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Guide to USB Internet

Rosslyn Elliott / Updated Mar 13,2023 | Pub Feb 11,2021

These days, lots of people are “cutting the cord,” or finding ways to do things wirelessly. Devices like cell phones, tablets, and laptops have made it easier to be online while on the go. For some people, this might require getting their Internet connection to be portable, too. That’s where USB connections come in.

What is USB Internet? It is a blanket term for the ways people can get online without having to be on a desktop computer. Most devices, from cell phones to PCs, have at least one USB port, and some devices have several. There are a lot of ways to use this instead of an Ethernet cable to get online.

What Do I Need to Get Online Wirelessly?

Some devices, such as laptops and some tablets, have a modem built in that can access the Internet using WiFi. Cell phones are connected currently through either 5G or 4G LTE, which gives them access to the Internet as well as allows them to function as USB cellular modems. 

There are other USB network adapters that specialize as portable Internet modems for laptops, tablets, and remote devices. USB Internet adapters help remote networks connect anywhere you can plug in, while USB Wi-Fi adapters can even get your home computer online without an Ethernet cable. 

Wireless adapters can be as complex as USB LTE modems or as simple as a USB Internet stick that you plug into a port. USB modems are about the size of a deck of playing cards, and act just like Ethernet modems. TP links are like mini-modems, no larger than a flash drive or wireless Internet stick but able to connect you to the Internet remotely.

Remote USB is a way to share USB over a cloud service. Typically, to do so requires USB over IP software, but some operating systems also have software built in. Users who have subscriptions to cloud services that offer USB over IP don’t need a modem or stick.

Mobile Hotspots

A very popular way to get a wireless connection is tethering via mobile phone. Many mobile phone plans have the option for a mobile hotspot, which is a WiFi signal from your mobile phone that accesses the Internet through your sim card. This signal can be accessed by wireless devices. It can also be plugged in, or “tethered,” to your device’s USB port.

To tether a device to your cell phone, you may have to give it permission to access the phone and the wireless network created by the hotspot. This can be allowed when you activate the hotspot. Any connected USB device can be tethered to your phone this way. 

You should also be aware of how much data your cell phone plan has. Mobile hotspots use data the same way your Ethernet-connected home computer does, and if you run out of data, even your mobile hotspot will slow to a crawl. Some mobile hotspots must be turned on and off manually, so be mindful that you don’t accidentally use up your data by keeping it on unintentionally.

Data and Data Limits

In fact, data limits, data caps, and data throttling are often a feature in any mobile Internet plan. They could slow down your connection if you are not observant of your limits. 

A data limit or data cap refers to the maximum amount of data your plan allows you to use. Often plans have very high limits in the hundreds or thousands of gigabytes, especially for Ethernet access, but mobile plans might have as few as 10-20 GB. So what can you do if you exceed your limit?

Usually there are two options. You are either “throttled,” which means your data is bottlenecked significantly, making your Internet slow, or you can purchase more data. This is why it is important to know your limit. Having to purchase more data can be expensive, so you want to ensure your data cap is adequate for your needs.

What’s Your Plan?

One of the first things you should make sure you have is a mobile Internet plan. There are a wide variety of plans that can include mobile Internet. Most ISPs have it as an option, including cable companies, DSL providers, and cell phone plans.

If you have cloud service, you may consider using USB over IP as well as hardware methods. Cloud services give users another option aside from ISPs and cellular plans. Especially for people who travel frequently or to remote places, not needing to carry even something the size of a flash drive can be a huge help.

Something important to consider when shopping for a plan is where you’re going to use the Internet remotely. Checking the coverage of any plans you are considering is vital because if the plan doesn’t cover the area where you are using it, you might need to seek an alternative. 

You also want to make sure you’re getting the best deal for your money. If your remote Internet use is sporadic or sparse, you might not need as much as someone who is online all the time. Periodically checking emails or invoices doesn’t take as much data as running an entire business out of your vehicle while traveling from place to place. 

As more businesses become remote, and even brick and mortar businesses take their products on the road, USB Internet connections are becoming increasingly common. Comparing your mobile Internet plan with what carriers offer in your area can help save you money and extend your online reach. With a little bit of research you can find out if your plan is the best available to you, or find your new mobile Internet provider!

Written by
Rosslyn Elliott
Rosslyn Elliott has over a decade of experience as a writer, editor, and in-house journalist. She earned a B.A. in English from Yale University and has written professionally in many fields including technology and IT. She has won kudos for her work helping tech startups establish their brands. Having lived all over the USA, she has first-hand experience with the strengths and quirks of numerous top internet service providers. At, she brings clarity to the broadband world, especially new technologies, digital opportunity, and fiber infrastructure. She is an avid reader of Fierce Telecom and likes to speculate about A.I. over a good craft beer.
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