From hotspots built into smartphones, to dedicated hotspot devices, mobile hotspots are everywhere. Mobile hotspots are incredibly convenient, providing internet access just about anywhere you can get a cell phone signal. From road warriors to rural homesteaders lacking access to traditional broadband, mobile hotspots help to fill in a void. In todays ultra connected, always on society, we expect high speed internet to be available at our fingertips. With the rise of mobile hotspot technology, we have seen the rise of gaming using mobile hotspots. Mobile hotspots pose a few specific challenges to gamers on platforms including Xbox.
Gaming using a mobile hotspot is generally not recommended as performance can be inconsistent. However, when properly configured, mobile hotspots can be used to play online games via Xbox Live with acceptable results. Here are the steps you should follow if you want to use your mobile hotspot for gaming.
Run a Speed Test on Your Smartphone
A mobile hotspot connection is only as good as your cellular data connection. Run a speed test on your smartphone using your favorite speed test app. Xbox Live gaming does not require a really fast connection and anything 5 Mbps or higher will be plenty. Of course if your cellular connection is unstable you will have issues. Running a speed test is the first step to see if a mobile hotspot will work for gaming on Xbox at your current location.
When it comes to cellular performance, location is paramount. Small changes in position can have drastic effects on performance. If you run a speed test and your speeds are lower than 3 Mbps, try locating your hotspot device or smartphone closer to a windows. This can sometimes make a huge difference.
If you are unable to get a stable cellular connection, you will have difficulty connecting to Xbox Live. If your connection is stable and delivering at least 5 Mbps in both directions, you will likely be able to connect to Xbox Live with reasonable performance.
Turn On Your Hotspot and Connect Your Xbox
Turn on your mobile hotspot first. If it is not turned on it will not show up on your Xbox and you will not be able to connect. The following instructions apply to the Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, Xbox One X, Xbox One S, and Xbox One.
- On your Xbox, open up your network settings.
- Navigate to your Wi-Fi settings menu and choose to set up a new connection.
- Select your mobile hotspot from the list of available wireless networks.
- Connect to the wireless network.
- Use the automatic settings, you do not need to manually specify DNS settings or proxy servers.
Test Your Network Speed and Nat Type On Your Xbox
Test your network speed on your Xbox. If you are getting 3 Mbps or higher download and upload speed you are in good shape. The latency is the most important number here. If your latency is less than 85 ms you will likely have no major issues. Some games are playable with a latency as high as 120 ms, but games with fast motion including first person shooters benefit greatly from a lower latency (ping).
Next you will want to test your NAT type. In most cases you will get a strict NAT type when using a mobile hotspot. This is due to the way that cellular carriers operate their networks. Most cellular carriers use a technology know as carrier grade NAT (CGNAT). Your mobile hotspot acts as a secondary NAT device. When you have two devices performing NAT connected to each other you will almost always get a strict NAT type.
For some gamers this not an issue. Other gamers really want to get an open NAT type. The best way to get an open NAT type when using a mobile hotspot is using a VPN service. This does not work in all cases but it is one of the few methods that is capable of getting getting you an open NAT type on a cellular network.
The VPN I personally use and recommend is ExpressVPN. They are optimized for performance and offer servers in many countries. If you want to try ExpressVPN they offer a 30 day full money back guarantee. If the service doesn’t work out for you, you do not pay.
Start Gaming On Your Xbox Using Your Mobile Hotspot
At this point your setup should be complete. Start gaming using your hotspot. If your signal is good, and the cellular network is not overcapacity, you should have a decent gaming experience. If the cell phone tower you are connecting to is overcrowded you will likely experience ping spikes. Unfortunately there is nothing you can do about this issue. This is the harsh reality when it comes to using a mobile hotspot for gaming. Mobile hotspots are hit or miss for gaming performance and this can change from minute to minute.
If you are traveling and want to use your Xbox online without using public Wi-Fi, a mobile hotspot is a viable option. A mobile hotspot can offer a decent gaming experience but you will have to set your expectations accordingly. A mobile hotspot is not a suitable replacement for a high speed cable or fiber internet connection.
Mobile Hotspot Gaming FAQ
Most games use about 200 MB of data per hour of gameplay. This means that a 15 GB hotspot plan is good for about 75 hours of online multiplayer gaming per month. Of course this assumes you do not download any updates or other content using your hotspot.
Most games use about 200 MB of data per hour of gameplay. This means that a 10 GB hotspot plan is good for about 50 hours of online gaming monthly. This applies only if you do not download any updates or other content using your hotspot.
Most modern games use roughly 200 MB of data per hour. A 20 GB hotspot plan is good for about 100 hours of online gaming per month. This assumes that you don’t download any updates or other content using your hotspot. A single update could use all of your data.
Yes you can, assuming that your cell phone plan includes mobile hotspot data. Using a mobile hotspot for gaming can be a great option when traveling. Often times a mobile hotspot offers a more stable connection than using public Wi-Fi. For gaming, stability is more important than raw speed.
Xbox Live uses roughly 200 MB of data per hour for most games. A 5 hour gaming session uses roughly 1 GB of data. If you download updates using your hotspot you will chew through your data fast. Most hotspot plans are limited to 20 GB or less per month.
Yes, the Xbox Series X works with mobile hotspots. Using a mobile hotspot for gaming is a viable option when traveling. Generally using a mobile hotspot on your Xbox Series X results in higher latency than using a cable or fiber based broadband internet connection.
Generally your NAT type will be strict when using a mobile hotspot. Using a quality VPN service is the simplest way to get an open NAT type when using a mobile hotspot. ExpressVPN is a great option for gaming as it offers lightning fast performance at an affordable price.