How to Turn Your Smartphone into a Wi-Fi Hotspot

NOTE #1: This article has nothing to do with genealogy but I will suggest that all owners of cell phones should be aware of the hotspot capabilities of their phones.

Note #2: This is an update of an article I published about 18 months ago. The cell phone business has changed since then and some of the information in the old article was no longer accurate. I updated the information to make it current and am republishing it now.

Would you like to access the web with your laptop or tablet computer while at a library or archive or most any other location? If a wi-fi network is available, that is easy to do. However, what do you do when you are not in range of a wi-fi connection? If you have a cell phone, there is an easy answer: tether the cell phone.

Tethering allows sharing the Internet connection of the cell phone with other devices, such as laptops.

Be aware that not all cell phones can be tethered, but the majority of them can. For instance, I used to have two cell phones; one ran Android and the other ran the Apple iOS operating system. One of them could be tethered but the other could not. Sometimes the cell phone manufacturer decides not to allow tethering and some cell phone providers will either not allow tethering or will charge extra for the capability.

If your Apple iOS, Android, or Windows Mobile cell phone does have the capability to be tethered, the process is easy. Step-by-step instructions are available in an article by Brian Burgess in the GizMag web site at

Warning: be aware that some cell phone companies charge extra for tethering while others do not. Check your cell phone carrier’s web page or call their customer service department for details.

If you use Google’s low-cost Project Fi for your cell phone service, you already have wi-fi tethering built in at no extra cost. You will still be charged for the amount of data sent, however.  Details about Project Fi may be found at while Google’s support page at tells How to share your data using a Wi-Fi hotspot on a Project Fi cell phone.


For those whose phones/providers do not support the use of the phone as a wi-fi hotspot, a small program from can provide a solution. Until I switched to a modern Android phone last year I had used “tether” on my BB for 3 years. The program installs on the phone and connects by bluetooth or USB connection to a laptop or other device, allowing the external device to connect to the internet through the phone’s cellular connection in the same manner as a separate air card would. I believe the cost is something like $29.95.


The main reason I bought a “fancy phone” is so I could do just this when working on our small property in the boondocks in northern Indiana. Internet is not an option as we are only here part time. This works well for me and I can get online much more and longer than I thought and can monitor my usage. I am using it now as I write. Love it! Saves me from driving 5 miles to the Subway shop!


Please note that tethering your iPhone if you are grandfathered in with the unlimited plan will nullify that and cause them to place you on a more expensive plan.


would a 3g phone tethered to a laptop support a Skype 20 min conference call?

Like is the way to go. Best solution ever!


We do this at our cabin in NW Wisconsin and it works great. We have AT&T with 20G of shared data with our son and we never run out of data.


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