What Carrier Is Best for Wi-Fi Hotspots?

Take your Wi-Fi with you wherever you go.
Recent Updates: 3 days ago
The Sprint and T-Mobile merger is complete (RIP, Sprint)! We’re digging into how Sprint’s ride into the sunset affects its current customers, but for folks who wanted to switch to Sprint, you can read our T-Mobile review to learn what we think of T-Mobile, post-merger.
Less than 6 months
Free hotspot data in response to COVID-19 AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile have all agreed to make public Wi-Fi hotspots available to everybody for free. As you’re out and about, check for public Wi-Fi hotspots and connect to them for free hotspot data.

Basically every unlimited wireless provider offers hotspot data, but AT&T, Verizon, and Visible offer up the most value. If you want tons of high-speed hotspot data, AT&T is the choice for you. If you want super reliable coverage (maybe you plan on working out of The Shining hotel or something), then Verizon is your best bet. If you want decent hotspot data along with reliable coverage, Visible is way cheaper than the other two options.

Ready to talk about hotspot more than you ever have in your life? Me too.

Best Carriers for Wi-Fi Hotspots
ProviderBest forOur plan pickLearn more
VerizonBest coverageDo More UnlimitedView Plans
Visible WirelessBudget plan$40 Unlimited PlanView Plans
AT&TMost hotspot dataUnlimited EliteView Plan

Visible: Best value

Unlimited limited-speed hotspot data

Pros

  • Unlimited 5 Mbps hotspot data
  • Reliable coverage

Cons

  • No high-speed data
  • Deprioritization

Visible offers unlimited hotspot data capped at 5 Mbps. That should give you enough data to open and send emails, browse the internet, and stream music without problem. And you can use as much mobile hotspot data as you want every month. You will, however, definitely struggle streaming, gaming, or doing any other data-heavy activities with 5 Mbps of hotspot data.

Visible Wireless is a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) that uses Verizon’s network. Translation: it’s a cheaper wireless carrier that uses the network of a bigger, usually more expensive provider. In this case, Visible uses Verizon’s super reliable network, but charges way less for its services. Take a look at the coverage map below to get an idea of what to expect with Visible:

Visible/Verizon coverage map

The downside to going with an MVNO provider over a traditional carrier is that you’re subject to deprioritization. Long story short, your data speeds can drop out of the blue because the parent network gives priority to its own users over MVNO users on the same network. If you go with Visible and you notice your signal drops during rush hour, it’s because the Verizon network is prioritizing its own customers during a peak usage period.

Read our Visible Wireless review to get more information on deprioritization and other details you’ll want to know.

Verizon Do More Unlimited: Best coverage

Use your hotspot data from pretty much anywhere.

Pros

  • 15 GB of high-speed hotspot data
  • Most reliable coverage

Cons

  • Pricier

You don’t quite get 30 GB of hotspot data like you do with AT&T, but the Verizon Do More Unlimited Plan gets you 15 GB of hotspot data that you can use basically anywhere. You can double your hotspot data allotment to 30 GB by opting for Verizon’s Get More Unlimited plan, but it’ll cost you an extra $10 a month.

Currently, Verizon offers 4G coverage to a whopping 70% of the country.1 To put that number in context, Sprint (when it existed) only offered 30% 4G coverage. So if you’ve got aspirations of working in the woods somewhere with your hotspot Wi-Fi signal, Verizon is your best bet. Seriously, look at the coverage map below, you could get a Wi-Fi hotspot signal on some remote lake in Michigan if you wanted.

Verizon coverage map

All that reliable coverage does come at a cost, and in this case, it’s to the tune of $80 a month for the Do More Unlimited plan. Essentially, you’re paying $5 less a month for half the hotspot data by going with Verizon over AT&T, but the coverage can make up for it.

Read our Verizon review if you want to get all the details on why it can be worth the price.

AT&T Unlimited Elite: Most high-speed hotspot data

Get 30 GB of high-speed hotspot data every month.

Pros

  • 30 GB of 4G hotspot data
  • HBO Max included

Cons

  • Pricey

Currently, AT&T wins the hotspot battle among all the wireless providers offering 30 GB of high-speed hotspot data every month for $85 a month. For context, Verizon’s über-expensive Get More Unlimited Plan almost comes with 30 GB of hotspot data, but it costs $90 a month. As for T-Mobile, the Magenta Plus plan only gives you 20 GB of hotspot data for the same price as AT&T at $85 a month. If you’re all about getting the most bulk hotspot data for the best price, AT&T takes the hotspot crown.

Light Bulb icon
HBO Max subscription included
Hey, if you’re going to pay so much for a cell phone plan, you might as well cash in on the sweet perks. You get HBO Max included with your plan. I’m currently watching Curb Your Enthusiasim on HBO Max and couldn’t recommend it enough.

Read our AT&T review to get all the details before making a final decision.

Recap: What carrier is best for Wi-Fi hotspots?

Most wireless carriers offer WI-Fi hotspots, but these three offer the most bang for your buck.

  • Best value plan: Visible’s $40 Unlimited Plan offers unlimited hotspot data, but your data speeds are capped at 5 Mbps. It’s enough to browse the internet, but not enough to reliably stream or game.
  • Best coverage: Verizon’s Do More Unlimited plan gets you 15 GB of high-speed hotspot data and the most reliable coverage in the country.
  • Most high-speed hotspot data: AT&T currently offers the most high-speed data you can get for the best price. The AT&T Unlimited Elite gets you a whopping 30 GB of hotspot data.

Those are our top three recommended providers with the best hotspot data. How do you feel about your hotspot data plan? Are you thinking of upgrading your hotspot data? Let us know in the comments below.

Frequently asked questions about hotspot data

What is hotspot data?

Hotspot data allows you to broadcast a Wi-Fi signal from your phone. So basically, if your phone gets a signal, you can share that signal with your laptop, Nintendo Switch, or any other device that connects via a Wi-Fi signal.

How do I use hotspot data?

The first thing you need to do is enable a Wi-Fi hotspot on your phone, which is an option that can be found in your settings. After that, you can find your hotspot signal on the device you want to connect.

What happens when I run out of high-speed hotspot data?

Once you run out of 4G high-speed hotspot data in a month, you’ll typically get bumped down to 3G hotspot speeds. For most providers, you can still create a hotspot with your phone, but the data speeds will be significantly slower. You should still be able to open and send emails, but you probably won’t be able to stream reliably with 3G speeds.

Do non-unlimited data plans have hotspot data?

You’ll need to check with your specific plan, but most plans have hotspot capabilities. If you don’t have unlimited data, your hotspot data gets clumped together with your monthly data allotment. For example, if you have 3 GB of data every month, your hotspot will pull data from that same source. Be very careful about using hotspot data on a non-unlimited plan—hotspot data is a real data hog.

Sources

  1. WhistleOut, “Find the Best Cell Phone Coverage.