Where did my hotspot allowance go?

checking my e-mail

When I got my iPhone 6S Plus in 2015, I got a new phone contract and moved providers. The SIM only contract was with Three and came with unlimited data. However this was unlimited on the phone only, there was an allowance for hotspot, which was only 4GB. This was initially problematic as at home we had a very poor ADSL connection, so I would use the hotspot quite often when I was frustrated with my poor connectivity. As a result I would need to keep an eye on my usage. Quite often I would run out. 4GB was generally fine for simple browsing or e-mail, but would quickly run out if I was streaming video.

I did think about increasing the allowance, but the packages available weren’t cheap. Today Three’s unlimited data contract has a 30GB hotspot allowance. Why don’t I upgrade? Well my contract is just £17 a month, the current unlimited data contract is now £30 a month. However since my home broadband was upgraded to fibre I’ve stopped using the hotspot feature at home, reserving it for trips and visits, again mainly for browsing and e-mail. The 4GB allowance has been fine for this kind of internet activity.

A recent trip away to Glasgow made me aware to still carefully check my usage. I was away staying at the Premier Inn which came with free wifi. According to the blurb the free version of the wifi was for browsing and e-mail and the Ultimate version of the wifi was for streaming. Testing the free wifi, I found it worked fine for streaming Netflix. So there I was watching my favourite TV shows on the iPad and though the free wifi wasn’t brilliant, it was working. As I watched the next episode I found the quality had improved, this is alright I thought. Then another episode…

Then I got a SMS from Three saying I had nearly used my hotspot allowance. I was confused, it was only five days since it had reset. Where had my allowance gone? I then noticed that my iPad wasn’t connected to the hotel wifi it was now connected to my iPhone’s hotspot.

What happened was that previously at the Airport I had connected my laptop to the hotspot, but hadn’t turned it off. My iPad was connected to the hotel wifi, however that connection must have stopped or dropped and then the iPad found and connected to the hotspot network automatically. So when the hotel wifi came back it didn’t re-connect. So the quality of the Netflix stream had improved because of the new connection… the downside was that it sucked up all of my hotspot allowance.

Will I upgrade, no, because it was an error and though it may happen again, I am quite content with a 4GB limit.


I noticed on the O2 website that tethering on your iPhone or Android phone is now “free”, well free on the assumption you stay within your data limits.

Whilst my work iPhone is now on Vodafone, I still have my home iPhone, a 3GS model on an O2 simplicity contract. However in order to get “tethering” I would need to sign up to a new contract and they are more expensive than my current rather cheap monthly contract I have now.

I usually use tethering on my “other” home phone an Android device which I now use instead of a 3G dongle or MiFi. The 3G dongle was limiting as I could only really use it with my laptop and not with other devices (read iPad). Also my MiFi has stopped working properly, but I think that’s because the battery has died. So as I have tethering on my Android phone, I am probably not going to change the contract so I can have it on the iPhone. However it is nice to see that if you got a new iPhone or changed contract, tethering is now seen as “normal” and it’s up to the user to decide how they use their data allowances and tethering is not seen now by O2 as something special they can charge more for.

What I would warn though, is though 500MB is enough for most people for internet on the iPhone, you will go through that data very quickly if you use your allowance through tethering using the web on your laptop.