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The timing of this news is quite ironic, but Appmodo reports that AT&T will charge $55 extra to tether an iPhone to a laptop for modem use. The irony is that I just used the service on my iPhone 3GS and we’ve had some good debate […]

iphone-internet-tetheringThe timing of this news is quite ironic, but Appmodo reports that AT&T will charge $55 extra to tether an iPhone to a laptop for modem use. The irony is that I just used the service on my iPhone 3GS and we’ve had some good debate and commentary on what, if anything, this should cost. With the adamant “$55 extra” claim, two words come immediately to my mind: no way.

Let’s think about this for a second. Folks who would likely want, need or use such a feature probably already have an idea of what 3G data plans do or should cost.

Sure there are bound to be some folks that aren’t aware of their other 3G options, so they might be out of the loop somewhat. But most potential users of an Internet Tethering plan know what Internet Tethering actually is. More importantly, they know they’re already paying for that 3G data plan as part of their monthly iPhone cost. In which case: $55 is way more than the average customer will be willing to bear. It’s also more than what the current market demands for such a service. You can already find tethering options in the $20-$30 a month range from the carriers. What’s going to make AT&T’s alleged $55 plan worth paying double for?

Aside from my thoughts on the matter, AT&T has already chimed in. They’ve debunked the $55 extra claim as far as I’m concerned with this quote from their Facebook page:

“There are a lot of reports out there, but wanted you guys to know that rumors of $55 tethering plan on top of an unlimited data plan are false. We’ll have more news to share when the iPhone tethering option is closer to launch.”

What’s far more likely is the same $20-$30 price point to tether your iPhone as a modem on AT&T’s network. Tom Reestman, writing for TheAppleBlog, makes a good point with this tweet on the topic:

“I think the figure likely includes the $30 unlimited data, so “terhering” itself is just $25-30.”

I’d agree with Tom and perhaps that’s where the $55 figure is coming from. If the iPhone data plan is $30, an additional $25 for tethering adds up to $55 total, not $55 extra.

Rick Huizinga tweeted an approach that jives with what Matt Miller said just today on our podcast:

“I hope AT&T makes tethering pay-as-you-go, metered by how much bandwidth you use.”

If we can’t have free tethering, then this is the next best way to go. In my case, I only need the 3G access from time to time, which is why I’m likely to kill my $60 monthly EVDO plan. Occasional use is what I’m looking for and I’d hate to pay for a monthly service that I only need a few days a month.

The shame of the entire situation applies to any carrier that charges extra to tether a 3G phone for modem use. The data usage takes place the same whether directly on the phone or indirectly on a tethered notebook or netbook. It’s the same pipe and shouldn’t be charged for twice simply because it’s used across two devices.

  1. yes, I think it could be 50-55$ TOTAL for the unlimited data/tethering plan. That would make a lot more sense.

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  2. cybertactix Friday, July 10, 2009

    I’m a Windows Mobile user and a big fan of tethering, but the emergence of devices like Verizon’s MiFi and what may be a trend among carriers of tying SIM cards to specific devices has me thinking about whether the way of the future might be mobile hotspot and a phone with wifi but no 3G connectivity as an economical alternative to tethering.

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  3. When I was using my Advantage and Fuze before getting iPhone, I found that I was tethering a lot of the time to get stuff done (e-mail, websurfing, facebook, blog, twitter, etc.) because the WinMo interface was too clunky. Now that I’ve switched, I find that I rarely need to go back to a PC for anything. With iPhone, I can keep on top of my e-mail easily, I can update and keep track of facebook, I can update my blog wherever I am (and can even type long blogs by working a little bit saving it and working a little bit later), Tweetdeck is great for Twitter, and so on. Now if that keyboard would hurry up and come out for iPhone, I most likely wouldn’t need a PC at all…..

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    1. Nope, take that back, I would still need my tablet for school. Even though I can read the professor’s Blackboard documents and postings with my iPhone, I’d still need to take notes during class and the tablet is the perfect solution for me to do that.

