Blog Post

AT&T Removes All Remaining Doubt: No Tethering This Year

It seems AT&T (s att) is on a quest to cause as much damage as possible to the already flaky reputation it has with its iPhone customers. In an oddly confrontational email to 9to5 Mac, a spokesman for the communications company took issue with one of their recent articles that said AT&T would be delivering tethering services to iPhone customers by the end of the year.

The email, as quoted by 9to5 Mac’s Seth Weintraub, says:

Just reading again – where did anyone promise tethering by EOY? Where did you see that? We promised MMS by end of summer and ended up being a few days late for that…

In their defence, 9to5 Mac was channeling reports from TechCrunch and CNET which got them to arrive at the “before end of year” conclusion. You can hardly blame them — CNET’s headline in November 2008 read “AT&T confirms tethering coming to iPhone in 2009.” That’s pretty unequivocal as far as assertions go, right? Yet, I don’t recall anyone from AT&T sending CNET a snippy email in the interim…

Last week I wrote how AT&T told the Wall Street Journal that it needed ‘more time’ to work on tethering functionality. I also mentioned how AT&T’s CEO Ralph De La Vega said, way back in 2008, that tethering would be available “soon.” A year later it’s not unreasonable to wonder just what De La Vega’s definition of “soon” might be.

Add together the history of dropped calls, patchy 3G coverage and recent reports that the company might start throttling data for iPhone users, the snarky email above only adds to the sorry state of affairs at AT&T. However kindly you may choose to interpret that email, there are countless ways it might have been more professionally composed.

For a company still enjoying exclusive distribution and service rights for the iPhone across America, (and the prestige and profits that partnership with Apple entails) its performance in the last two years can only make us hope Apple is considering offering the iPhone to other cell carriers willing (and actually able) to do the job properly.

In any case, while the email doesn’t specifically deny tethering will become a reality this year, it certainly makes the proposition sound unlikely. AT&T announced last month it is working to expand its network, and have invested heavily in the hardware upgrades necessary to do so. That’s welcome news to long suffering customers, but those upgrades aren’t going to be completed until the end of 2011.

Or, as Mr De La Vega might put it, “soon.”

10 Responses to “AT&T Removes All Remaining Doubt: No Tethering This Year”

  1. If tethering is truly all that important to end users of the iPhone why are they waiting for it?

    ATT wireless data is slow by comparison to other available services.
    The iPhone is a great device. unfortunately we (in the USA) are stuck with ATT (unless we choose to go the jailbreak route).
    That said even if tethering worked here the speeds would suck.
    If I needed high speed data on the go I would get the best service for my needs. Verizon wireless is pretty fast.
    Anyway you look at it you get what you pay for. You want data on your computer then get with the program and PAY for it. (the dongles are free with a contract) .
    The reality is that if you need this access for business then you get to write it off so the net effect is that it shouldn’t matter how much it costs.

    Look sitting around and waiting for ATT to come up with thethering just doesn’t make sense. If you have a need just get the service to fulfill it.

    The iPhone is really cool. It does a lot of good things. Being stuck on ATT brings down the iPhone. Apple made the choice (ATT WIRELESS) because ATT is/was the largest GSM service provider. They did not choose them because of the quality of service. Apple did not really have a choice since tmobile just doesn’t have the resources to serve the apple crowd. Verizon wireless does not have GSM network. that is why the iPhone did not end up over there. There is no way that apple was going to create a iPhone just for the USA market. (even though they did for the Chinese market). Anyway when LTE comes on in full force the end users will have a have a choice. At that point the iPhone will be more than a VIDEO PHONE as well as a device which will tether.

    We will all just have to wait. untill then those of you will just have to go over to Verizon wireless and buy a dongle. You will be happy to have High speed internet everywhere…

  2. I tether regularly on my un-jailbroken, un-altered AT&T-served iPhone 3G. I use “NetShare” which I legally bought on the iTunes App Store in the two-day window it was for sale. It uses Wi-Fi tethering so it is rather different than what I’ve heard the AT&T-sanctioned version will be. It works like a charm.

    I guess I might be in some kind of violation of AT&T’s service agreement when I do tether but to be honest, I’m going with the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. I didn’t do anything illegal to get it onto my iPhone and no one from AT&T has contacted me to tell me what I’m doing is bad, bad, bad. And I’m certainly not going to ask!

    Once when I was off in the hinterlands of southern Utah for a week this summer, I did get a nasty-gram from AT&T about my excessive “off-network” data usage, which they did claim was in violation of my service agreement. The town had great signal strength on an EDGE network so I was tethering away for hours at a time. My entire family was tethering off my precious little iPhone, in fact. We were pushing quite a bit of data back and forth. All the while my iPhone happily displayed the “AT&T” moniker on the top – how was I to know it wasn’t actually their tower?

    They sent me a text message and asked that I call in. I was afraid they were going to ask the dreaded “are you tethering?” question. They never did. Their only concern was that I was pushing all this data on a partner network (for which they were probably paying dearly). They updated my phone to display an “Off-Network” moniker when I’m on a partner network to help me know when I need to tone it down. I told them I’d do my best. No questions about how/why I was pushing so much data. I was pleased.

    Since NetShare uses Wi-Fi to tether, I don’t think there is actually any way they can tell which device (my iPhone or any other device attached to it) is the one that is pushing or pulling data. Maybe someone with some more technical savvy in this department can enlighten me on that fact.

    Whether AT&T ever figures out how to offer tethering or not doesn’t make much difference to me as long as NetShare still keeps doing it’s magic.

  3. Robert Thille

    I want tethering because it’d allow me to work while visiting my brother at their beach cabin. I don’t need a lot of bandwidth, but I do need connectivity.

  4. Robert Thille

    Charging more for tethering is idiotic. If I’m using my iPhone to watch YouTube videos over 3G constantly, I’ll use way more bandwidth than if I’m using tethering to ssh into a server at work and edit some files with ‘vi’.

    If the cost to AT&T is because of bandwidth use, then the charges to the customer should be too.

  5. Adam Jackson

    That’s fine. iPhone users think they want tethering but they don’t.

    1. Limits on bandwidth (1gb or 5gb transfer a month)
    2. Same poor AT&T data coverage
    3. Rate limiting (downclocking in order to help the network not choke)
    4. Price $29-$59 a month to add Tethering.

    Everyone wants tethering then it comes out and they realize there’s strings attached and they’re going to be pissed and just find a way to hack it anyway like they’re already doing now.

  6. Honestly as far as I am concerned if they never implemented tethering I would be fine with that, and if they do they better charge for it. Data is a privilege and I’m paying for my fair share of it, maybe even paying for more than my fair share. I don’t want to have to sacrifice my iPhones currently great 3g performance so 2% of customers who actually want, or need tethering can suck up all of the bandwidth I want to use. I realize it’s probably a financial reason that AT&T hasn’t implemented tethering yet, but I applaud them for at least making sure that their service is up to par before they implement tethering.

    • Kendall Tawes

      So 2% of users are going to bring down the AT&T network. Look if AT&T can’t handle tethering they shouldn’t be in the damn business. Frankly I feel the exact opposite of you. As long as I pay for the data why should I be told how to use it. Mind you that is how many other carriers handle it such as Roger’s in Canada and Vodafone. Charging for tethering is just the same scam that carriers play with MMS. How much data does it take to text “l8tr” or “OMG!!!” but you still have to pay $20 a month for a service that actually saves the company bandwidth that would otherwise be used for talking.