The iPhone 4 Personal Hotspot is one of the best new features rolled out in last week’s iOS 4.3 update. If you’re running an iPhone 4, you can simply turn it on, and share that 3G connection with other devices in your immediate vicinity, by way of the smartphone’s built in Wi-Fi. It’s seriously useful if you want to hop online with your laptop on the go, or let someone with an iPad jump online with you.

Swell, right? Unfortunately, the extra charges for tethering in this way are not, and more confusingly, not every network charges for it – or even offers Personal Hotspot at all. Read on, and we’ll breakdown where you get the best deal, where you definitely do not, and your other smartphone options for sharing the data you’ve already paid for, for free.

We’ve checked in with the five major UK networks for their policies, and plucked out everything you need to be aware of. The main point to look out for is that many charge for the option to tether, whether through USB, Bluetooth or Personal Hotspot, despite the fact that you wouldn’t pay extra to use the same data on your phone.

Vodafone

Vodafone’s current iPhone tethering policy has not been update to reflect the iOS 4.3 update, but we’ve confirmed that its position remains the same for Personal Hotspot.

“The new wireless hotspot functionality for iPhone can be accessed by Vodafone customers. It uses the iPhone tethering APN and its use is subject to additional data charges. Occasional users pay £5 per 500MB for 30 days. Regular users can add an Access tethering bundle to their price plan at £10 a month for 1.5GB or £15 a month 3GB. iPhone customers who are already using our tethering price plans can use the new functionality at no extra charge,” a spokesperson told us.

In other words, any and every iPhone 4 user on Vodafone can turn on Personal Hotspot, but be prepared to part with a fiver.

O2

O2’s iPhone tethering policy has not been updated since October, but we’ve confirmed that the Personal Hotspot feature in iOS 4.3 doesn’t change O2’s current additional charge for the service: you need to get the internet tethering bolt on £7.50 per month for 500MB, which is only available for pay monthly, and not pay as you go customers.

In light of rival networks’ offerings, that’s not particularly good value, but we have however learned that O2 plans to launch a new line of tariffs for iPhone which will allow you to tether for free, with data used up coming out of your regular monthly data allowance.

An O2 rep wouldn’t reveal the pricing or when these will launch, but it could be something to look forward to if you’re hoping to get an iPhone 5 on the network come June.

T-Mobile

T-Mobile allows both pay monthly and pay as you go iPhone 4 customers to use the iPhone 4 Personal Hotspot, for a more reasonable £5.10 extra for 1GB of tethered data if you already have a contract with data (Which should indeed “account for the vast majority of iPhone users” as a rep told us).

Uniquely, T-Mobile also provides daily and weekly options to use tethering too, with 250MB for £2 per day of use, and £7 per week for 500MB, which will either come out of your credit or be added on to your bill, depending on how you pay.

Orange

Bad news for iPhone 4 owners on Orange who’ve just grabbed the iOS 4.3 update. Orange does not offer any form of tethering, Personal Hotspot or not, on the iPhone, to anyone outside of a business plan.

Its business rates aren’t too bad, with 500MB costing £4.25, and unlimited for £15 per month, but this will be a killer blow for anyone who bought their iPhone 4 on Orange to play Angry Birds, not check their work email: you can’t access one of the best features of the new iOS 4.3 update, period. Tethering for the iPhone is also not available on Orange Pay As You Go. Bah.

Three

Upstart UK network Three is by far the most benevolent when it comes to tethering: it treats data piped through your phone to your laptop as it does any mobile data, so it simply comes out of your data allowance at no extra charge. And if you’re on the One Plan, there’s not even a data allowance, so if you live in an area of good Three reception, it’s definitely the best option – we’ve confirmed with the network that the iOS 4.3 update and advent of the Personal Hotspot feature on the iPhone 4 doesn’t change any of this.

Solutions

Don’t want to switch to Three, or pay through the nose to drip your data through to a laptop? There are a couple of options.

Jailbreak

If you’re rocking a jailbroken iPhone, a piece of software called MyWi does exactly the same thing as Personal Hotspot, and can be yours from the Cydia store for a one off charge of $19.99 (£12.49). That’s pricy, but the good news is it’ll run on any jailbroken iOS device with a 3G connection: that includes the aging iPhone 3G, as well as the iPad.

