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Cellphone hotspot as your only internet service provider
Old 08-01-2020, 12:55 PM   #1
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Cellphone hotspot as your only internet service provider

There was a recent thread on the availability of low cost internet service for all areas.

Major Tom brought up the solution of using a hotspot, and not needing extremely fast service.


I'm interested in hearing from people using a cellphone hotspot as their main ISP.


My situation: I have Comcast internet at home, and I have a low cost pay as you go cellphone plan.

- I'm spending more time at my cabin now that I'm retired, and I've been using up my allotted internet data each month on the cellphone plan. I decided to pay more for a faster unlimited cellphone plan. I went from $35/month to $50/month.

- This new cellphone plan comes with 12G/month of hotspot coverage. I decided to purchase what I believe is a hotspot router, so multiple devices can connect to the hotspot, and I'm going to use this at my cabin.
- I'm also planning on wintering in Florida. Instead of buying internet from the local cable company down there for six months, I'm going to try getting by with this cellphone hotspot.




My question:
If you are using a hotspot as your main ISP. How is that working out?


How much data do you use a month on the hotspot. Is 12G/month an extremely low amount of data for a full time ISP application?


Note, I mostly surf the internet, and occasionally stream TV on Netflix or YouTube. No gaming. I don't believe I need amazingly fast speeds to do this.



Thanks for your comments.


JP
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Old 08-01-2020, 01:16 PM   #2
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I am following this thread as I am interested in this topic
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Old 08-01-2020, 01:23 PM   #3
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We have t-mobile for cellphones and spectrum/time-warner for internet. Our internet is crappy... drops out a lot. Our cell phone data is reliable. I tend to switch to cell phone for zoom calls (I have a couple long community meetings a month that are being held by zoom.)

But we use the spectrum internet for most other streaming (netflix, etc) because those apps know how to buffer some - so when the internet flakes - there's enough buffered that we don't run into as many issues.

I could totally see using my cellphone data 100% if necessary. With t-mobile unlimited you get 30G/month of unthrottled, and after that they throttle it. Older son is the only one who has hit the throttle (too much youtube) and he said even throttled it was ok. There are 55+ unlimited everything deals... With one of those plans we have 4 unlimited lines (one geezer, one kid per pair) for $120/month.
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Old 08-01-2020, 01:29 PM   #4
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I have been using my cell as a hotspot and internet connection for a MacBook Air for the last 3 years or so. I started this when living in an RV for a few months and have continued since buying a home in the country with limited internet options. I use Cricket ($55 a month) and get 15 gb per month for hotspot use and unlimited data for my phone. I surf on the laptop quite a bit but don't do much streaming so rarely use more than 10gb as a hotspot. I occasionally stream a movie or a few episodes of something but you would be very limited with only 12-15gb. Due to the pandemic, Cricket temporarily bumped their hotspot data limit up to 25gb so I did a bit more streaming for a few months.

I have had no issues with speed at all. I can stream from Netflix with no buffering delays but it does eat a fair amount of data. I just use my phone (with no other device) as the hotspot. For the hotspot, once you have used 15gb of data for the month, you still have access for surfing the internet but speeds are throttled enough that you cannot stream Netflix.
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Old 08-01-2020, 01:34 PM   #5
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Mint Mobile has a 12 GB per month plan (with text and talk unlimited) for $25/mo.

I've used mint over the years, at various times for months at a time - no long contract
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Old 08-01-2020, 01:53 PM   #6
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I already mentioned how I'm getting my internet these days in the other thread, as you mentioned, JP.mpls. Just for the record, I'll place the details here too, on my entire telecommunications setup -

1) Cellphone with Republic Wireless. I just have the basic plan which gives me unlimited voice calls and text over the Sprint network, but no cell data. I pay for 12 months service at a time, for $185.45 including all taxes and fees.

2) Hotspot phone with Visible, on the Verizon 4G LTE network. Unlimited data, though bona fide Verizon customers get priority. Speeds vary, though speed is capped at 5Mb/s through the hotspot. $25/month (inc. all fees and taxes) when teamed up with 3 other users on a Party Pay plan. Other people to form a group are easy to find online. You don't need to know them, and are not responsible for each other's bills.

