AT&T Warns iPhone Users: Stop Unauthorized Tethering

AT&T has thrown down the gauntlet, sending a limited number of subscribers warnings via email and SMS to stop unauthorized tethering. The wireless carrier plans to automatically sign up users for its DataPro and Personal Hotspot plans if they continue to tether their devices without contacting the company.

att iphone personal hotspot unauthorized tethering warning

The move is a first for AT&T since they launched official Personal Hotspot support on March 11 with the release of iOS 4.3. Prior to this, iPhone users could only connect one computer to the iPhone. The new service makes it possible to share your 3G data connection with 3 devices at the same time via WI-Fi, and connect to others with Bluetooth and USB.

The issue that concerns AT&T involves iPhone users who have jailbroken their devices to install unofficial tethering solutions such as MyWi, which avoid additional charges from AT&T and don't require a special data plan. These applications are a violation of the terms of use customers agree to when signing up for service. The company is also concerned about fairness, as customers who follow the rules are paying for tethering and have switched to tiered data plans.

Personal Hotspot pricing is an additional $20 per month and adds 2GB of additional 3G data usage. If you currently have an unlimited iPhone data plan, AT&T requires that you switch to the capped 2GB DataPro plan before adding tethering. The total amount of data usage then comes to 4GB with the tethering options activated. According to Cult of Mac, AT&T explained their network has the monitoring capabilities to single out users who are tethering devices using their 3G data connection.

According to the ultimatum from AT&T, changes are coming March 27:
If we don’t hear from you, we’ll plan to automatically enroll you into DataPro 4GB after March 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.

The aggressive move against unofficial tethering is bound to be controversial. Many users who have chosen to jailbreak and tether contend they have already paid for data plan usage, so it shouldn't matter what devices use the plan. AT&T seeks to manage its finite network resources, and iPhone users are notoriously heavy data users. Not to mention that many customers are grandfathered into the unlimited 3G data plan.


I call B.S. on this one, Big Blue. First you tried telling customers that only 2% of us are 'data hogs' and that was the reason for the tiered pricing--to offer cheaper plans and happier customers who now have "options"--but now you're claiming that there's enough stress on the network by that two percent to warrant going after people tethering JB iPhones, as if the AT&T network is at a critical mass?? Huh?! And speaking of those so-called tiered plans, then why not have more than one option for tethering? By the company's own definition of "high user", 4GBs would be the equivalent of 'all you can eat' since only 2% even go over 2GB, right? So why not have a TetherLite option of say, maybe 1GB, a mid-level option of 3GB and a power-user (ahem, "hog") plan of 5GB (which is what they used to have on such outdated devices as the original HTC Tilt back in the day, but for $80)?

Personally, I'll admit I tether and don't have that ridiculously priced $45 plan killing my bill every month, but I'm responsible with it and rarely go over 300-400MB in a month. As a matter of fact, I actually went back the past 18 months that I can see my data usage and there were only two months that I (barely) went over 1GB--and one of those months was due to my home--AT&T DSL--internet not working for three weeks due to persistent outages, so I was tethering almost every day to get my work-at-home job assignments completed. So why should I be made to pay an extra $15 a month to tether ONE device for up to 4GBs when I don't even use 1GB?? Just to line Big Blue's pockets? I think not. To be honest, I would add an 'official' tethering plan--getting rid of my unlimited--if they had more options at a more competitive and realistic price. Until then...


Seriously? Is AT&T trying to build ill will?

Here's a question though -- how can they tell when you are tethering if the data is running through the iPhone? Are they inspecting packets to check user agent and sh*t like that?

I really dont see how companies can get away with this. I too only need tethering for occasional file downloads on the road. I have been keeping my unlimited plan for anything that might ever require more data usage... like, ummm, tethering, except, last month, i used 130M. I might push a gig every so often if i had tethering, woohoo... a whole gig! listen at&t, data is data is data. text is data! If i buy a gig of data, let me use it as i wish. Who cares how i use it or with wht device. $45!!! Come on! Thats BS.
If anyone else is as frusterated as me, keep reading...
It would appear that the FCC is interested in consumer complaints regarding deceptive advertisement and marketing from cellular companies. Calls are accepted M-F from 8-5:30. The number is toll free at 1-888-225-5322.
Find more info here -->

They can get away with it because they built the restriction into their terms of service. "Unlimited" means unlimited, but not in violation of the TOS." Furthermore, plans (unless specifically designated for tethering usage) cannot be used for any applications that tether the device (through use of, including without limitation, connection"

You also can't use the connection to spam, or create botnets either. You also can't use it to send TV to your phone (ie Slingbox)."redirecting television signals for viewing on Personal Computers"