Can You Use Tethering while on a VPN?

Updated on: 9 February 2020
Updated on:9 February 2020

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.

Can you use tethering with a VPN?

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.

ExpressVPN is currently the best method of creating a tethering hotspot, and our top rated VPN for Android overall.

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 ExpressVPN’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.

Unlimited tethering with a VPN

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:

  • The app must be installed on both devices, the one you’re creating the hotspot from, and the one you want to connect with
  • The PdaNet+ application on your phone establishes a connection to the PdaNet+ program on your other device, PC or otherwise
  • The computer then uses the program as its basic internet connection, while the app on the phone sends internet data through this new connection forward to your computer, proxying it
  • The new connection mirrors the protocols that your phone naturally generates, creating the illusion that the standard data APN is used and not the tethering APN
  • Not even your ISP, the mobile service provider, will be able to track this down.
  • Currently, it’s the safest and most efficient method of using unlimited tethering using a VPN

Devices to avoid when tethering with a VPN

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.

To tether or not to tether?

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.

Written by: Bogdan Patru

Author, creative writer, and tech-geek. Bogdan has followed his passion for the digital world ever since he got his hands of his first pc. After years of accumulating knowledge and experience, the good Samaritan in him whispered him one day about the virtue of sharing that knowledge with those who needed it. It was 2014 when that idea would grow into a life-defining passion. One that keeps driving him to this day.

12 thoughts on “Can You Use Tethering while on a VPN?”

  1. Spencer says:

    I appreciate your post. I just bought a Samsung galaxy j3 orbit. Does your workaround still apply?

    1. joe.r says:

      Hi Spencer, it should work. The easiest way to find out would be to check with with your VPN switched on.

      1. Bill says:

        So Joe…do you mean if when using DNS Leak Test, the ISP comes back as, say, “PDANET+”, and NOT, say, “Verizon”, that the hotspot data is being hidden from Verizon? – Thanks.

  2. Mike says:

    I want to connect to my Roku using my Blu unlocked cell phone , straight talk very seldomly,it mainly for weekends at the river camp no tv reception there..I tried it works great only used 6 g of my 25 g plan I pay for ,straight talk blew a gasket like I’m some kind of hacker for using my data…so can a VPN help me..

  3. Tim says:

    I had a galaxy s10 and had zero problems hot-spotting my roku device. Now I have an iPhone 11 and it worked the first night but not now. So if I’m reading this right I need to jailbreak my iPhone then download a vpn app on my phone and I will also need a vpn app on my roku? Can you recommend an app for me? And by the way I do have T-Mobile.

  4. Roger Reid says:

    Question: If using the PadNet program on the phone and the computer using the tethered hot spot, is it also necessary to use VPN on both devices??? (Using samson Note 8

  5. Steven Robertson says:

    PDANet is running on my phone and on my Windows PC. Phone is connected via USB to the PC. Ethernet is coming from my computer into a router. The router is then broadcasting.

    The goal is to bypass any throttling or data caps. I’m doing this to try and create better, more reliable connectivity than HughesNet sattelite services which are horrible.

    Anyone have any suggestions on the above setup? Do I need to be running a VPN anywhere? Is there a WiFi hockey puck / router that is hackable?

    1. Phil Guerra says:

      Hey Steven I am doing this now. Your setup is pretty complete make sure you click on the “Hide tether usage” on the android device. On the PC you can download and run connectify which will allow you to make the PC a hotspot as well as give a connection to it. Your PC can act as the router and no other Hardware is needed!

      1. Phil Guerra says:

        Also no additional VPN and you will keep PDA net on the PC as well. This setup has served myself and my family well. Good luck with your hotspotting endeavors!

        1. Jan V says:

          I’d like to try this as ATT removed my 10gb and gave me a basic ass unlimited plan when I removed a line from the old great unlimited plan they offered with direct tv. Now I’m stuck trying to prepay 35 for 25gb for my son to update his ps4 games. He blew through the 25gb in 30 minutes…Now im not sure what to do without going an extra $100+ for an ISP. If I get 10gb and try and mask with PC setup would that work for the massive data usage from these damn gaming systems.

  6. Gary Bhill says:

    Will this work android to android as in cell phone to nvidia shield?

  7. Lesly says:

    How can i tethering my computer using vpn on phone

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