Tethering Coming to (Some) iPads?

I sprang for the 3G + Wi-Fi iPad at launch, because I thought I’d be using it on the road all the time. Well, without something as convenient as a keyboard case for typing, that hasn’t turned out to be the case. I’m left wishing I’d saved some cash and stuck with the Wi-Fi only version.

Another reason I find the 3G relatively useless is that I can’t tether my connection to other devices, like I can with my iPhone. If I could share my 3G connection (ideally wirelessly, but let’s not get greedy), then I’d get far more use out of my iPad’s connectivity.

The just-released iPad OS 4.2 beta 2 reveals that tethering could potentially be on the way. There appear to be settings for tethering in the new beta (via 9 t0 5 Mac), right where they’re located on the iPhone, under “General>Network” and hooks for cellular tethering server information under “Cellular Data>APN Settings.” If you’re using the beta in North America and you can’t find the screens in question, it’s because they’re not there.

The Internet tethering options for iPad have so far only appeared on an iPad running on 3’s network in Europe. The fact that this is highly localized could mean one of two things: either Apple’s (s aapl) early testing is happening only on a single network to test its quality and effect on the network before wide release, or only certain markets are going to see iPad tethering at all. While I hope for the former, I fear the latter is true.

Since the iPad’s contract-less, cancel-at-any-time data plans are already quite the bitter pill to swallow for wireless companies who are used to long-term, locked-down contracts with downright unscrupulous cancellation fees, it’s unlikely they’d be interested in adding any further perks to the deal.

Carriers in North America will wait and see if they can’t foist competitors’ tablets on customers first, thereby ensuring themselves a greater share of the profits. If that doesn’t pan out, and customers still insist on buying iPads in droves, they’ll likely relent and provide tethering to attract more subscribers to the monthly plans.

Just out of curiosity, how many would buy a 3G iPad who don’t already have one based solely on the introduction of tethering?

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