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iPhone tethering must wait, says AT&T

updated 11:40 am EDT, Thu October 8, 2009

Blames delay on network improvements

American iPhone owners will not be able to officially tether their devices for some time, AT&T has acknowledged. "Whenever we offer new features, we want to offer the best possible customer experience," a carrier spokesman claims. "For tethering, we need to do some additional fine tuning to our systems and networks so that we do deliver a great experience."

Support for using an iPhone as a portable modem is an integral feature of the iPhone 3.0 firmware, which launched on June 19th alongside the iPhone 3GS. The option has been available for months with carriers in other countries, but has only been promised for the US sometime this year. Hopes for the introduction of tethering were raised by a recent change in VoIP policy, allowing the data-intensive technology on AT&T's network.

The carrier is believed to be worried that tethering could be even more demanding on bandwidth. Desktop and notebook apps typically transfer far more data than their mobile counterparts, and the AT&T 3G network is already to subject to oversaturation in some areas, most notably New York City and San Francisco. Several lawsuits have been filed against Apple and AT&T for false marketing in this regard.

by MacNN Staff



  1. cmoney

    Joined: Dec 1969


    So sometime around 2010 then

    When the iPhone 4G is announced, we'll finally see tethering support turned on in the US? Except it'll be in conjunction with an announcement that the iPhone 4G will also be available on Verizon's 4G LTE network.

  1. rootdr

    Joined: Dec 1969


    How disappointing

    I should never have upgraded to firmware 3.1!!!!!! It was working - stupid stupid!

  1. yahtzee

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Fine tuning?

    "For tethering, we need to do some additional fine tuning to our systems and networks so that we do deliver a great experience."

    Don't they mean "...massive overhaul"?

  1. Flying Meat

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Okay, show me.

    "'Whenever we offer new features, we want to offer the best possible customer experience,' a carrier spokesman claims."

    Lets just agree that "wanting to offer", and delivering, are two different things often divorced from each other by accountants, marketing, executive salaries, lack of vision, and entrenched corporate slothfulness,..

    But it's nice that they seem to actually start with goals. Surely that's why their rollout of 3G was such a smashing success. :|

  1. chris2519

    Joined: Dec 1969


    They SHOULD be sued.

    Really inexcusable, and frustrating. I don't blame Apple as much as I do AT&T, but at the same time, Apple should be MUCH more aggressive about using their considerable muscle to get AT&T to address the miserable consumer experience that they deliver. I can't drive across town (Los Angeles) without dropping 4-6 calls a day, on average, and I'm NOT even in the car very often. Add to that the fact that their joke of an infrastructure can't allow tethering, a feature that was advertised back in JUNE and which was a key reason why I decided to upgrade (and commit to two more years with those clowns), and they are almost criminally incompetent. If anyone has thoughts of how to join the lawsuits that are stated in the article, please share. I hate AT&T so much that I am actually on the verge of giving up my iphone -- I can't take it anymore.

  1. ZinkDifferent

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Why.... it that my Nokia n73 is able to tether just fine on AT&T's network ('just fine' being relative to the hoops Nokia makes you jump through with their UI), yet my iPhone is somehow not able to deliver that same experience -- with the same SIM card?

    Seriously, AT&T has managed to, over the past few years, turn me from a supporter of theirs, to an antagonist who can't wait for a viable alternative (albeit I do not consider Verizon 'viable' either).

  1. pipermalibu

    Joined: Dec 1969


    AT&T stinks, but Verizon smells rotten

    Listen, I am no AT&T fanboy. I was smart enough to look before I leap onto 3.1 and disable my tethering. I actually do not care about MMS. That is so 2002 - send an email, its better.

    HOWEVER, as a person that works on the periphery of the cell phone industry in the automotive bluetooth business Verizon is THE WORST COMPANY IN THE BUSINESS.
    1. They do not use the WORLD standard of GSM. Every damn phone is a custom version for them.
    2. All of the phones they sell have some b****** stepchild crippled bluetooth so they can stay in your pocket selling you VCast.
    3. These b****** stepchild bluetooth stacks are buggy as h*** and don't work properly with many devices and vehicles.
    4. Just take you Verizon phone (98% of them) overseas. Turn it on....NOTHING.
    5. The coverage in MOST of the country IS NOT superior to ANYONE. As I travel with my company I have to carry a Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T for testing. In all but two places I have ever been the AT&T has same signal as the Verizon. T-Mobile I can't say the same for.

    Rant over....

  1. slider

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I don't see AT&T suspending their data card sales and plans. They can't handle the load, period. But seriously, of all the iPhones out there, exactly what percentage of them are actually going to tether their laptop? I'd bet you money that if AT&T suddenly was offered a deal where they would get an equal number of customers for a data plan they wouldn't say, "Gosh, you know we'd like to, but we just can't guarantee the best customer experience, so we're going to pass, thanks". Look at it from their point of view - you have an iPhone, you're already a customer, we're at about peak capacity, why rush to provide tethering.

    And to pipermalibu - I hear you on Verizon - they are not a bowl of peaches.

  1. vasic

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I will have to bookmark this comment! Here is someone who finally tells it like it really is: Verizon's coverage is NO BETTER than AT&T's.

    And by the way, if your handle is your plane, nice plane!

  1. dpicardi

    Joined: Dec 1969


    50% of EXISTING iphone users...

    will never use tethering once. Another 25% will likely only use tethering once or twice to see it they can get it to work. 15% (business users)( will use it occasionally as they travel. (frankly I would prefer to surf the web on my iphone than my laptop...why the bulk) 10% will use it often as they don't have wifi in their main place of being during the day and want to use their laptop.

    I think AT&T grossly overestimates the drain on the system. I consider myself to be a pretty hardcore business person and I have no real desire to use my iphone for tethering unless I have an extreme emergency.

    As Apple improves the Iphone to make it more corporate friendly this might change...but that's a year away at least and AT&T would have time to adapt.

    Let's go AT&T...git er done!

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