Does USB Tethering Use Hotspot Or Cellular Data? (How To Know)

If you’re about to use your phone for USB tethering, you’ll want to know if the connection uses a Mobile Hotspot, your cellular data plan, or your Wifi connection.

If you want to be sure that you are using one over the others, then you should take some extra steps when setting up the USB tethering. Read on for all the details.

Does USB Tethering Use Mobile Hotspot, Wifi, or Cellular Data Connection?

USB tethering with your cell phone can use either a Wifi connection your cellular data plan.

If you use your Wifi to set up a Mobile Hotspot, then you can’t set up USB tethering with a Wifi connection. Your Wifi adapter can only make one connection at a time.

Are you trying to understand your costs?

I see plenty of people asking the question on forums as to which connection is used by USB tethering. And there are also plenty of different answers!

In my view, many of the answers aren’t addressing the motivation behind the question.

This article assumes that you’d prefer that USB tethering uses whichever option works out cheaper for you.

You may be interested in the technical details about how USB tethering works. If so, then check out our companion article that explains what USB tethering is.

Typical question

Here is a typical question from internet forums:

My provider gives me an unlimited data plan and a 5 GB hotspot plan. Does USB tethering use up the hotspot or does it stick to the unlimited data?

Forum user

The poor guy got explanations of what tethering means.

But I’m sure that he just wanted to know if he could get unlimited internet usage for his laptop!

If you have a similar motive then I’ll explain how you can be sure the tethering uses your preferred type of connection.

How To Ensure That USB Tethering Uses Your Mobile Hotspot

Many phones tend to suspend cellular connection when you’re using Wifi.

But I advise that you don’t rely on this when you start using USB tethering. Don’t assume that the connection won’t switch behind the scenes to your cellular plan.

Instead, you can take these steps to be sure your phone sticks with the Hotspot.

  1. Open the Settings on your phone
  2. Open the Network options
  3. Find the Mobile data settings
  4. Turn off or disable Mobile data connection

This should be straightforward, except for phones which “hide away” the option to turn off Mobile data manually.

My older Samsung did exactly that. It took several clicks from the Settings page to find it. But don’t let that dissuade you.

Turning off the connection manually means that you know exactly how your tethering method is connecting.

How To Ensure That USB Tethering Uses Your Cellular Data Plan

You may prefer that USB tethering uses your cellular connection instead of Wifi.

Disabling your Wifi is usually more straightforward than disabling the cellular data connection.

Take the steps for your make of phone to disable your Wifi.

Can You Really Use USB Tethering To Get Unlimited Data To Your Laptop?

So, your phone plan comes with an unlimited data connection. And you’re thinking – wouldn’t it be great to do all my work on my laptop through that option!

Well, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Your phone network company is well aware of this temptation.

If you merrily stream movies to your laptop via your phone, that unlimited plan will suddenly become more limited.

Your data will be throttled at some point.

I’ve heard reports of the throttling kicking in at around 30 GB.

How To Limit Your Cellular Data Usage With USB Tethering

Your phone network provider will probably provide a feature that lets you save on data usage.

This is called a metered data connection.

Look under your Data settings for something like “network restrictions” or “metered connection”.

How To Use USB Tethering Without An Internet Connection

You can use USB tethering without any kind of connection to the internet.

Why would you want to do so? This lets you transfer files between your phone and laptop through the USB cable.

It’s a good choice if you’re moving lots of photos from one device to the other, especially when you’ve only got a cellular connection as the other option.