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Library Technology – Reviews, Tips, Giveaways, Freeware

Ways to Get 3G/4G on a Wi-Fi Only iPad or Tablet

Posted In iPad, iOS devices - By Jack on Wednesday, October 5th, 2011 With No Comments »

Android tablets, iPads, and other devices are more and more becoming available in different variations. Thus, often times you can choose whether to purchase a device that is simply Wi-Fi enabled, or Wi-Fi and 3G/4G enabled. For people that travel a lot, the 3G/4G option is the obvious choice, but many consumers choose the Wi-Fi only model, simply because they are almost always within range of a Wi-Fi network. If you have a device that is Wi-Fi only, there are still several ways to connect to 3G/4G networks and get internet anywhere.

Alternatively, some devices, such as the Amazon Kindle Fire, are Wi-Fi only, at least for the time being. So, how do we use devices such as the Fire or Wi-Fi only iPad in those situations where internet connectivity is needed, but no Wi-Fi networks are in range, such as when on a road trip? There are three major ways to accomplish this.

Tether to Smartphone

Free Method

If you have a jail broken Android phone, iPhone, or other smartphone, then it can be tethered for free, using one of many available apps. If you do not have a jail broken smartphone, but would like to learn how to jailbreak your particular phone, a basic Google search for your specific phone with the term “jailbreak” should turn up plenty of results and tutorials for jail breaking.

Once you jailbreak a smartphone, iPhone for example, you can activate certain features such as Mobile Hotspot, which will turn your phone into a wireless network, which other devices can connect to in order to share the internet. Thus, a Wi-Fi only tablet or device can be tethered to a jail broken smartphone.

Paid Method

If you prefer not to jailbreak your mobile phone, which is understandable, you can always pay for the tethering service through your wireless provider. With an added monthly fee, wireless providers will unlock/activate the tethering function for smartphones. For example, iPhones ship with the function Mobile Hotspot installed and included, but wireless providers prevent you from using the function, unless you are willing to pay extra for it. This is another method that you can use to connect a Wi-Fi only device to a 3G/4G network.

Dedicated 3G/4G Devices

Most major wireless providers sell devices that act as a portable router and wireless access point. An example of this would be AT&T’s MiFi Mobile Hotspot.

These devices are standalone and require their own dedicated plan. However, because they are engineered specifically for one purpose, which is to provide 3G/4Gwireless hotspots, they are the simplest and most effective way to add 3G/4G connectivity to a Wi-Fi only device.

Tethering to Laptop

While this solution may not be the most practical for everyone, it is a way to connect to 3G/4G networks on a strictly Wi-Fi device. If you have a laptop with 3G/4G capabilities, usually through an add-on 3G/4G card, you can turn your laptop into a wireless access point, and then connect your iPad or other tablet to the access point. The main con of this method is, you must take your laptop with you whenever you want to use the 3G/4G service.

Thus, you would be commuting with a laptop and a tablet, which many people would not prefer. Using one of the other methods is probably a better recommendation, but this should not be left out as an option, as it does work.


All three of the above ways to connect a Wi-Fi only device to 3G/4G networks revolves around the same basic concept, which is hotspots. You must have another device that is capable of creating a 3G/4G mobile hotspot, which your Wi-Fi only device can connect to. For most people, smartphone tethering is probably the most practical option, because you already carry your phone with you when you go places.

With this method, you would not have to add another device, such as a dedicated 3G/4G device or laptop, to carry with you. Any other recommendations or anything we missed? Do you use tethering or a dedicated mobile hotspot device? Leave a comment!

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