Switch to Android

JoikuSpot offers exactly the same Wi-Fi sharing skills as Personal Hotspot on Symbian S60 phones, but for the most headache free experience out of the box, all Android 2.2 and up smartphones come with mobile Wi-Fi hotspot creation as standard, as well as the ability to tether via USB to Windows 7 laptops.

Google has actually allowed for operators to charge for this feature, but in the UK, we’ve not seen any networks opt to do this of yet. Let’s hope it stays that way.

Is that enough reason to make you switch? Do you use your iPhone 4’s Personal Hotspot facility? Sound off in the comments with your thoughts!

Jennifer Allan contributed to this report

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=849390067 Chris Elmer

    Or on t-mobile. if you have the old data plan… you have 3gb of data – thethered or normal, it doesn’t matter.

    I’ve been doing this on my desire HD for months. I get up to 2meg download speed and normally over 1 meg download.

  • Guest

    @Chris Elmer:

    I have the desire HD on T-mobile as well – So they won’t charge any extra for tethering your phone to your laptop for internet?

    • Anonymous

      Nope, I can confirm also that they don’t for Android phones. Crack on squire!

  • guest

    Can you tether iPhone 3gs to iPad via bluetooth on O2 paying the £7?

    • Anonymous

      Afraid not – the only way would be via Wi-Fi, so you’d have to jailbreak and use MyWi.

  • Brianmitchell28

    Does anyone know the difference between a wifi hotspot and tethering with Bluetooth?
    Other than you can connect more than one device.

    • Anonymous

      You can use any device that accepts an ad-hoc Wi-Fi network through the hotspot, whereas Bluetooth only works with laptops, I believe. It’s also much less fiddly.

  • james

    An O2 guy told me that the new contracts would launch on 29/3

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for the tip James!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for the tip James!

  • http://twitter.com/DanGuy101 DanGuy

    My HTC desire just uses my data allowance

    • Anonymous

      Yup, all Android 2.2 and up phones (and Samsung Galaxy S 2.1 phones) do this, no charge. It’s very handy!

  • Bryan

    Orange doesn’t even do visual voicemail …

  • Qs_3000

    Are SIM free iPhone 4s subject to this policy? I ask as I bought mine in the Apple store, use a Vodafone contract and have been using tethering (USB and bluetooth) for months. I have never had an additional charge on my bill.

    • Anonymous

      SIM free iPhones aren’t affected, no – you should just be able to tether happily with your normal data allowance as you appear to have been. Which is what makes the network extra charges all the more absurd.

      • Sw1970

        I’ve got a Sim free iPhone 4 and have an O2 pay monthly contract. When I try to activate personal hotspot it opens a webpage telling me about the amounts to pay if I want tethering.

        • Anonymous

          Oh really? Curious – I’m at a loss as to why that’s happening to you and not others. Where did you buy it SIM free from?

    • Daniel Vickers

      How did you set up the bluetooth tether thing? I always used it before I got an iPhone… but just got mine sim-free from apple, popped in the vodafone microsim and can’t get the mac to pair with it? :/

  • CK88

    orange DO have tethering bundles for customer outside of business plans.
    £5 a month gets you 500mb
    £10 a month gets you 1.5GB
    £15 a month [or a one off subs] gets you 3GB
    and £25 a month [or a one off subs] gets you 10GB …..
    mind if you add a monthly bundle, it will be a pro rata amount to your bill date when first applied

  • CK88

    PS , Orange indeed do not offer tethering on PAYG

  • Andy

    Am with t-mobile. HTC Desire wifi hotspot creation is greeted by an invitation from T-mobile to buy and ‘web ‘ walk’ plan. No free tethering for me……

    • Anonymous

      Really? Thanks for the heads up, we’ll check that out – has never happened on any Android phone with our 2 T-Mobile SIMs. That is UK right?

  • Jagmeet

    tethering is available for orange at £5 per month.

  • Thomas Foster

    I was on three and they didn’t allow me to use the personal hotspot feature at all. Maybe this was because I was on a rolling contract.

  • Deano

    Can someone enlighten me please?

    I have a 3GS on orange, I pay the top price £45 a month for unlimited everything, will they let me tether for no extra cost?

