Developers asked to stop tethering talk on Palm Pre

Sprint won't allow Pre tethering; AT&T won't say when the service will come to iPhone

Palm Inc. has "politely" cautioned a developer forum not to allow online discussions of tethering with the new Palm Pre.

Sprint Nextel Inc., the lone wireless carrier for the Pre, does not allow tethering with the smartphone. Sprint has an exclusive contract with Palm to provide wireless voice and data service for the Pre through at least the end of the year.

Tethering gives a user the ability to connect a wireless device to a laptop via a cable or Bluetooth, and to use the device as a wireless modem to provide browsing and other capabilities to the laptop. Carriers have been concerned about losing monthly revenue for laptop aircards if tethering from smartphones is widely used. Most carriers charge a monthly fee for tethering with other devices.

The notice about preventing discussions appeared on the Pre Dev Wiki over the weekend and attracted attention from various blogs.

"We have been politely cautioned by Palm that any discussion of tethering during the Sprint exclusivity period (and perhaps beyond - we don't know yet) will probably cause Sprint to complain to Palm, and if that happened then Palm would be forced to react against the people running the [Internet Relay Chat] channel and this wiki," Pre Dev Wiki said. "We want to retain a good relationship with Palm, hence we are not allowing discussion of tethering on the IRC channel, or in this wiki."

A Sprint spokesman today confirmed that Sprint has no plans to allow tethering on the Palm Pre, but made no comment on the wiki's decision to prevent discussion. The wiki's title regarding the Pre is "Let's open this beast up." But the wiki also said that it might reverse its decision once a version of the Pre is available on a carrier that allows tethering or an unlocked GSM version.

The Sprint spokesman noted that it has many phones under tethering plans, but did not explain why the Pre is not among them.

Tethering became a discussion last week for the new iPhone 3.0 software and the 3G S version that's due out Friday. AT&T said then it would eventually allow tethering on the device but gave no date, and a spokesman repeated today that no date has been announced. He said that many AT&T phones support tethering, including BlackBerry devices, with an added fee per month. Tethering on an iPhone will require an extra fee on monthly charges, the spokesman said.

If a tethering plan for an AT&T BlackBerry is applied to an iPhone, it would add as much as $30 per month on top of the minimum $70 a month for voice and data, based on AT&T's charges on its Web site.

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Matt Hamblen

Computerworld (US)
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