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Does a VPN work on mobile data?


VPNs can be used across a wide range of devices, whether it be on a desktop or mobile/tablet setting. A VPN for mobile is preferred among many users. Needless to say, you can use a VPN on mobile data and get the same level of protection as when using wifi.

However, using a VPN when connected to mobile data has some drawbacks. It can eat up to 20% more of your mobile data than standard browsing, and sometimes even more. Therefore, a VPN cannot be used to bypass data caps.

Using a VPN on mobile data does come with certain advantages, for example, it allows you to bypass ISP throttling, keeps you safe online, and masks your browsing history from your ISP – all of this when away from home. But how does it work exactly?

How does a VPN work on mobile data?

A VPN for mobile data works just as it would on WiFi. When using a VPN on any device, all of your internet traffic is routed through a virtual encrypted tunnel.

A VPN tunnel connects your smartphone, tablet, computer, or laptop to a VPN server and assigns you a new IP address. Thus, all the data you generate while web browsing is encrypted.

By connecting to websites through a VPN tunnel and not directly, you can stay invisible to your ISP provider, government bodies, and hackers who may be trying to view your online activity.

Using a VPN on mobile data means you are anonymous when browsing the internet. A VPN will hide your real IP address, and all your information will be much more secure. You will also be able to access content that is usually geo-restricted to a specific location.

Should I use a VPN for mobile data?

Whether you should use a VPN for mobile data depends on what you'll be using your mobile device for.

If you value privacy and want to keep your ISP from viewing your online activity, then a VPN is perfect for you. Your ISP may collect your data and sell it to third parties if you are not protected by a VPN.

A VPN will help you bypass ISP throttling, which is when your internet service provider limits your speed. They do this to regulate network traffic and clear up network congestion. ISPs can also throttle users when they reach a data usage limit within a fixed period.

Another issue is that, although the mobile connection is encrypted, your phone service provider will be able to record, sell, and even use your browsing history for its purposes. A VPN can defend you against this.

If you’re working when travelling and you use your phone as a dedicated hotspot, or you’re simply accessing work files – using a VPN can help keep this information safe, so no hackers can snoop on your files.

But what VPNs offer the best security, fastest connection speeds, and lowest VPN overheads? Continue reading to find out.

Best VPNs for mobile data

  1. NordVPN – the best VPN for mobile data
  2. Surfshark – the fastest mobile data VPN
  3. Atlas VPN – the best freemium VPN to use with mobile data

We tested dozens of different providers to find the very best VPN for you. We compared their security features, number of servers, connection speed, price, and VPN protocols. Here are the best mobile data VPNs:

1. NordVPN – the overall best VPN for mobile data

NordVPN banner
Based in:Panama
Servers/countries:5500+ servers in 60+ countries
Unblocks Netflix:Yes
Current deal:🔥Get NordVPN with 63% OFF🔥

NordVPN is the best VPN for mobile data. It has outstanding speeds thanks to the NordLynx protocol, great content unblocking capabilities, and some clever privacy-focused features.

NordVPN has an easy-to-use interface with everything neatly organized and easily accessible at your fingertips. The app itself has a useful quick connect widget that provides speedy access to information such as the nearest server's location, availability, load percentage, and other important details.

In terms of features, NordVPN has quite a few of them, including Threat Protection, which blocks ads, malicious websites, and trackers. Also, if you value privacy, you’ll be delighted to know that NordVPN has a built-in kill switch that will disable your Internet access in case your VPN connection unexpectedly drops.

Due to NordVPN’s SmartPlay technology and 5500 servers in 60 countries, you can access geo-blocked content from all over the world. This means accessing a huge range of streaming services that are only available in specific locations.

Another unique feature developed by NordVPN is Meshnet. This feature is for accessing other devices over encrypted private tunnels. However, instead of connecting you to a VPN server, Meshnet connects you to other devices directly, no matter where in the world they are. It’s a super useful feature for gamers, file-sharing, and working securely.

NordVPN also offers up to 6 simultaneous connections. This means that your phone, tablet, laptop, and even smartwatch can be safe and secure at the same time.

As for support, NordVPN’s customer support agents are available via 24/7 live chat and email. There is also an extensive knowledge and FAQ center.

The prices for NordVPN start at $3.49, and there is also a 7-day free trial. If you change your mind later, you can use the 30-day money-back guarantee, too.

For more information, read our detailed NordVPN review.

2. Surfshark – the best mobile VPN with unlimited connections

Surfshark banner
Based in:The Netherlands
Servers/countries:3200+ servers in 100+ countries
Unblocks Netflix:Yes
Current deal:🔥Get 82% OFF Surfshark + 2 months FREE🔥

Surfshark is a highly effective and fast VPN that competes with the finest premium services. It’s an ideal VPN for use on mobile data given its large number of servers and security features. Even better, it’s also one of the most affordable VPNs out there.

In terms of security, ​an integrated ad blocker, malware and tracker blocker, and Multi-Hop are also available. These help you stay safe and browse securely without annoying ads or pop-ups ruining your experience.

Additionally, with over 3200 servers spread across 100 countries and all continents (except for Antarctica), you can freely use the VPN on multiple devices with unlimited simultaneous connections.

When it comes to ease of use, both more tech-savvy individuals and new VPN users will find Surfshark to be very easy to navigate. This is thanks to its simple design and user-friendly interface.