    That is if the 3GS will tether to iPad, the option is In the settings on my iPhone, will it work?

    Oh and does my iPad have to have iOS 4.3?

  • Tabeaton61@hotmail.com

    Been on 3 one plan for a while now and would not go back to the rip off networks again as this is how all networks should be, 1st rate no hidden charges well done

  • Qureshi

    Have been on 3 One Plan, have been using tethering through cable connected to Windows 7 laptop and it worked great, used to watch cricket world cup this year and it was great, since I upgraded to iOS 4.3.3 yesterday, I’m unable to use internet on laptop, DNS error etc but on other phones it is fine, i.e NOKIA 5800xp but e72 was unable to connect, connection not found etc. The thing that’s confusing me is that on laptop Skype gets connected but why doesn’t open websites?? Is anyone else facing this trouble? BTW thumbs up for 3, I have streamed around 4-5GB per month, trust me it’s awesome and speed also doesn’t get down if you cross 1/2GB depending signals are good or consistent. That’s also a lot better. Never got charged for anything extra as I have asked them to allow only that much that’s in my package (ONE PLAN), I won’t pay anything extra. Guys 7 months have passed great! Other companies should follow three to be competitive because I guess majority of customers are price conscious. Please suggest what to do about problem discussed above?

  • Johnsmith1

    i wont be on orange for long i pay for a 3g service
    dose it matter if i use that on my ipad or my phone no i payed for it my phone is giving me the new feature why should orange deside how i can use my 3g i wont be with them for long

  • Angelamoss14

    Perfect for when I away from my home wireless network – brilliant idea especially if you are on Three.

  • Jenny

    Does the iphone 4S have the personal hotspot? If so, can you use it to go online with your laptop, xbox live, ds, etc? And it would all be free and unlimited on The One Plan with Three? Finally, is it as fast a using mobile internet on dongle?

  • http://twitter.com/grieffyJMCFC Jacob Grieff

    I’m on the one plan on three, does this mean I get unlimited? cos i get unlimited internet on my phone…….

    • Anonymous

      Yes it does!

  • Benjohnston92

    orange do offer tethering im on it now

    • Innerfusion

      You must be paying through the nose :)

  • Benjohnston92

    orange do offer tethering im on it now

  • Gunjafama

    Hi, iv got the iphone 4 on 4.3.3 on t-mobile monthly contract… I have an unlimited data plan and use my iphone 4 to connect to my ps3, laptop, ipad, x-box 360, the miss iphone 3gs and my pay as u go htc touch 2 and i get charged nothing extra to conect my other devices to it… I dont seam to be able to conect the black wii to it, the internet is fast but you’v got to try find the best spot to leave your iphone in or it just glitch’is and kick’s u, or if u get a call u get disconected
    But i can conferm i have been using the hotspot for some time on t-mobile and as long as u have a contract with them and have the unlimited internet u can use it for free, no need to anything at all!!!
    I even bought my iphone from apple so it is not locked to any network and i have not told t-mobile about this and have had no problems… This is in the u.k
    Hope this hellps

  • Vodafone hater

    This article well researched and very clear – a great relief after trying (and failing) to get a definitive answer out of Vodafone Customer Services on the matter. My contract lists ‘tethering’ as an inclusive part of my tariff, but this is extremely misleading – what they should have written is that I am lucky enough to have the option to pay them EVEN more money to tether my phone to my laptop (using the data plan that I already pay handsomely for). Thanks, Vodafone. I’ll also be thanking them when I pay a huge chunk of my income in tax in the knowledge that they [Vodafone] evaded billions of pounds owed to the British Government in a seriously dodgy deal.

  • Vodafone hater

    This article well researched and very clear – a great relief after trying (and failing) to get a definitive answer out of Vodafone Customer Services on the matter. My contract lists ‘tethering’ as an inclusive part of my tariff, but this is extremely misleading – what they should have written is that I am lucky enough to have the option to pay them EVEN more money to tether my phone to my laptop (using the data plan that I already pay handsomely for). Thanks, Vodafone. I’ll also be thanking them when I pay a huge chunk of my income in tax in the knowledge that they [Vodafone] evaded billions of pounds owed to the British Government in a seriously dodgy deal.

