AT&T announces a tether option...

It’s been announced that AT&T is going to release a tethering program for the iPhone. Tethering, for those of you who haven’t used it, is the process of using a cellphone as a wireless modem. On my previous phone, I used it a few times, most recently to watch the final presidential debate during our move, since we didn’t have cable or internet at the time. It was a little slow, but sufficient to allow us to watch a live stream of the debate on my computer.

Anyway, AT&T is going to be releasing a tethering client for the iPhone, sometime soon. However, the rumor is that they’re going to charge thirty dollars a month for the service.

Now, data is data. Tethered data going to your computer is exactly the same as normal data being used on your phone. Other phones are able to tether for free. We’re already being charged out the yang for text messages, which is also data. Thirty bucks a month for a program which is free on other phones, and which most users will only use a few times, seems… excessive.

Previously, a tether program was available on the App Store, and it worked great- until iTunes removed it. I wish I’d grabbed it when it was available.

Of course, a “jailbroken” iPhone can tether for free… and isn’t under the draconian AT&T thumb. Doesn’t this proposal simply inspire more users to jailbreak their phone? Why should tethered data be more expensive than normal data- except “because they can”?

It’s free on other phones? The article that I read about this plan said it was the same cost as tethering on the Blackberry.

Yeah, my wife’s HTC 8525 Smartphone has a tether program which we don’t have to pay for. I think the general wisdom is that as long as you don’t go over some hidden maximum data amount (something like 5gb/month) or use it excessively, you’re fine.

The understanding that I have gathered from another message board devoted to such things is that tethering is not free for Verizon Wireless (my provider) customers, either.

The explictly-permitted-under-the-contract way for a Verizon customer to tether is with a plan which costs about $30/month, and to download Verizon’s tethering software to their computer. (I believe the actual costs depends on one’s data plan, but the two together - data + tether - will in all cases add up to $60/month.)

The unauthorized way is to download a third-party tethering program and do it without Verizon’s knowledge. Technically possible, but specifically in violation of the contract.

“So what if they don’t know about it, right?” People on that message board reported the higher data usages that usually result from tethering being noticed by Verizon, and them being contacted about it & their usage being examined more closely. If they become convinced that you’re tethering without their permission, you can Get In Trouble of some sort (not sure what).

I’m thinking like Slacker: Who provides it for free? AT&T’s plan sounds pretty much like Verizon’s in terms of cost.

Well, now that I think about it, I don’t know if the contract I agreed to specifically disallows tethering or not- I don’t have it in front of me. The OS that I downloaded from AT&T, however, included a tether program- and there were no warnings that use of that software would be against the terms of that contract.

But my point still stands, however- tether data is exactly the same as normal data. As long as one doesn’t go over the data limit (which seems a bit silly, as the plan I agreed to specified “unlimited data”, I can’t see that they have a good argument to keep me from doing so.

I think that, here in the US, we allow the wireless phone companies a very one-sided negotiating position. Tether data is normal data is text data- the only reason they are allowed to charge us so much for it is that we don’t have a choice in the matter- it’s not as though we can choose another provider, as they all have roughly the same rates… and, of course, we’re locked into multi-year contracts which they are able to unilaterally change whenever they want.

Over on the AT&T forums, I was just warned (and threatened with a ban) for wondering why a “legal” iPhone has to pay for tethering, while a jailbroken iPhone can do it for free. Granted, their forums, their rules- but I think it really speaks volumes about their business model.

Let me preface this by saying I do not work for AT&T but I do work for a smaller regional carrier.

The statement that tether data is exactly the same as normal data is just not correct. When the carrier prices the unlimited data plan for a handheld devide, they have a very good idea of how much data the device can consume in a month’s time. When it is tethered to a laptop or desktop the amount of data that is feasibly consumed is several times greater.

Granted. However, that’s already taken into account with a hard data limit… which the standard account already has. Sure, you might hit it faster by tethering… but then, you might not. In my own experience, tethering is nice every now and then, but I get faster throughput using my own wifi.

In the past, I’ve primarily used it when my network has gone down- not often enough to justify $30/month. Charging that much just means that someone like me, who would use it very occasionally, will *never *use it.