Q. You wrote recently that you didn’t need a cable or satellite TV box to use a Smart TV. But how about an Internet modem box? Do you need that? Or could you use a Smart TV with a data plan and a hot spot from a smart phone? — Tammy, Plano, Texas.
Tammy, as you know, you need an Internet connection to stream Netflix, Hulu or any other streaming service on a Smart TV , or some other device that offers streaming services, such as a Blu-ray player or Smart TV player such as Roku or Amazon Fire TV.
Many mobile phones and tablets can run on 3G, 4G, LTE or other Internet plans — and, yes, you could create a Hotspot from your mobile device to create a wireless Internet network in your home. For instance, your spouse and kids could access your Hotspot to surf the Net on your Smart TV. (Consult the settings of your mobile to learn how to create a Hotspot.)
Most Hotspots have data limits, and if you go over the data limit — which I guarantee you will if you start binge viewing — you will pay a fortune in overage charges.
But the Hotspot with an unlimited data plan could be a great alternative to buying an expensive Internet service from a cable or telco company.
But before you go and set one up using an unlimited data plan, here are a few cautions:
1. Yes, you can stream Netflix, or your other favorite streaming services, without fear of overages. But some unlimited plans come with a feature that will reduce the resolution of the picture once you start using a large amount of data. If you care about picture quality, this could be a real annoyance.
2. Some Hotspots on mobile devices are not compatible with Smart TVs. The TV may detect the Hotspot connection, but you may not be able to actually connect to it to stream.
Before buying a long-term Hotspot plan, make sure your connected TV will be able to pick up the signal. I would suggest trying to get a free trial from your mobile service, or just buying the first month of service to test it out.
So, bottom line, the Hotspot with an unlimited plan removes the worry of excessive monthly charges — and eliminates the need for an expensive Internet plan from your local cable or telco company. But there’s no guarantee it will work to your satisfaction, or at all. Again, before buying a long-term plan, give the the Hotspot a spin in your home for a few days.
Have a question about new TV technologies? Send it to The TV Answer Man at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your first name and hometown in your message.
— Phillip Swann