Does the Tethering Hot Spot Have a Bright Future?

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By: Fran Howarth|

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Tethering technology connects multiple devices by allowing one to share the other’s internet connection. This allows devices such as Wi-Fi-only tablets with larger screens to take advantage of a tethering hot spot, which connects them to a nearby smartphone and allows them to use that phone’s mobile internet connection.

This provides advantages over Wi-Fi hot spots that typically have a range limited to around 100 feet, after which the signal strength and bandwidth decline. With tethering, one phone that has been turned into a hot spot can supply an internet connection to as many as eight devices — although the more devices that are connected, the lower the connection speed is likely to be.

Most smartphones available today offer tethering, including iPhones, Windows Phones and Android handsets. Connectivity can be enabled via a USB cable or communications technology such as Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.

Drawbacks of the Tethering Hot Spot

Using a tethering hot spot isn’t without its inconveniences. It drains batteries faster than normal because of the energy it takes to broker traffic back and forth to connected devices. Using a fixed power source or connecting a device to a portable battery pack will help overcome this, but a fixed source removes the mobility aspect, and a battery pack is one more device to carry around. Also, not all data plans include tethering. While many carriers allow tethering to be purchased as an add-on service, it’s important to research options before attempting to set up a tethering hot spot.

Security is also a major concern. It’s essential that the tethering hot spot is protected with a password to prevent others from piggybacking on the connection, which could introduce security issues, degrade performance, increase costs or interrupt service. In addition, answering a phone call causes the connection to be lost — and any unsaved data along with it.

A Productivity-Enabling Tool

Despite some disadvantages, however, tethering hot spots can be useful for mobile-savvy enterprises: They allow workers to continue to be productive during unexpected outages of the network. Should downtime occur, a user can simply connect a laptop or a tablet to their phone and carry on working using the phone’s connectivity. They’re also useful for those traveling outside of the office if the organization has a policy of avoiding public Wi-Fi hot spots.

Tethering, Connected Cars and IoT

But perhaps the greatest opportunity lies in the vision of the Internet of Things (IoT). In particular, connected cars are designed with the concept of tethering in mind. According to Accenture, every new car sold by 2025 will be connected. They also estimate that 12 percent of cars will incorporate tethering technology in 2020, up from 6 percent in 2015.

With the tethered connectivity method, smartphones will provide connectivity, while apps and the intelligence they provide will be embedded within the car. This model provides advantages over Wi-Fi hot spots: Although these are well-suited to public places over small areas, it’s unlikely that they’ll ever be able to cover entire road networks in an economical manner. The tethered model doesn’t suffer from such limitations.

Many vendors are looking to take advantage of the opportunities provided by tethering models. Technology giants Google and Apple have both embraced tethering technology in their respective Android Auto and CarPlay offerings, which are now being incorporated into more than 100 models of cars, according to The Verge. As IoT continues to expand, the tethering model will likely come into greater prominence.

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About The Author

Fran Howarth

Freelance Writer

Fran Howarth is an industry analyst and writer specializing in cybersecurity. She has worked within the security technology sector for more than 25 years in an advisory capacity as an analyst, consultant and writer. Fran focuses on the business needs for security technologies, with a focus on emerging technology sectors. Current areas of focus include cloud security, data security, identity and access management, network and endpoint security, security intelligence and analytics and security governance and regulations. Fran can be reached at fhowarth@gmail.com.

Articles by Fran Howarth
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