No tethering in sight for AT&T iPhone customers

Almost a year after Apple enabled the feature in its iPhone 3.0 operating system, AT&T has yet to allow users to "tether" or use their iPhones as a wireless modem to provide Internet connectivity for other devices such as laptops and iPads.

Recalling statements by AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph de la Vega as far back as November 2008, Chris Ziegler asked the carrier again when tethering might be made available in the U.S.:

"We understand that there is great interest in tethering but cannot provide any details at this time. We know that iPhone users love their devices and mobile broadband, and that they're likely to embrace tethering just as they have other features and apps -– by using it a lot. iPhone tethering has the potential to exponentially increase traffic, and we need to ensure that we're able to deliver excellent performance for the feature –- over and above the increases in data traffic we're already seeing –- before we will offer the feature."

AT&T currently offers tethering on several other devices, but not the iPhone, which makes sense given their concerns about data network overload. Studies have shown that iPhone users, on average, consume five times as much data each month as consumers using Blackberry phones. However, carriers in many other countries enabled the tethering feature for their customers shortly after Apple made it available.

Cell carriers continue to struggle with the unprecedented demand for mobile data. Analysts expect 117 percent growth in mobile Web use for each of the next five years. As consumers switch from desktop to mobile computing devices, and content producers follow, the availability of affordable wireless connectivity will be a limiting factor in that growth.


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