$55 Extra for iPhone Tethering? I Don’t Think So, Nor Does AT&T

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.

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