iPhone Tethering on AT&T: One Year and Counting

By  |  Friday, November 6, 2009 at 6:24 pm

iPhone CalendarExactly 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?

 
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7 Comments For This Post

  1. Steven Fisher Says:

    We’ve had free tethering in Canada on Fido and Rogers since the iPhone came out. Fido and Rogers don’t have a very strong network. The world, oddly enough, has not collapsed.

    Though I suppose that doesn’t rule out AT&T doing so.

  2. Victor Amuso Says:

    Nice post!. I think your closing point says it all. So many people including myself have been begging for tethering, that if/when released the network would become so saturated frustration would go through the roof. This may be one of those instances where we should be careful for what we wish for. Down here in Tampa, service is not so bad, however I have read that up in Chicago it’s hard to make it through a call without getting dropped. The worst part is, if we wanted to get an Air Card from AT&T, not only do we have to pay $60 a month, plus buy the hardware, we have to sign a two year contract. The should have a special contingency for those who have iPhones, that if/when tethering ever comes out we could convert to the “iPhone Tethering Plan.”

  3. Eli Bensky Says:

    Getting old means I can remember when AT&T was a first class company. Now, if it made major improvements, it would become a fifth rate company. Third World countries have better phone service

  4. Hal Feldman Says:

    Isn’t the issue obvious?

    The AT&T network is being CRUSHED by users trying to use the 3G network on their iPhones. The service simply sucks!

    Even a lying and cheating company such as AT&T won’t take the next steps to destroy their already horrid reputation by adding more demand to the anemic 3G network.

    Don’t hold your breath for tethering. Instead, start calling AT&T and ask why you should be paying full price for 3G phone service where a 20% dropped call rate is “within spec”. What a joke!

  5. Thomas Says:

    @vamuso- No you don’t have to sign a two-year contract, you just pay full price. Why does everyone only think of the two-year contract price? Come on people, use your brain!

  6. captain Says:

    AT&T still thinks they are #1. Fall fast down the Stats. If u want to Tether ur iphone and can’t. here is a solution use addition’s ipone modem 3 on their website. Cost $10 to Purchase. works Great.

  7. Victor Amuso Says:

    @Thomas, Actually the rep at the AT&T store and over the phone told me a two year contract is the only option. You may have heard differently, but this is just what they told me when I tried to go in and get service.

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