Written by: Bogdan Patru
Tethering is the sharing of a device’s internet connection to another device, from a phone’s data connection to a laptop, for example.
The resulting connection is known as a hotspot, making the device a portable router. This hotspot and the tethering itself may be closely monitored by your mobile service provider, especially if you have unlimited data within reasonable limits.
While you might have unlimited data usage, tethering is often limited. This means that you may run actually run out of data on an unlimited plan, experience much slower connections.
If this is the case, there’s an easy solution – use a VPN to disguise your tethering.
There’s certainly nothing new about the VPNs in the digital world. They ensure your connection is safe, disguise your public IP address, and even hide your internet activity from your ISP and other prying eyes.
Yes, you can – ut you need to be using a VPN on both devices simultaneously, so make sure your VPN provider offers more than one simultaneous connections.
However, it’s not as simple as you might think.
I’ll explain why
What happens when you have a VPN running, and you tether another device to your Android phone?
Simple – the connection that your Android phone emits is encrypted and secured. This means that no one will be able to check it out or tune in to see what you’ve been doing on the world wide web.
However, does the VPN also cover your tracks by hiding your tethering usage limit? In other words, can you go over the restrictions imposed by your mobile service provider?
From what I’ve read across the forums, the answer seems to be no. The VPN on the mobile alone cannot achieve that.
The ISP will still see the tethering in progress, despite their inability to inspect the data packets that your phone sends through the VPN’s secure tunnel.
Even more, most of the users, especially those that use T-Mobile, claim that their traffic speed has been throttled excessively since using a VPN connection.
If you use NordVPN’s obfuscated servers then your phone carrier will not be able to see that you’re using a VPN. Obfuscation works as it sounds, by disguising the encrypted packets as regular internet traffic.
Phones generally use different data sources for normal data usage and tethering usage. Two APNs are dealing with this. So when you activate tethering, you will always be using the tethering APN, unless you can change that, of course.
How to do that? Well, with iPhones, you can jailbreak. Break into the phone’s underlying security protocols and bypass all the protection measures, to then change the preset APN.
With Android, things get more complicated than that.
Yes, you can achieve it.
As I’ve previously mentioned, dealing with iPhones is pretty easy. Jailbreaking is your backdoor into the device’s internal protocols, which you can then change accordingly.
With Android phones, no one’s been able to find a failproof method of doing this. If there is a way, someone will see it sooner or later.
This is precisely the case here. There is an app that you can use to hide the fact that you’re tethering. The hotspot will become invisible, and all your ISP will see you as using a standard data connection.
It’s called PdaNet+, and it can be downloaded for free from their website. It works like this:
I’ve noticed that some mobiles are more predisposed to classify your VPN as being a hotspot, thus consuming your tethering traffic.
Samsung Galaxy S8+, and S9 in many cases, as well as OnePlus, are the focal points of many flaming comments on the forums I’ve visited. Many users complain that their ISP was counting the VPN usage as hotspot traffic.
It seems as though a VPN can only encrypt the traffic and data connection on a single device alone, the one that runs the VPN.
This means that something has happened, and even though they have no definite proof that you’re tethering against the rules of your contract, they can throttle your speed without further explanation.
The conclusion is that you can create a tethering connection to another phone while using a VPN, but bypassing the tethering limits imposed by the mobile service provider requires thinking outside the box.
For iPhones – jailbreak the security protocols, but beware of the security issues that come with that.
For Android devices – the PdaNet+ app that creates a fool-proof tunneling connection which mirrors the protocols that your normal data usage APN would implement.
Be aware of the fact that T-Mobile has been known to ignore Net Neutrality, and that it can throttle your speed at the slightest suspicion of VPN tethering, and that some mobile devices are naturally more liable to be tracked.