AT&T Slaps iPhone Jailbreak Tethering

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iPhone owners that jailbreak so they can share their 3G wireless data connection with other devices instead of paying for AT&T’s tethering plan started receiving letters from the cell service provider on Friday letting them know the jig is up. AT&T warned customers that if they continue to use tethering services without paying for the feature, their service contracts will automatically be updated to include the company’s monthly tethering plan payment, according to OS X Daily.

AT&T says no free tethering!AT&T to customers: No free tethering

The letter AT&T customers received said, in part:

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 customers stop using jailbreak-enabled tethering through apps like MyWi, AT&T plans to drop the matter. If they continue to use their jailbroken tethering tools, however, AT&T will automatically change out their iPhone data plan for the US$45 a month DataPro 4GB with tethering plan on March 27.

No doubt jailbreakers, or iPhone users that hack their smartphone so they can install third-party apps that aren’t available through Apple’s App Store, will be disappointed with AT&T’s new stance and will claim they should be able to use their wireless data plan as they please. For its part, AT&T doesn’t see it that way.

Like any cell service provider, AT&T is looking for the places it can improve its revenue stream, and charging customers for tethering is one of the many avenues the company pursues. It also uses paid tethering plans as a barrier to help keep wireless data activity more under control — or at least to keep potentially heavy data users from chewing through all the wireless bandwidth while less data hungry users complain about slow connections.

Regardless of whether or not AT&T should charge customers for data tether plans, the company is, and seems to be able to tell exactly who is using the feature even if they are jailbreaking their iPhone.

If you received a tethering notice from AT&T and want to make sure your data plan doesn’t change — especially if you are grandfathered in on an unlimited data plan — be sure to contact AT&T before March 27.

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Call it what it is. Dollars for bandwidth. Not surprising. Disappointing maybe, but not surprising at all.


Yeah, Tiger, Dollars for bandwidth is what you already pay for.
I don’t jailbreak, but I do support the idea that it’s not really AT&T’s business how you use the bandwidth you pay for. It was different when there was an all-you-can-eat plan. Now everyone pays for how much they expect to need. The cost of using it from a different device (which would just be more usage) should all be factored in to the pricing.


Not quite. It would be “dollars for bandwidth” if they were offering unlimited plans, PLUS extra for tethering. You consume more bandwidth, you pay extra dollars (assuming that when you tether, you use more data).

However, AT&T does NOT offer unlimited plans anymore. All new customers have to PAY for bandwidth they use, in 2GB allotments. So, for example if I had the cheapest 300MB plan, and would like to use those 300MB per month to occasionally read/respond to e-mails on my (hypothetical—don’t have one yet) WiFi-only iPad tethered to my (hypothetical—don’t have one yet) iPhone, I would be forced by AT&T to buy a tethering plan, bundled with additional 2GB that I wouldn’t be able to spend in the course of an entire year (if I only use it for e-mails); not that AT&T would let me, as there is no data roll-over.

AT&T is really NOT offering choices to frugal data users (which is majority, according to their own statistics; 330MB per month is average for iPhone users). For each iPhone owner that exceeds 1GB per month, there are five that don’t even reach 300MB. And AT&T is “rewarding” them by slapping them with extra charges, just because they use those 300MB of data on another device.

Canadians have it best. They pay for bandwidth, the carrier doesn’t care how it is used. Tether all you like, as long as you pay for your data.


I wonder if any Android users are getting the same letter.


I don’t know about U.S. or Canada, but in India data is cheap, damn cheap. For 2GB data on 3G network you pay $1.98, for Unlimited, you pay $12 and that is the 3G networks just stepped in India. It’s sure to be even cheaper in the years to come.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

I’ll let you guys know when I get that text on my Nexus One phone. I tether occasionally.


I agree with Vasic 100%.  I’m fine to pay more if I consume more.  But if I tether and still stay under 2 GB, I shouldn’t need to pay more.  AT&T has done nothing additional.


Interesting comment from user “testie” on the original article (emphasis added):

Based on my conversation with a rep, she said she?s received calls all day on these messages. They were targeted towards higher data users. My wife doesn?t tether and uses a lot of data with netflix, pandora, etc. I do tether and use a fraction of what she does and we both got dinged.


Well, I said it was disappointing and not surprising. I never said I agreed with it. The reason I even noticed it was because I work at a University where many of our employees have campus owned iPhones that ARE on the unlimited plan. And because many (faculty) travel so much, they’re more likely to try and use the Personal Hotspot feature on the iPhone and use the phone with an iPad or laptop. I had to warn the campus administrator that if the users enable the PH, it automatically disengages the unlimited data plan that is prepaid and will create havoc with the contracts. (my iPhone is my personal phone, I’m too low on the totem pole to be leashed, I mean have a University phone).

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