  • Innerfusion

    3 – please come and install masts in my area, I’d move from Orange and happily never look back…

  • Tom

    hi i have an iPhone and iv been using personal hotspot for a bit now and i have not been charged extra and i think i must get some sort of limit but i don’t want to ask just incase i get charged for it 

  • Vj_dandiker

    3 (three-UK network) charge & through the nose!  I took out a 12 month Sim (paid up front) on my iphone 3G;  then 3 introduced ‘all you can eat data allowance’  so on top of my monthly charge, i paid extra and took out an extra ‘all you can eat data allowance,’ thinking that was all that I needed but guess what after, I tethered my laptop Windows 7 (x64) to my iPhone via usb cable,  crash-bang-wallop a  3 Restriction webpage came up and disabled my web acccess!  So i called three support they said ‘yes, you have “all you can eat data,” & yes you paid extra but, you cannot use it for internet/WiFi Hotspot access, you have to pay extra £25 per month on top for internet access as this package is not available on Sim-12 month pre-Paid,’  So not only did I PAY EXTRA for a service not required BUT 3 FLEECED ME by charging for the time I connected to the net!  So I have a iPhone, which i’m NOW PAYING EXTRA FOR  and I CAN;T GET the EXTRA CHARGE REMOVED and I CANNOT USE THE INTERNET.  This article/writer is a a JOKE/JOKER! DO THE RESEARCH, mate or have you been paid by 3?  John   

    • Anonymous

      That’s curious, not least because Three supposedly can’t distinguish as to what device is using the data. If you want to drop me a line on ben.sillis@republicpublishing.co.uk (I’m the author) we’ll look into this for you. And no, I’m not paid by Three.

  • Guest

    Hi There bensillis ,I have a 3GS iphone on IOS 4.00, jailbroken and have been using MyWi 5.0 to tether…I am with orange and pay for unlimited usage on my iphones 3G. In my phones Network settings if you try to turn tethering on it asks you to call orange. Basically my question is that I have successfuly been tethering with Mywi ‘without authorisation’ (also connecting via a proxy server), can ORANGE bill me for my usage even though in my settings it still states that tethering is off and I have not agreed to their extortionate prices?

    • Anonymous

      I’m not certain. I think it’s a case of if you don’t use it much they won’t notice, but if your data usage shoots right up they might notice and charge you. It’s an absurd situation, I know.

    • Anonymous

      I’m not certain. I think it’s a case of if you don’t use it much they won’t notice, but if your data usage shoots right up they might notice and charge you. It’s an absurd situation, I know.

  • Anonymous

    T-Mobile also do that with the Lottery. Bloody annoying.

  • Kerry Vinall

    hi! I am new to all of this but have just got an ipad3 wi fi only but now wish I had gone for 3 g which I believe means I could get Internet access anywhere, is this correct please? I live in France and hotspots are really difficult to find (I assume I am correct in saying is where you can link to the Internet providing you know the ‘pass code ( number’) so if I buy an iPhone now, with 3G can I use this as my ‘hotspot’ for my ipad3? I currently have a mobile, phone & Internet ( unlimited access & free telephone calls (apart from mobiles outside France & 0800 numbers ) and I don’t want to buy an iPhone with a payment plan from them if I can’t do the above, ie use my iPhone as the Internet connection for my ipad3? sorry if you have explained this somewhere already, but can someone help this Internet idiot please?

  • Kerry Vinall

    hi! I am new to all of this but have just got an ipad3 wi fi only but now wish I had gone for 3 g which I believe means I could get Internet access anywhere, is this correct please? I live in France and hotspots are really difficult to find (I assume I am correct in saying is where you can link to the Internet providing you know the ‘pass code ( number’) so if I buy an iPhone now, with 3G can I use this as my ‘hotspot’ for my ipad3? I currently have a mobile, phone & Internet ( unlimited access & free telephone calls (apart from mobiles outside France & 0800 numbers ) and I don’t want to buy an iPhone with a payment plan from them if I can’t do the above, ie use my iPhone as the Internet connection for my ipad3? sorry if you have explained this somewhere already, but can someone help this Internet idiot please?

  • http://www.facebook.com/ben1204 Ben Shaw

    hi i am on tmobile and i have an unlimeted internet booster dose personal hotspots come free on that

Hot chat, right here!


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