Mobile hotspots can be a helpful home internet alternative when working remotely, and users must know what to do when this option isn't performing properly.
With its Personal Hotspot feature, the iPhone offers remote and hybrid workers added flexibility for internet connectivity or a handy backup when their home internet goes out. There are times when one might find their Personal Hotspot not working. Most workers don't use their iPhone as a mobile hotspot full-time -- they pull it out when their home internet goes out or public Wi-Fi is inaccessible. When iPhone hotspot issues strike, it's important to resolve them quickly so users can get back to being productive.
The iPhone as a network hub
An iPhone can become a network hub if a user sets it up as a Personal Hotspot. Implementing a hotspot lets other devices connect to an iPhone and use its cellular data connection to access the internet. With a corporate-owned device, a user must ensure their organization has enabled the feature on the iPhone. In the case of a personal device, a user must check their carrier plan. Examples of hotspot policies in popular carrier plans include the following:
- Some Verizon plans require an additional fee to use the personal hotspot feature.
- AT&T and T-Mobile both allow hotspot usage on many of their plans, but might throttle data speed after a certain usage threshold.
To set up a Personal Hotspot, go to Settings > Personal Hotspot, and turn it on. It's then possible to connect other devices to the iPhone's hotspot by selecting it from the list of available Wi-Fi networks and entering the password, if required, from the desired laptop or tablet.
Using an iPhone with unlimited data as a network hub can save money, as a user can avoid paying for a separate data plan for another device. This benefit pertains to personal users. Typically, corporate iPhones will still draw mobile data from their organization's data allowance.
There are some limitations to using a mobile hotspot. There's limited data, so it's easy for an employee's device to blow through their data allotment if they need to suddenly depend on their iPhone hotspot for connectivity. There are things an organization can do on the mobile device management (MDM) side to prevent this from happening, but that requires some planning upfront. In the case of BYOD endpoints, it's easy for employees to go over their data plan's limit, incurring additional charges and reducing their mobile data speed. IT administrators should tailor their organization's BYOD policy to include their corporate policy on using a mobile device as a hotspot, especially if they offer employees reimbursement for mobile device usage.
Using an iPhone as a hotspot is also a sure way to drain its battery quickly, especially when using multiple devices simultaneously.
Another disadvantage is that the speed of the cellular data connection might not be as fast as even a public Wi-Fi network. Such a downgrade in internet connectivity quality only worsens as a user tethers more devices to the iPhone. This speed degradation makes the iPhone Personal Hotspot best for incidental or emergency usage.
Challenges to supporting iPhone hotspots
Mobile hotspot issues can take a remote user off the air, making it difficult for them to contact their organization's service desk for support. Of course, if they still have a cellular signal at all, they can call the service desk or use their organization's team collaboration app to get help. To get past these challenges, IT admins should ensure that their service desk has training and documentation to resolve iPhone Personal Hotspot usage. Publishing a hotspot troubleshooting guide for users is also crucial.
To avoid and identify the causes of Personal Hotspot problems, admins and users should keep the following challenges in mind.
Connectivity issues are among the most common challenges when supporting iPhone hotspots in an enterprise environment. These issues show up as inconsistent performance, slow speeds and dropped connections. Resolving connectivity issues starts with troubleshooting cellular connection problems and ensuring the hotspot is set up correctly.
Another typical connectivity issue is with the Bluetooth on devices pairing to an iPhone hotspot. Bluetooth is generally slower than Wi-Fi, making it a more unstable connection, and other nearby Bluetooth connections might also affect pairing. Outdated software is also a culprit behind pairing issues. In addition, Bluetooth connections can drain the battery from iOS and other devices more quickly.
Even with the support of MDM tools, configuration problems can affect iPhone hotspot connectivity. Ensure the iPhone hotspot has all the right settings and configurations by first verifying the hotspot is set up correctly on a user's other devices.
It's hard to escape human error when it comes to mobile devices. Typical examples of human error include a user forgetting their password or accidentally turning off the hotspot feature on their iPhone.
Fixing an iPhone hotspot
If the source of the problem isn't immediately clear or easy to fix, an admin might have to walk a user through fixing the personal hotspot. The following troubleshooting tips work with iOS 16.3.1 and later.
Check cellular data on the user's iPhone
The first thing users should do is check whether their iPhone has a cellular data connection. They can do this by opening Settings > Cellular and seeing whether cellular data is toggled on. If they can't turn cellular data on and off, they might need to contact their carrier to ensure their account is active and in good standing.
Check Personal Hotspot settings on the user's iPhone
The user should also verify their Personal Hotspot feature is turned on and that the settings are configured correctly. They can do this by going to Settings > Personal Hotspot and checking that the feature is turned on, the Wi-Fi password is set and Allow Others to Join is selected.
If a password change is necessary, instruct the user to go to Settings > Personal Hotspot > Wi-Fi Password and enter a new password. Depending on the organization's MDM and security policies, the user might not have the permissions to make this change themselves.
Restart the iPhone and connected devices
As with many IT issues, sometimes the key to resolving a hotspot problem is to turn the device off and on again. The same goes for restarting a laptop or other devices that a user has connected to their iPhone's hotspot.
Reset network settings
If the issue persists, a user can try resetting their iPhone's network settings. This can be done by going to Settings > General > Transfer or Reset iPhone > Reset. Performing these steps erases all saved Wi-Fi passwords and other network settings, so it should only be done as a last resort.
Contact carrier support
If none of the above steps work, the final escalation point is contacting the wireless carrier's support team for further assistance. With BYOD, a user calls their carrier. With corporate-owned devices, the service desk might have to contact the organization's carrier support. If the organization uses a mobility MSP, the service desk will escalate the issue to them.
The personal hotspot feature on BYOD and corporate iPhones should factor into IT support and related device strategies. IT administrators should manage this feature via MDM for their users to gain maximum benefits, minimize drawbacks and keep personal hotspot usage within budget.