Surfshark has a fantastic support service who are always on hand to help you via a 24/7 live chat and email. There is also a knowledge base full of guides and tutorials.

Surfhsark’s prices start at $2.30. You can also use the 7-day free trial, and if you decide that this VPN is not for you, there is a 30-day money-back guarantee as well.

To find more information, read our detailed Surfshark review.

3. Atlas VPN – the best free VPN for mobile data

Atlas VPN banner
Based in:The USA
Servers/countries:750+ servers in 38+ countries
Unblocks Netflix:Yes
Current deal:🔥Get Atlas VPN, now 81% OFF!🔥

Atlas VPN provides excellent streaming speeds using WireGuard, unblocks everything you could possibly need, and keeps the pricing affordable. It is a great mobile data VPN.

In terms of security features, Atlas VPN has few. They include the SafeSwap feature, which enhances your anonymity by routinely changing your IP address even when you're connected to the same server. Additionally, a kill switch protects your data from leaking if the VPN suddenly disconnects.

If you’re looking to use a VPN primarily on mobile data, then AtlasVPN is a good option. For instance, there are apps for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and even Linux. You can use the service on as many of your own devices as you need because there are no simultaneous connection limitations.

The support team at Atlas VPN advertises a 24-hour response time, however, as of right now, there is only email contact available. Fortunately, there is a pretty resourceful knowledge center that may have the answers you need.

AtlasVPN is also one of the best freemium VPNs out there, so you can easily test out the service with Atlas VPN's free, no-registration-needed plan, but there are some limitations. For example, the data allowance is only 5GB per month. If you need more than that, consider upgrading to a paid plan.

Additionally, Los Angeles, New York, and Amsterdam are the only locations available for free users. The free plan also doesn’t include email or live chat support, streaming-optimized servers, or the more sophisticated features and extras.

The pricing for AtlasVPN paid version starts at $2.05, and there is also a 30-day money-back guarantee. Thus, if you later decide you don’t like it anymore, you can get your money returned.

To find more information, read our detailed AtlasVPN review.

Does a VPN on mobile data work differently?

No, a VPN works with mobile data the same as with Wi-Fi or cable. In fact, it is irrelevant what kind of connection you use – mobile data simply uses a slightly different method of transmitting data than cable or Wi-Fi. Nevertheless, this doesn’t change how a VPN works and doesn’t affect the overall performance and functionality.

Does a VPN use mobile data?

Yes, VPNs use your mobile data. Consider how a VPN operates – it mimics a physical connection between two devices (your phone and the VPN server) over the internet. A VPN gains access to the internet through your ISP (aka your mobile carrier or telecom), which provides you with mobile data.

So, when using a VPN, your ISP will still be able to monitor your mobile data usage. This means that a VPN won’t help bypass data caps or grant you unlimited mobile data.

How to reduce VPN data usage on mobiles?

VPNs tend to use up more data, sometimes up to 20% more. However, there are some simple solutions you can try to reduce VPN data usage on your mobile.

Choose a protocol that uses less data

One way to limit a VPN’s usage of mobile data is to choose a suitable VPN protocol.

In the table below, the data usage highlights how much of your mobile data the specific VPN protocol uses. The level of security refers to the safety offered by each protocol. What you ideally want is a low level of data usage with the highest level of security.

VPN ProtocolData UsageLevel of Security
128-bit PPTPLowLow
128-bit L2TP/IPSecLowLow
128-bit OpenVPNLowModerate
128-bit Stealth OpenVPNHighModerate
256-bit L2TP/IPSecModerateHigh
256-bit OpenVPNModerateHigh
256-bit Stealth OpenVPNHighHigh

Use a VPN only when you need it

You don’t have to be connected to a VPN every time you use the internet. Reserve it for such occasions as using public Wi-Fi, unblocking Geo-restricted content, or accessing work accounts.

Use split tunneling

Split tunneling reduces bandwidth, boosts speeds, and reduces the amount of data used by allowing users to direct some of their traffic to the VPN and some directly to open networks.

Usually, enabling split tunneling is very simple. All you have to do is choose split tunneling in your VPN's settings. From there, you can choose which individual apps or URLs you want to route through a VPN tunnel.

Connect to the closest server

When in doubt about which server to choose, go for the one closest to you, as your data will have less space to travel and therefore will use less bandwidth.

Of course, if you’re trying to access geo-blocked content, you will need to connect to a server in whichever country you need. The further away this is, the more cellular data you are likely to use.

Avoid free VPNs

Free VPNs are often very tempting given that you don’t need to reach into your pockets and spend any of your hard-earned money.

Sadly, there is often a catch. Many free VPNs can be traced back to malicious hacks, scams, and data leaks, the very thing they swore to protect you from! They often don’t offer any security features to keep you safe.

They also come jam-packed with ads that will use up a ton of mobile data, thus rendering them pretty useless.

We recommend sticking to paid providers for a completely ad-free experience. With annual plans costing as little as $2 a month, and a plethora of security features, fast speeds and no caps - they’re the smart choice for VPNs.

4.9 /5
Special deal
-63% OFF
4.7 /5
Special deal
-82% OFF
4.6 /5
Special deal
-81% OFF

Conclusion

Now that we've established how a VPN uses cellular data, be sure to minimize your data usage using our tips and tricks.

And if you’re looking for a VPN to use on mobile data, NordVPN is objectively the best choice. It has excellent mobile apps, tons of useful security features, and very affordable pricing plans.

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