Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning we get a small commission if you make a purchase through our links, at no cost to you. For more information, please visit our Disclaimer Page.
When you don’t have a usual Wi-Fi network available, the mobile hotspot is the obvious solution to the problem of getting on the internet. For hotspots, you can purchase a dedicated portable device, but you can also set your phone to be its own hotspot for the benefit of your other tech that might need internet access.
In either case, you do need access to cellular data, as this is how the device in question can create its own network for your other things to use.
Because a connection to a hotspot uses constant data that is sent between the two units, some people might wonder if theirs can simply run out of data. They might also wonder what happens if this turns out to be the case. We will cover whether a hotspot can run out of data in our article below.
In doing so, we will also go over how having an unlimited data plan might affect this feature, whether data is supposed to reset on a regular basis, and what might happen if you think you’ve used too much of your hotspot data at once.
Furthermore, we can cover how hotspots work while devices are charging, and we will go over how long a typical hotspot can stay active for your needs.
Table of Contents
Yes, there are situations in which your hotspot could run out of data. As we touched on in the introduction, a hotspot connection relies on cellular data. This is because the purpose of a hotspot is to create its own Wi-Fi network where none existed before.
To do this, it needs access to a carrier that can provide data and internet access of its own. Therefore, some connection to the web at large has to exist in order for a device to create a network that other units can join.
Cellular data from a phone service provider is the most common way this will work. This is true even if you are using a dedicated portable hotspot or dongle in lieu of a cell phone with hotspot capabilities.
There are ways to measure this data usage, and you should be able to use an app right on your phone to see how much data you have. Most of the time, this data is something that resets monthly, and the app will show you how much of it you have used within a given cycle.
If you don’t have a native app on your phone that does this, you can download from the appropriate store to which your phone should have access. Monitoring your data usage like this can be particularly important with hotspotting for various devices.
This is because all of the devices you decide to connect to your hotspot are going to share the same data package. If you’re only using one device as a client for your hotspot, it will probably draw smaller amounts of data than two or more devices that need to use the same pool of resources.
You may find that using several devices in this manner eats up your data far more quickly than you expect. Part of the importance of measuring your data usage here is that your phone needs data for most of its functions outside of your home Wi-Fi range.
If you use up your monthly allotment of data in one hotspotting session, your phone will be without it for the remainder of the cycle, and you’ll only be able to access many of its online features when you are within Wi-Fi range.
All of this puts both your phone and any devices you might need to tether via hotspots at risk of not being very useful to you, and this is especially true if you use up all of your data quite early in your billing cycle.
If you find that your hotspot turns off constantly and running out of data isn’t the reason, check out our article for a solution here.
Whether a hotspot could be considered free under an unlimited data plan really depends on how your service provider defines “unlimited” within the terms of your contract.
There are conditions under which an unlimited plan is not truly unlimited in the data you can use each cycle. Therefore, it is important to read the specifics of the fine print in your contract.
Even if you think you’re supposed to have unlimited data, you may not have it in all cases. Similarly, you may be able to use unlimited data as much as you’d like on your phone, but this same perk may not apply when the phone is a hotspot.
Before we get into the exceptions, we will go over truly unlimited data. With phone providers, your data could be throttled to a low or slow amount, and this can depend on how much data you’ve used. It can also happen if you go over your data limit.
When this occurs, your carrier will usually bill you for the difference at the end of each cycle. Even so, you could also be subject to throttling that slows or limits your connection to the carrier’s network, and this could last until the cycle resets.
With truly unlimited data, no throttling should occur at all, and this would include even the amount of time you choose to use your phone as a hotspot. In essence, this is the closest you would come to a free hotspot. It is one that is using the unlimited data you already pay for in order to provide a Wi-Fi network for your other devices to use.
However, you could also have unlimited data for the phone itself that turns out to be limited for things like tethering for a hotspot. In such cases, your data will receive a particular cap once the phone switches modes and becomes a device for hotspotting.
In other cases, you may have unlimited data for both activities within a certain service region. This would be the region your carrier designates as a sort of home area, and going outside of that region with your phone active counts as roaming.
Even with unlimited data in your contract, roaming can affect how much of it you’re able to use for regular activities or hotspotting, and this limitation would remain in effect until you return to the home region.
Yes, if you have any kind of limit on how much tethering for a hotspot you can do, it should reset each month. It is important to keep in mind that this tends to be a hard rule.
That is, you usually won’t be able to reset your hotspot limit early by trying to pay the bill early. It is supposed to reset at the beginning of each new cycle. That said, you may be able to increase the limit if you negotiate a different tier or plan with your provider. However, that is not a guarantee.
What happens when you go over your hotspot limit will, once again, depend on the type of agreement you have with your carrier. Unless your data is truly unlimited, you’ll be subject to extra charges for the data you use that goes beyond the limit.
If you are not charged for extra data, it is possible that you have an agreement that allows you to go over the limit while using that data at a significantly reduced speed.
Most data caps for hotspots sit at around 10 gigabytes in total. This makes hotspotting a useful feature, but it is not necessarily optimal for long-term work that requires a continuous connection to a Wi-Fi network.
This might be a problem, but it can depend on the phone model you are using. Its age and how well the hardware is doing can be other considerations to keep in mind.
Keeping a hotspot active does use up a lot of the battery quite quickly. Making sure the phone is plugged in while activating the hotspot feature could mitigate this issue. However, charging the phone usually makes it heat up as the battery is taking on energy.
Using the hotspot is also something that can bring extra heat to the phone. Therefore, doing both at once could cause the device to take on too much excess heat at once. It is best to exercise caution in order to avoid potential damage to the hardware due to heat.
As long as you have a charged battery and enough data, a hotspot should be able to stay on as long as you’d like. The battery won’t last particularly long, though.
Furthermore, you would need to be mindful of charging it while using the hotspot due to the heat concerns we went over earlier. Once you reach a data limit, the functionality of the other devices you have connected to the hotspot could slow to a crawl, and this would be something else to keep in mind.
Hotspots use data, but they are great for getting a unique Wi-Fi network for your other devices up and running in a pinch. If you have a truly unlimited plan with your provider, your only limitation here would be the battery on your phone. Otherwise, there could be data caps on how much tethering you can do. In short, using the hotspot in limited intervals may be the best way to see its usefulness.