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How to troubleshoot when a hotspot is not working on Android

Troubleshooting mobile hotspots on Android devices requires IT to put in the documentation, training and practices to best help remote and hybrid users.

When home internet problems strike, a mobile hotspot can work as an easy fix, so admins and users must know how to troubleshoot any issues with this backup option.

With the use of mobile hotspots, Android devices can serve as a network hub providing internet connectivity to other devices, which is helpful for remote and hybrid workers who need a backup connectivity option or an option during travel. However, all the variations that come from carrier customizations and OS versions can make it more difficult to support Android users.

Challenges for supporting Android remote work hotspots

Supporting Android device hotspots can present some challenges from both a technical and a security standpoint. IT administrators should understand the problems that sometimes come with mobile hotspots and how they can cause performance issues.

Compatibility with different Android versions

The Android OS is available on several different smartphones and tablets from several OEMs, and that can be both a strength and a weakness for the operating system. The large OEM ecosystem running different OS versions can make it challenging to support hotspots, primarily for organizations that have a BYOD program. Compatibility issues show up as dropped connections and slow speeds.

Security risks

Android hotspots can pose a significant security risk to hybrid and remote workforces, as they might expose the connected device to unauthorized access. For example, an attacker could intercept sensitive data that a user transmits over their Wi-Fi hotspot. Hackers could also use the hotspot to launch attacks against other devices on the network.

Android hotspots can pose a significant security risk to hybrid and remote workforces, as they might expose the connected device to unauthorized access.

Bandwidth limitations

Hotspot connectivity is meant for situational internet access, not as a full-time substitute for an internet connection. Like iPhone hotspots, Android devices have limited bandwidth for hotspot use. The ideal hotspot use case for end users is to send a last email or Slack message telling their coworkers that they've lost power or their internet is down.

Bandwidth limitations mean slow speeds or dropped connections when a user connects multiple devices to an Android hotspot. Poor network coverage or high demand for data usage also contribute to bandwidth issues.

Battery drain

Using an Android device as a hotspot can quickly drain the battery, especially if users turn it on for extended periods or connect multiple devices to it. Battery drain can significantly limit the usefulness of the hotspot for users who need to rely on their device for other functions.

End-user education

Many users might not be aware of the security risks associated with using an Android hotspot. They also might not know how to secure their device and network properly. This lack of awareness can lead to the inadvertent exposure of sensitive information or the unintentional sharing of the hotspot with unauthorized users.

The other user training element to consider is the costs associated with hotspot data usage. A BYOD user resorting to their Android device hotspot for business connectivity could easily blow through their personal account's data allotment, leading to an unexpectedly high bill from their carrier. Such a high charge might exceed their corporate cellphone or BYOD expense allotment if not planned correctly. Users with an Android hotspot on their corporate-issued phone will need training on corporate hotspot usage policies, managing cellular data and troubleshooting.

Walking a user through fixing their Android smartphone hotspot

Troubleshooting an Android smartphone hotspot can be tricky for service desks and end users. Creating troubleshooting documentation for the service desk and even providing end users with basic hotspot training is worth the extra time to help save the productivity of remote and hybrid workers. Service desk teams should start with their carrier's troubleshooting documentation for reliable instructions.

When dealing with an unexpected Android hotspot issue, there are a few steps that IT admins and users can follow that will typically fix the problem.

Check for compatibility and availability

Verify that the device trying to connect to the hotspot is compatible with the Android device's hotspot feature. Some older devices might not be compatible with newer hotspot features.

Not every Android device is set up to use a mobile hotspot. For example, Samsung devices require users to have a tethering plan on their account. While an organization might deploy Samsung devices to its employees, it's possible that not every employee's device will have a tethering plan. The IT department can set up a policy in its mobile device management (MDM) platform and turn hotspots on. In contrast, BYOD users who want to use a mobile hotspot for work will have to pay extra for their tethering plan, which could potentially exceed the remote work reimbursement from their employer.

Android device hotspot usage and availability should be a discussion point for any BYOD initiative to ensure that employee devices meet the requirements for running a hotspot.

Check network settings

Check the network settings on the device that's attempting to connect to the hotspot. Ensure the device is set to connect to a Wi-Fi network and that the hotspot is listed as an available network.

Samsung and Google both provide documentation for checking network settings on their devices.

Verify standard Android device settings

Sometimes it's the simplest of settings that cause trouble regarding mobile devices. IT should walk users through checking and adjusting some standard device settings, including the following:

  • Verify mobile data is enabled and ensure healthy network coverage bars are at the top.
  • Turn off power saver mode on the user's device.
  • Turn off data saver mode.
  • Disable the device's VPN.
  • Set a higher data limit for the user's device.
  • Change to a different Wi-Fi band.

Reset network settings

The process to reset network settings on an Android device is another example of why supporting Android devices can be challenging. There can be variations between vendors and mobile carriers for the steps a user must follow to erase all saved Wi-Fi passwords, VPNs and Bluetooth pairings, so consulting the appropriate phone carrier's documentation is a good place to start.

A diagram showing reasons to update software.
Outdated software is one possible cause of network issues.

Update the OS and software

Ensure the Android device's software is up to date, as outdated software can cause issues with the hotspot. It's important to note that major Android OS updates sometimes depend on the mobile carrier to push out to their customers. Likewise, medium- to large-sized organizations using an MDM platform will often orchestrate OS updates to their devices under management.

As with checking or resetting network settings, users should look for documentation from their carrier to find the best way to update their device.

Simply turning off the hotspot and restarting the Android device can also resolve minor software glitches that could be affecting it.

Contact customer support

If the above steps do not resolve the issue, it's time to contact the device's customer support for further assistance. Corporate users need an escalation path for resolving issues, starting with their organization's service. Often, it makes more sense to have service desk technicians communicate with the carrier, but this depends on the organization's relationship with its mobile carrier. If an organization contracts with a third-party mobile MSP, then most likely, user issue escalation starts and ends with them.

Supporting Android users who need to use hotspots as part of their jobs requires a bit of strategy and preparation to ensure that the service desk or other support staff have the knowledge and access to troubleshooting documentation to ensure they can help remote and hybrid workers with ease. It's also important to prepare users with some basic Android troubleshooting so they can better communicate with technical support and, better yet, resolve mobile hotspot issues on their own.

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