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Do You Need a VPN on Cellular Networks?

Justin Oyaro

By Justin Oyaro . 2 July 2024

Cybersecurity Expert

Miklos Zoltan

Fact-Checked this

Cellular networks enable us to communicate through voice calls and SMS texts, and they offer cellular internet (mobile data).

Generally, you don’t need to use a VPN on cellular networks except when accessing the internet via mobile data.

Read on to know why it is a good idea to use a VPN on cellular networks.

Summary: The article discusses the benefits of using a VPN when connected to cellular networks.

Cellular networks support voice calls, SMS texts, and provide internet access via mobile data. However, using a VPN is crucial when browsing the internet on mobile data.

A VPN enhances security and privacy by encrypting your internet traffic and routing it through a secure tunnel and a VPN server. This encryption is particularly important for mobile data connections.

The advantages of using a VPN on cellular networks include improved internet security and privacy, the ability to bypass online restrictions and censorship, access to local content while traveling, protection against price discrimination, and more efficient use of mobile data.

Furthermore, the article provides tips on how to use a VPN effectively with cellular data and warns about the potential risks of free VPN services.

VPN on Cellular Networks

Your telecommunication provider also serves as your ISP when you access the internet via cellular networks.

Your mobile data connection is typically secure from your device to your ISP. However, once it leaves your ISP and travels across the internet to its destination, it becomes exposed to various online threats and prying eyes.

To safeguard your connection and traffic during this vulnerable transit, using a VPN is essential. A VPN provides a secure, encrypted tunnel for your internet traffic, protecting it from potential threats and ensuring your online privacy.

Benefits of Using a VPN on Cellular Networks

The benefits of using a VPN on cellular networks are realized using cellular data.

They are as follows:

1. Internet security and online privacy

A VPN secures your internet connection and traffic by encrypting and routing them through a secure tunnel via a VPN server.

The encryption ensures that no one knows what you are doing online except for the intended parties.

Besides encryption, a VPN masks your actual IP address with the chosen VPN server. This helps hide your online identity since your online activities will only be traced to the VPN server.

Using a premium VPN with a strict no-logs policy will make it harder for anyone to know what you are doing online.

2. Bypassing online restrictions and censorship

Various entities on the internet rely on IP addresses to restrict access to their services. They implement geo-restrictions based on the location identifier on your IP address.

A VPN helps you bypass geo-restrictions since you get the geolocation associated with the IP address of the VPN server you are using.

You can also use a VPN to bypass censorship and other blocks by authoritative regimes and various institutions.

These regimes restrict what users can access on the internet. Usually, they block social media, news outlets, and various websites.

Censors know what to block by filtering IP addresses, blocking various ports, and using Deep Packet Inspection (DPI), among other techniques.

When you use a VPN, the censors won’t block your traffic since they don’t know what it contains. Nonetheless, other censors may block your VPN connection.

If you realize you can’t access the internet when using a VPN, enable VPN scrambling techniques on your VPN, such as obfuscation, to hide your VPN connection.

3. Accessing local content when abroad

Other than bypassing geo-restrictions, you can use a VPN to access your local content easily when you are traveling abroad.

This is viable if your VPN has a server in your home country. A dedicated VPN IP address is a bonus, especially if you have some services that can’t accept connections from other IP addresses.

4. Avoiding price discrimination

International shopping and online booking sectors have different prices for goods and services in various regions. Some regions offer affordable prices with great discounts than others.

Various franchises, companies, and online platforms are also known to release their goods and services earlier to some select regions.

To enjoy the best deals when shopping or booking online, you need to change your geolocation, and a VPN is the best way to hassle-free geolocations.

Before you connect to your preferred VPN server, clear your browser cookies and turn off your device’s location services, such as the GPS.

You can also connect to the VPN server and then activate incognito mode on your browser.

How to Use a VPN Efficiently on Cellular Mobile Data

Telecommunication providers offer limited data plans, which are usually expensive. Additionally, some places have poor cellular reception, thus, affecting your connection’s stability.

Below are some tips on efficiently using a VPN on cellular data.

1. Select the suitable VPN protocol

VPNs usually consume some percentage of your capacity due to the encryption overhead. To save your bandwidth, you must use the correct cellular protocol.

The most preferred VPN protocol is IKEv2. This protocol offers better stability even when your device switches between cell phone towers.

If you are looking to minimize data consumption, WireGuard is the best option. It has the most negligible encryption overhead.

For reliability, go for OpenVPN TCP. However, this protocol has the most encryption overhead.

2. Enable Split Tunneling

Depending on your online tasks, you can use split-tunneling to select what traffic to protect and what goes through your ISP.

Tasks with sensitive information or activities that involve bypassing geo-restrictions should use the VPN tunnel.

Other tasks, such as updating apps, should go through your ISP. In the long run, split tunneling will help you save on some bandwidth that the encryption overhead could have used.

3. Use obfuscation/double VPN when necessary

Obfuscation and double VPN enhance your privacy, but they also increase the encryption overhead. Use these features on cellular data only when it is necessary.

4. Enable data compression

Compression optimizes pictures, texts, and other content by removing unnecessary bits and thus reducing their size.

Reduced size means the content will use less cellular data and load faster on your browser. However, you might experience low-quality images on your websites.

5. Turn off the VPN when not in use

We always recommend using a VPN anytime you go online. However, if you are using a VPN for streaming content in your region and there’s no ISP throttling, you can reduce encryption overhead by turning off your VPN.

Nonetheless, for better privacy and security, use the split tunneling feature.

6. Avoid free VPNs

Most free VPNs are not great options for protecting your online security and privacy. They log and share your data and have bandwidth caps and speed limitations.

Additionally, free VPNs consume more data since they push advertisements. Other free VPNs may reshape your traffic and ads on the websites you visit.

This will further increase cellular data consumption.

Wrap Up

A VPN is only necessary on cellular networks when you access the internet using mobile data. You will get added security and privacy, especially when dealing with sensitive and confidential information.

Frequently Asked Questions

Some people found answers to these questions helpful

Are cellular networks more secure than Wi-Fi?

Generally, cellular networks are more secure than public Wi-Fi since they reduce the attack surface. Connections between your device and the telecom provider are encrypted and authenticated. Other connected users won’t be able to spy on you.

Which VPN protocol works best with cellular networks?

The IKEv2 or IKEv2/IPSec is the best VPN protocol for accessing the internet via cellular networks. This protocol maintains excellent stability when your cellular network switches to different cell phone towers. The WireGuard protocol is also reliable.

Can I use a VPN to bypass cellular data caps?

No. A VPN can help you bypass various restrictions, including ISP throttling but not your mobile data cap. If you exhaust your mobile data, you won’t have access to the internet via cellular networks; to use a VPN, you need a working internet connection.

Does a VPN increase my cellular data consumption?

Yes. Due to the encryption overhead, a VPN will use 5% to 20% of your data, which will count against your already expensive mobile data plan. This is why most people don’t use VPNs on cellular networks.

Will a VPN protect my SMS messages on cellular networks?

No. SMS messages use a different channel on cellular networks that don’t use your mobile data. A VPN will only protect your text messages if you send them over the internet. Even so, their security and privacy will also depend on your messenger application.

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