering. Turn on whichever mode you want to enable the hotspot over. You can edit the name of the WiFi hotspot and its password.
For instructions on how to set up a hotspot on Linux, check out this post.
Data Caps & Restrictions
Network providers have eased up on hotspot functionality and no longer demand device manufacturers block the feature on an OS level. They do still have data and bandwidth caps so if you use your mobile network to create a mobile hotspot, make sure that you network provider isn’t going to charge you extra for it, or block your service.