I have a T-mobile phone (wi-if enabled calling, unlocked, etc.) and am on their plan for international unlimited data and text. However, we will be staying at a place for three weeks in Switzerland that does not have wi-fi. I would like to use my phone to create a hotspot so I can use wi-fi on my ipad. I am concerned that the cell service will be too slow. T-Mobile has an “international plus” plan for $25/month that I can add to my plan (this plan increases data speeds, among other things). This costs $25 per month currently. Would I be better off renting one of those mobile hotspot wi-if units when I get to Switzerland? Anyone had any experience in this regard. Thank you
I used T-Mobile in 2015 and 2016 in Europe, with my Android phones, and I used my phone's hotspot quite a lot for my laptop when there was no WiFi (like on a train). I did have a few issues with it - I am a techy guy so managed to make my hotspot work to my satisfaction. (For some reason, I had to connect to my laptop to my home VPN to be able to access anything, in many cases.)
I would assume you can use your phone as a hotspot but be prepared with a backup solution in case it doesn't.
A few things to consider:
- If the place in Switzerland doesn't have mobile reception at all, no solution is going to work (those "mobile hotspots" use cell networks too).
- The speed of your connection may depend on several things. One is on your phone. If you have a phone that can use all of the fast European data networks, you may connect a lot faster than if not. What I mean is: a phone that is 4GLTE in the US may only connect to 2G "edge" networks in Europe. Depends on the make/model of your phone.
- Your T-Mobile phone will always connect to the fastest network it can find ( like LTE, 3G, etc.) But T-Mobile does "throttle" their mobile data to 2G speeds for their unlimited international roaming, but unless you are streaming video, I have found it rarely matters. I used hotspot extensively with this "2G throttling" and barely noticed a speed issue. In 2015, I had one of those phones that was fast in the US but only 2G in Europe, so it was very very slow in a way that had nothing to do with T-Mobile. For 2016, I had a European phone that had LTE connections almost everywhere, so the speed was way faster and very usable - like night and day from 2015.
- Buying a "data pass" with T-Mobile means it doesn't "throttle" the speed as much - maybe only to 3G instead of the slow 2G speeds. But, you still need to make sure your phone has the fast frequencies. If your phone connects to 2G "edge" networks only, like mine did in 2015, buying a data pass will change nothing and be a waste of money.
Because your phone is unlocked, you can always buy a Swiss SIM (one that supports tethering/hotspot) and use that if T-Mobile is too slow or you can't connect to one of their roaming partners where you are staying. I'd try to do that instead of renting one of those expensive WiFi hotspots. The only downside of buying a SIM is that you would lose the ability to make/receive calls and texts on your T-Mobile number (find out if there's a way to retrieve texts without your T-Mobile SIM in place; you can always call your own phone number to check voicemail from another phone). If you want to make calls to the US, install Google Hangouts (and also the Hangouts Dialer app if you have an Android) to make free calls to US numbers, even to landlines - and also to call your T-Mobile number to check voicemail once in a while. You can also use free texting apps like WhatsApp.