3) WiFi router at home, for connecting multiple devices to hotstpot.

When I leave the house, both phones go with me. My Republic phone is my main phone. I use the Visible one purely as a hotspot. This way, I get data on my main phone. I've had the Republic phone for several years, and am not keen to give it up. There are benefits to having two phones on 2 different networks though. When traveling in my camper van, if one phone is out of network, there's a chance the other one might still get a signal (though Sprint coverage is pretty minimal outside populated areas and away from highways). I also have redundancy i.e. if I'm out in the boonies, need help, and one phone has broken, or is lost or stolen, I still have another phone.

For me, this is a lot of functionality for $40.45/month inc. all taxes and fees.

I have few issues streaming videos on YouTube or Netflix. Occasionally, the video is very low quality when the network is busy, but it nearly always clears up after the system has had time to buffer a little. It's a small price to pay, IMO. Incidentally, I use about 80GB/month.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JP.mpls View Post
Note, I mostly surf the internet, and occasionally stream TV on Netflix or YouTube. No gaming. I don't believe I need amazingly fast speeds to do this. JP
No you don't. That has been my experience anyway.
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Old 08-01-2020, 02:48 PM   #7
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We had an enthusiastic young techie at our flying club who helped us try two different cell carriers who offered hot-spot type internet products. These products came with a desktop box like a cable modem and IIRC outside or by-a-window antennas. This was several years ago but neither was reliable and speeds varied quite a bit, apparently depending on how busy the cell tower site was. So we went back to our reliable DSL.

So if I was experimenting I would want to have written information on availability and speed. Or at least something where I could cancel a contract with zero net out of pocket if either was unacceptable.
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Old 08-01-2020, 03:28 PM   #8
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The Visibile hotspot on phone deal sounds very good if willing to accept 5Mbps and use a router to allow more than one WiFi connection. Be aware only one WiFi device can connect unless you use a WiFi router to allow more.

Verizon also just started a new 4G home service with a separate hotspot device that is 25Mbps-50Mbps unlimited, which is enough to do 1-2 4K streams or many HD streams at once. For now only a few areas but should expand soon.

Tmobile has a 70GB/month hotspot for phone plan that could slow down after that but many say they have gone over that many times and haven't seen slowed down service. And if you can get 5G signal at home, even better.
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Old 08-01-2020, 05:06 PM   #9
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Lakedog,
I'm on a no contract plan with Boostmobile.
Unlimited data, but only 12G of hotspot data for $50/month.

It looks like they will bump the hotspot data up to 30G/month for $60.

Major Tom uses 80G/month. I'm hoping I can get by with <30GHz of hotspot data.

I might have to quit lurking on this website so often.

JP
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lakedog View Post
I have been using my cell as a hotspot and internet connection for a MacBook Air for the last 3 years or so. I started this when living in an RV for a few months and have continued since buying a home in the country with limited internet options. I use Cricket ($55 a month) and get 15 gb per month for hotspot use and unlimited data for my phone. I surf on the laptop quite a bit but don't do much streaming so rarely use more than 10gb as a hotspot. I occasionally stream a movie or a few episodes of something but you would be very limited with only 12-15gb. Due to the pandemic, Cricket temporarily bumped their hotspot data limit up to 25gb so I did a bit more streaming for a few months.

I have had no issues with speed at all. I can stream from Netflix with no buffering delays but it does eat a fair amount of data. I just use my phone (with no other device) as the hotspot. For the hotspot, once you have used 15gb of data for the month, you still have access for surfing the internet but speeds are throttled enough that you cannot stream Netflix.
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Old 08-01-2020, 06:15 PM   #10
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I have used the Google Fi service for my phone and sometimes for internet for about 4 years.

