AT&T: No iPhone tethering in Sept. 25 update

MMS gets green light, but tethering's a no-go

Apple iPhone 3G and 3GS owners should expect a software update on Sept. 25, AT&T revealed today, and while the new software will let U.S. customers send MMS text messages, it won't switch on tethering, the company confirmed Thursday.

Earlier today, AT&T announced that it would make multimedia messaging service (MMS) available via an iPhone update later this month. Tethering, however, won't be part of the package.

"As for tethering, by its nature, this function could exponentially increase traffic on the network, and we need to ensure that some of our current upgrades are in place before we can deliver the expanded functionality with the excellent performance that customers expect," an AT&T spokeswoman said in an e-mail. "We expect to offer tethering in the future."

She declined to provide additional comment on tethering.

Previously, AT&T had said it would offer a tethering plan at some indefinite point in the future. "[Tethering is] a matter of when and not if," AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel told Computerworld in June .

The iPhone update, slated for Friday, Sept. 25, will be delivered via the iTunes software. "The [MMS] service will be enabled with a software update on the launch date. Customers can obtain the update from iTunes, just like all other iPhone updates," the spokeswoman said.

Both MMS and tethering, which some mobile carriers supporting the iPhone have had in place since June, have been unavailable for U.S. users, something that raised the ire of developers at Apple's annual conference in early June, and has led to at least two lawsuits seeking class-action status .

Tethering lets mobile phone users access the Internet from a laptop by linking it, usually via Bluetooth, to an iPhone's wireless data connection, essentially turning the smartphone into a movable Wi-Fi hotspot.

Tethering has been a contentious issue for U.S. iPhone users. In August 2008, for example, Apple yanked a tethering application from its App Store only hours after it had been approved and added to the online market. Over the next several days, Apple restored the Netshare software to the App Store, only to again pull it.

Although AT&T doesn't offer tethering to its iPhone customers, it does sell the service for $15 extra per month to owners of a wide range of handsets sold by LG, Motorola, Nokia, Research In Motion, Samsung and others.

Apple and AT&T are under investigation by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over why some applications, most notably Google's Voice software, have been rejected for the App Store. That inquiry is part of a wider-ranging probe by the FCC into exclusive arrangements between handset makers and mobile carriers.

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Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)
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