Getting on the Internet is expensive. The average home internet connection in the US costs $60 per month. Can’t imagine paying all that money? Don’t worry even if you don’t have a regular ISP, there are still ways to get online.
From public Wi-Fi to cellular data, you still have multiple ways to access the internet without a broadband connection. So here are some ways to get Wi-Fi without your ISP.
1. Mobile Hotspot
The best way to make sure you have an internet connection on your laptop is to use a portable hotspot. Today, most of us own smartphones with LTE or even 5G cellular connectivity. So why not use that instead of paying for a new broadband connection to your home?
Sure, there is an upfront cost to do this – you’ll need to purchase a hotspot device and sign up for a mobile internet plan. However, there are quite a few companies that offer mobile hotspots.
We particularly recommend three models for portable hotspots:
- Verizon Jetpack MiFi 8800L
Despite being two years old, the Verizon Jetpack MiFi 8800L is still probably the best 4G hotspot available right now. It uses a Qualcomm X20 modem and supports 11 LTE bands. It offers both 2.4 and 5 GHz Wi-Fi bands, supports guest connections, and allows you to connect up to 15 devices to the network simultaneously.
The device is only available by Verizon, and you can get the device for $99 if you sign up for a two-year mobile internet contract. It’s $199 if you buy the device without a contract. With that said, if you are looking for a faster 5G hotspot for your Verizon connection, you can also consider Orbic Speed 5G UW .
- HTC 5G Hub
If your cellular provider is Sprint or T-Mobile, the HTC 5G Hub is the best 5G mobile hotspot, provided you already have a 5G-enabled smartphone.
The device has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 CPU, Snapdragon X50 5G modem, 4GB of RAM, support for Bluetooth and Ethernet connections, all-day battery life, and the ability to connect up to 20 devices at the same time. It runs on Android .
On the downside, 5G is still not available everywhere. So if you’re looking for a hotspot that works when you’re off track, the HTC 5G Hub might not be for you, especially considering its $600 price tag.
- GlocalMe DuoTurbo
If you need temporary Wi-Fi while traveling outside the US, you need a mobile hotspot and internet plan that works internationally.
For this reason, we love the GlocalMe DuoTurbo. It operates in more than 140 countries, covers more than 270 local operators, and has rates starting at $9 per day for data. Hardware rental options are also available.
Certainly, at these prices, it is not a convenient local option. But if you are on vacation and need to stay connected at home, it will still be cheaper than using roaming internet on your smartphone.
2. Connect your smartphone or tablet
If you don’t need regular mobile data and instead just need occasional laptop internet access, the quickest and easiest way to get online is often tethering your smartphone.
There are three main drawbacks to connecting your smartphone or tablet.
- You are completely dependent on your carrier’s signal. This is fine if you are in a city but less reliable if you are abroad.
- Your carrier may not support tethering or mobile hotspot. Some networks limit this functionality to higher-level plans.
- Laptops usually use a lot more data than smartphones, which means you might be in for a nasty surprise when your next phone bill arrives in your mailbox.
If you have an Android device, you can enable tethering by heading to Settings > Network & Internet > Hotspot & tethering > Wi-Fi hotspot , then slide the toggle next to Wi-Fi hotspot to On .
iOS users need to go to Settings > Personal Hotspot and slide the toggle button.
On both Android and iOS, you have to set a new username and password to protect the security of your hotspot.
3. Find a public Wi-Fi
Depending on where you find yourself when you need to go online without a provider, you may be able to hop on a nearby public Wi-Fi network. For example, libraries, cafes, restaurants, and transportation centers often have networks that you can join.
You can find free Wi-Fi nearby by using apps like Wi-Fi Master Key on Android and Wi-Fi Finder on iOS.
Note: Before joining a public Wi-Fi network, make sure that you are aware of all the risks associated with logging into public Wi-Fi.
Download: Wi-Fi Master Key for Android (Free)
Download: Wi-Fi Connect for iOS (Free)
4. Use a Wi-Fi USB dongle
A USB Wi-Fi dongle, also known as an “internet stick,” is a cheaper and more accessible version of a portable hotspot and temporary Wi-Fi network. Instead of sticking to an expensive long-term mobile hotspot plan, you can insert a standard SIM and use their data connection.
Since internet sticks for laptops are lighter and smaller than portable hotspots, they are better suited for people who need an internet connection while traveling. On the downside, don’t expect signal strength , Wi-Fi speed, or range to be as good as using a hotspot device.
To learn more, check out our article on the best Wi-Fi USB adapters.
There is a possibility that someone in your group has an internet connection on their device. For example, they might have login credentials for a nearby private network, and you don’t.
In these cases, you can share the bandwidth with a device running Windows or macOS.
To share an internet connection from your Windows computer, go to Settings > Network & Internet > Mobile Hotspot . Choose the connection you want to share and move the switch to the on position.
If you need to share an internet connection from your macOS device, go to Apple > System Preferences > Sharing > Internet Sharing . Choose the connection you want to share to share your connection with from the drop-down list, then select how you want to share the Internet from the list of options below.
Understand your situation before choosing an option
The best way to get Wi-Fi offline depends on where you are and how you want to use the connection. In rural areas, you may find it difficult to find public Wi-Fi, while you will find it almost everywhere in the city.
However, people who do a lot of work on the go should consider investing in a complete mobile hotspot to connect to the internet wherever they are. But casual regular users will be satisfied with a tether or an Internet stick.