      Unless I get the Pulse Smartpen and take notes, then convert to text and save to my iPhone for reference. Hmmmm, sounds like an experiment coming on to me!!

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    2. Eddie you could also pickup a MIS Wind and install Leopard on it, and you’ll have nice laptop to take notes and your iPhone. :)

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    3. Interesting idea but I don’t see a tablet version of the Wind yet. My profs *really* frown on typing during class but writing on tablets is okay with them. I do like the idea of Leopard though. I was playing with an Air at the store the other day and the interface is nice. I’m still not ready to give up being a PC yet, though!

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  4. It seems ludicrous to me that tethering for the iPhone should involve an extra surcharge.

    I’m currently tethering in Canada on the Rogers network. It’s a marvelous asset in the field when making housecalls, because it allows me to access my electronic medical records via my tablet PC.

    However, even with that added utility, the prospect of paying extra would give me pause for thought…

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  5. Data is data however it is used. I don’t pay more or less for voice calls depending on the number I call as long as I stay in the allotted monthly limit. Why data should be different?

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    1. Rick Huizinga Friday, July 10, 2009

      If the data plan has a usage limit, then I agree that the user should be able to use the data in any manner they see fit.

      The problem with the “unlimited data” model is that the carrier does not have sufficient bandwidth to provide unlimited data should many users decide to use it.

      I would very much prefer if AT&T offered me the choice of either:
      1) Unlimited data for use on the iPhone (without tethering) for $30, or
      2) 1GB of data for use on the iPhone and/or tethering for $30

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    2. It’s a lot easier to use up more data on a laptop than it is on a phone. I presume that’s what they are trying to limit.

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  6. If the price holds out to be true, I don’t see to many users adding this extra to their plan. 30.00 would be max in my opinion. I would like to have 20.00 tethering that would be great. I have been using tethering for many years; use to have a verizon card but after tethering with BT was more easy then I just canceled the card. I do use the USB cable as well.

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  7. GoodThings2Life Friday, July 10, 2009

    Doesn’t really matter if it’s $55 total or $55 extra, owning an iPhone is still more expensive than pretty much every solution available, and not by a trivial sum of cash.

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    1. Maybe my case is unique, but I found my Fuze and Advantage to each be much more expensive than my iPhone so far. For example, I’ve already added quite a few (almost 50) apps, games, and utilities to my iPhone. I’ve spent about $80 so far which is about the cost of only three or four of my WinMo apps. I’ve far surpassed the number of aps on my iPhone and have pretty much fully replicated my WinMo experience. As to the service costs, they are exatly as with WinMo. And for the devices themselves, I spent more for either the Advantage or Fuze than for my iPhone.

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  8. Here’s what gets me about the carriers’ thinking: The number one reason they say they limit (or charge through the nose for) tethering is because it has “a negative impact on the network.” Well, if the nets are THAT limited, they shouldn’t sign up one more new user until they can provide me with the “unlimited” service I’m already paying for. But, in fact, they’re offering new netbooks, mi-fis, USB cards, and other tools that will help new users use the bandwidth I’m already paying for. That tells me they have plenty of capacity, and the whole thing is a big fat $$$$ scam.

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  9. AT&T is ridiculous. I can’t wait for Apple to move the iPhone to another network. A very small percentage of iPhone users would ever really use/need tethering. Why punish those that use is periodically? With all of the wifi hotspots, I wouldn’t need tethering very often. Why would I be double billed for tethering?? The logic is way off and AT&T is going to take a hit if they decide to screw over their customers. Why do they hate iPhone customers so much? They make up a huge part of their business!

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  10. I just noticed that there is now an option to tether the iPhone. I don’t know if an extra $300-$360 is fair for AT&T to charge for their tethering feature. It should be either by the bandwidth used or a much more subsidised amount.

    Does any one know if you can actually enable this feature currently for your iPhone?

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