Use access key #2 to skip to page content.

Nonsense on AT&T and Apple



August 07, 2008 – Comments (4)

Alas, my colleague Tim Beyers shoots wide of the mark here: AT&T Is Killing the iPhone

In this article, he makes the following odd logical leap: AT&T has not allowed data-tethering software to appear for the iPhone, therefore AT&T is stifling software creativity on Apple's most important platform, therefore Apple should "buy off" AT&T to escape its future-smothering clutches.

Please. That's like saying gas stations are stifling automotive innovation by not giving out fuel for free.

Ma Bell’s not stifling any creativity at all by shutting down tethering. Tethering programs don't represent any sort of creative or technological leap whatsoever. They simple toss the data from the phone to an attached device -- usually a laptop.

If AT&T is holding back tethering from the iPhone, it’s simply making sure that it doesn’t have to provide data bandwidth that’s not paid for under current rate plans. 
Fact is, there’s not unlimited bandwidth out there, edge or 3G. Tethering on a typical, entry-level smartphone dataplan has always been a no-no, for the simple reason that it costs a ton of money to move that much information through the limited pipes of cell phone data.

This might seem new to the technological neophites smitten with the iPhone, but it is nothing really new, nor is it onerous. It’s been possible to data tether at 3G speeds for 2 years now with a Samsung Blackjack. (It took Apple an awfully long time to catch up to my windows mobile phone, don’t you think?) AT&T includes the tethering software right on the phone – but it’s hidden in plain sight. That’s because they don’t want to have to shut down customers for taking advantage of data usage that’s not provided as part of their TOS.

They can’t risk doing something like that on the iPhony because far too much of the iFanboi population out there (the kinds of people who think swapping MP3s is “sharing” not stealing, and who suffer from other delusions of Slash-dottish entitlementitis) will chalk up enormous bandwidth useage without paying anything more for it. I know we’d all like something for free, but Steve Jobs didn’t invent white, didn’t invent the GUI, didn’t invent multitouch, and he can’t decree by fiat that more 3G bandwidth appear. It’s very costly to install and maintain.

Someone needs to make the up-front investments or there's no 3G iPhone at all. Apple isn't doing that. AT&T is. It needs to be paid later for that up-front investment. A reasonable position would be that the people who use that network pay for it. The iPhone is very popular, and according to the people I know who have them, it functions primarily as a web toy and status symbol. ("Hey look, I can waste time reading Wonkette while I'm on the train too, not just while I'm at my desk."). As such, the iPhone is already going to demand a lot more data from the network than prior smartphones do. (If your phone’s Web Browser sucks, you’re not going to use it much. That’s probably a major part of the reason phone web browser have sucked for so long…) 

Now, absent a rate increase, throw in tethering, and AT&T will suddenly be shunting off a ton more bandwidth to folks who use it to transfer larger and larger amounts of data to attached laptops, not to mention those iFanbois who, suffering from entitlementitis, will use it as a primary web connection at home.

If the iFanboi club wants unlimited data tethering, let the iFanboi club pay more for it – as other smartphone plans demand of data tetherers.

You want to play? Then pay.  
Finally, I fail to see what Tim means by suggesting Apple could "buy off" AT&T, or, if it could, how it would help. AT&T has by far the biggest 3G network in the US, IIRC. To whom would apple turn to provide all the data services for the phones, and why would anyone expect another carrier (with less high-speed data capacity) to give out tethering bandwidth for free?



4 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On August 07, 2008 at 9:12 AM, madcowmonkey (< 20) wrote:

Bent- I acutally agree with your statement here. Nice. No doubt it would be a nice addition, but it is always about the $ and how much the resources cost.

Report this comment
#2) On August 07, 2008 at 9:33 AM, Gemini846 (34.60) wrote:

Perhaps APPL could pay T to provide those iFanbois some bandwidth access?  Or just

The games these phone companies play to hide tether capability is amazing. Here is the VZ perspective.

I use a LG10000 (voyager) from VZ which is remarkably underpowered for data apps. (email, calender, notes). It reminds me of one of those old 486DX50 "multimedia" computers or even later any computer running Windows ME. It's so optimized for media that the capability for greatness is burried in there hidden by the OS.  I would have likely bought a smartphone of some sort but I couldn't share minuites w/ my wifes plan if I did. Wierd huh?

Just like tethering is included on the iPhone hidden in the matrix, the ability to perform all these apps is hidden in my voyager. One bitpim transfer and I'm up and running teathering my laptop to VZ's network which surfs the web a hell of a lot faster than the browser on the phone with its limited screen and processing power.

The hackers from have confirmed that VZ starts to get interested in you if you are moving a sick amount of transfer per month, but some of these guys are reporting upwards of 200 Gigs of transfer in an attempt to get caught.  From what I understand it is similar to the cable companies. Upstream bandwidth is more closely monitored than downstream, so you can sit on youtube all day but don't run a fileshare app.

Ironically VZ know's that the phones can't keep up with the bandwidth right now. They offer free tethering if you have a "data" plan to go with a blackberry or other smartphone.

Report this comment
#3) On August 07, 2008 at 9:43 AM, TMFBent (99.33) wrote:

Good comments. I love the tethering possibilities myself. Just have people pay for it. If people pay, the infrastructure investment will continue, and it'll be better for all of us. Institutionalize freeloading and the network providers will surely drag their feet, and we'll all be missing out.

Report this comment
#4) On August 07, 2008 at 9:39 PM, borisvolodnikov (71.45) wrote:

Totally agree. This debate is old news (I've been doing things the iClone does - including tethering - on my ancient Treo 650 for years). If you're going to eat up AT&T's bandwidth, you have to pay so they can invest in improving their infrastructure.

Report this comment

Featured Broker Partners