Exactly one year ago, on November 6th, 2008, I was siting in the audience at the Web 2.0 Summit when AT&T Mobility President Ralph De La Vega shared good news from the stage: The company would “soon” be permitting iPhone users to tether their phones for use. I assumed he was a reliable source and blogged the glad tidings.
I also assumed that “soon” meant a matter of weeks or a month or two, so it was startling when Apple announced that iPhone OS 3.0 would support tethering seven months later and named 22 carriers who would be ready on day of launch–and AT&T was not among them. The carrier merely said that it would support tethering at some unspecified date–which turned out not to be early August. Most recently it’s said that it needs to upgrade its network and that “We expect to offer tethering in the future,” which falls short of a promise that it will ever do so.
All along, of course, some folks have tethered their iPhones via hacks, software that runs only on jailbroken iPhones, and even a program that was very briefly available on Apple’s App Store. But they’ve risked the wrath of AT&T, since tethering violates the carrier’s current terms of service.
As far as I know, nobody at AT&T has publicly explained what its president was doing whipping up excitement for tethering when allowing it without time-consuming infrastructure improvements would have been imprudent. But it seems likely that it now wants to go to extreme measures not to get anyone’s hopes up until it’s absolutely, positively sure that tethering is ready to go. I hope that day comes soon.
But I also keep asking myself an ugly question: If the company still seems to be having trouble dealing with the quantity of data being consumed by iPhone users who can’t tether, what does that say about the chances that it’ll allow them to hog even more bandwidth via their laptops anytime soon?