One of the most beneficial features of a jailbroken iPhone was the ability to enable tethering. For those who are not familiar, tethering allows you to use your cellular data plan to connect a laptop or other device to the internet. I have taken advantage of tethering a number of times when visiting my girlfriend who lives in the woods of PA and does not have a broadband internet connection. My usage was limited to basic web browsing and downloading the occasional book onto my kindle. Considering the fact that I am currently on AT&T’s “unlimited” data plan, I never thought this would be an issue. But recently they have discovered a way to detect tethering activity and are sending out text messages and letters to customers warning that if tethering continues, they will automatically switch you to the 4gb/month tethering data plan.
We’ve noticed your service plan may need updating.
Many AT&T customers use their smartphones as a broadband connection for other devices, like laptops, netbooks or other smartphones– a practice commonly known as tethering. Tethering can be an efficient way for our customers to enjoy the benefits of AT&T’s mobile broadband network and use more than one device to stay in touch with important people and information. To take advantage of this feature, we require that in addition to a data plan, you also have a tethering plan.
Our records show that you use this capability, but are not subscribed to our tethering plan.
If you would like to continue tethering, please log into
your account online at , or call us
at 1-888-860-6789 Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. – 9 p.m. CST
or Saturday, 8 a.m. – 7 p.m. CST, by March 27, 2011
to sign up for DataPro 4GB for Smartphone Tethering.
Here are details on the plan:
DataPro 4GB for Smartphone Tethering
• $45 per month
(this gives you 4GB in total, combining both your smartphone data plan for $25 and the tethering feature, $20)
• $10 per each additional GB thereafter, added automatically as needed
• Mobile Hotspot capabilities are included for compatible Smartphones
If we don’t hear from you, we’ll plan to automatically enroll you into DataPro 4GB after May 27, 2011. The new plan – whether you sign up on your own or we automatically enroll you – will replace your current smartphone data plan, including if you are on an unlimited data plan.
If you discontinue tethering, no changes to your current plan will be required.
AT&T no longer offers unlimited data plans to new customers, but I happen to be grandfathered into the plan. The price for unlimited data is currently $30 per month. The standard data plan for new customers is $25 per month, but limits you to 2gb of data. There is a $10 charge for each additional 1gb of data used. The tethering plan jumps up to a whopping $45 per month and increases the data cap to 4gb. This is an obvious attack on users who are still using the unlimited data plan and a way to strong-arm customers into switching to a plan where they can not only get more money every month, but charge you additional fees each time you exceed a data limit.
Other companies offer a tethering plan on top of your existing unlimited data plan. The unlimited data can only be used by the phone itself and tethering has it’s own limited pool of bandwidth. AT&T on the other hand chooses to lump all of the data into one pool, and offers no option to remain on the unlimited plan if you want to enable tethering.
Looking at my history of data use, I have only exceeded 2gb in three out of the last 12 months, even with some light tethering. If I was on the standard 2gb plan, I would have been charged an extra $30 total over the course of the entire year. Here is what my costs would have been on the various data plans:
Unlimited data plan = $30 x 12 = $360
2gb standard data = $25 x 12 = $300 + $30 = $330
4gb Tethering plan = $45 x 12 = $540!
There is no justification that AT&T can provide that would convince me that charging this much for the convenience of tethering is acceptable. Why should I be forced to pay $45 every single month when my data usage hardly ever exceeds the limits of the $25 plan. Why not offer the option to pay $10 per gb of data used for tethering? I think we all know the answer to that. Because it wouldn’t net them as much money each month. I may go weeks or ever months without the need to tether, but what about the 1 week a year when I’m on vacation with no wi-fi access? Why should I pay for this feature each and every month of the year when I hardly ever use it?
I believe that they are making an assumption that users who tether will use more data. But that simply isn’t the case. This restriction should be based on pure usage, and not the type of data used. I recently purchased a Kindle and to save a few bucks, I went with the WiFi only version knowing that I could use my phone to tether in the rare case where I am not near a WiFi connection. With this new rule change, I would not be allowed to do this. But I can load up the Kindle iPhone app and download the same book to my phone. How does this make any sense?
Using my phone, I can check my email, browse the web, stream music and movies all day long and AT&T won’t have an issue. But tether to my laptop to send an email or type a blog post using a full sized keyboard and I’m treated like a criminal trying to steal services from them.
I called AT&T today to ensure them I would no longer be using tethering on my phone. They told me that no changes would be made to my plan and I could keep my unlimited data unless they detected tethering in the future. Since my girlfriend is moving and getting a broadband connection at her new place, I don’t see much of a need for tethering in the future, so I don’t think I will have an issue sticking with that plan.
But from now on I do plan on taking full advantage of my unlimited data plan using services that are approved by AT&T. I recently discovered Slacker Radio and have been doing a lot more streaming in the last few months. My data usage has spiked despite the fact that I have not tethered at all.
According to AT&T’s own data use calculator, 5 hours of streaming music a day would amount to 4.31gb of data in a month. Exceeding the limits of even the most expensive data plan offered by them. For someone working in an office with a strict corporate firewall in place, streaming through my phone is the only feasible way to listen to Slacker Radio or Pandora while at work. I don’t see a few hours a day of streaming music as unreasonable by any means. Add in a few netflix movies a month and forget about staying within your data limits.
The bottom line is that AT&T has every right to tell it’s customers how to use the data they provide. Everyone knows it’s just a revenue ploy, but there is nothing we can do about it. Unfortunately other carriers seem to be following suit by instating data caps and charging extra for tethering. With the addition of significantly faster 4G wireless speeds, an increase in cloud based services and streaming media, data usage can only continue to increase. The data plans provided by wireless carriers are going to have to change to accommodate this trend or there will be a lot of pissed off customers with huge phone bills to deal with. For now, I will be doing everything possible to limit the amount of money I have to send to AT&T every month.
Stay tuned for a few ways to save on your texting and voice plans.