It works well for me. The phone service is global.

https://fi.google.com/
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Old 08-01-2020, 06:36 PM   #11
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OP...12gb might be ok if you don't stream video. but why guess? there are apps for the pc that measure bandwidth useabe.

samples:
https://www.hongkiat.com/blog/monitor-internet-usage/
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Old 08-01-2020, 08:23 PM   #12
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Old 08-01-2020, 08:30 PM   #13
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I have used the Google Fi service for my phone and sometimes for internet for about 4 years.

It works well for me. The phone service is global.

https://fi.google.com/
My wife has Fi, I have Apple. They donít play well together consistently. We miss texts. The phone service ranges from super clear to almost inaudible depending on which network it picks up.

I looked at Fi and it limits service based on my phone, Apple 8.
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Old 08-02-2020, 06:53 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JP.mpls View Post
Lakedog,
I'm on a no contract plan with Boostmobile.
Unlimited data, but only 12G of hotspot data for $50/month.

It looks like they will bump the hotspot data up to 30G/month for $60.

Major Tom uses 80G/month. I'm hoping I can get by with <30GHz of hotspot data.

I might have to quit lurking on this website so often.

JP
When I started with Cricket, the limit was 8GB for hotspot data, then they bumped it to 10GB, and now it is 15GB without any change to the plan rates. 15GB has been fine for my typical use, and Cricket does allow you to purchase more data for the current month if you exceed the 15GB -- believe it is $10 for another 10GB.

Since I have been happy with Cricket service (with no contract), I have not really explored other cell/hotspot options lately. I also expect they (and others) will continue to increase hotspot data limits over time. 12 to 15GB is a lot of data for surfing but the amount of streaming you do is what will determine whether you need any more data than that.
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Old 08-02-2020, 09:33 AM   #15
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This thread made me want to know how much data we use for internet at home per month.
I checked with Wow, but since it's unlimited, I guess they didn't feel the need to show me my usage.
Unfortunately my router does not track that, even though it will let me set limits on device usage and lots of other settings.

Finally I checked with netflix, no they dont' show how much I've streamed, but they have guidelines, and for a regular HD movie, it's 3GB per hour.

I now know, since I watch at least 2-3 hours of netflix per night, that I use easily 270 GB per month...
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Old 08-02-2020, 10:49 AM   #16
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I've been using a Sprint 4G LTE hotspot for my Internet and it has been fine, not super fast but good enough for the job. No problems with streaming. It is supposed to be de-prioritized past a certain point of data, but I haven't noticed any difference.
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Old 08-02-2020, 11:18 AM   #17
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I use a hotspot when my Interent goes out. It is good for youtubes and netflix but lousy for streaming TV
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Old 08-02-2020, 11:22 AM   #18
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I think a lot depends on how far you are from the cell towers. I can see the tower from where I live so that makes a difference.
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Old 08-02-2020, 11:54 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jim584672 View Post
I've been using a Sprint 4G LTE hotspot for my Internet and it has been fine, not super fast but good enough for the job. No problems with streaming. It is supposed to be de-prioritized past a certain point of data, but I haven't noticed any difference.
I've heard this from others too. Same with Tmobile. Now they are merged so if you have as newer device you might be able to get either network.
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Old 08-02-2020, 02:46 PM   #20
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We were using our phones as hotspots for internet and that worked ok, but mobile devices are not made for long term hotspot connections and our plan had some data limitations which have now been enhanced.

Several months ago I was walking past the AT&T store and they had a sign saying something like "trouble with home internet? We have solutions". It got my interest and I walked out with a setup for $ 100 a month for 100 GB of service. Its a receiver/router and we live close to a tower, so get a strong signal. Just ran a test and its 15 Up and Down and supports as many users via wifi as you want. Also comes with a phone number if we wanted to hook one up to the modem but have not yet done that. We had to go through 3 boxes to get one that worked which was a pain, but AT&T was good about it and gave us a better than expected credit for our troubles. Working fine now.

Sometimes when we stream in HD the picture is a bit weak, but that is perhaps 10% of the time and it typically resolves itself in a few minutes. We don't watch a ton of TV and use our cell phones for a good bit of internet browsing, but we have typically averaged about 60MB per month on the AT&T plan.
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