Google Will Force AT&T to Offer iPhone Tethering

Android 2.2 will have native tethering built into the OS. I’m very glad to see this and I hope it really does happen. Google is expected to unveil Android 2.2 during its Google I/O conference that starts May 19th. Wireless carriers charge up to US$30 per month on top of a data plan (another $30 per month) for the privilege of tethering; this needs to stop. And I think Google will be the company that will finally cut that profit extortion line. Equally important, I think Google will force AT&T to offer iPhone tethering.

Verizon, Sprint, etc. all charge this exorbitant amount for tethering. AT&T does too, but it is the only company in the world that sells iPhones but does not offer iPhone tethering. The carrier with an iPhone exclusive until 2012 (?) has given promises of tethering and broken them. AT&T also has an excuse stating that they want to be ready before offering iPhone users the ability to tether. This excuse might be true since horrible voice and 3G connectivity issues in certain locations such as Manhattan and San Francisco has marred AT&T and indirectly Apple and its iPhone. I don’t think AT&T or Apple wants that to happen again, but I think AT&T has had enough time to get ready. Ready or not Apple will come knocking (probably has already) and demand AT&T offer tethering when the next generation iPhone is introduced next month. If AT&T is not ready or does not respond positively I think Apple will be royally pissed.

I understand that Apple wants its products and services to be as ready as can be before offering them to its customers. So Apple and AT&T both have an incentive to ensure a smooth and fast data connection when tethered, but with Android 2.2 not too far off I don’t think Apple (and AT&T) has much of a choice when it comes to tethering: AT&T needs to offer it now, ready or not. And tethering will probably need to be free or very close to it with no data cap. I don’t think Apple wants to compete against Google handicapped in what it considers the most important smartphone market. If AT&T becomes a liability to Apple in its bid to continue growing in the US smartphone market I don’t think it is out of the question to see Apple axe AT&T’s iPhone exclusivity.

There are ways to tether without AT&T or Apple’s blessings but for the average user it has been a tiresome waiting game. I have jailbroken my iPhone and had fun tethering it to my MacBook a few times but I had the eery feeling that AT&T was watching and that I would see an encyclopedia-sized bill show up at the door. So I reset my iPhone into an un-jailbroken state and gave up on tethering. But hope of iPhone tethering has been rekindled thanks to Google. With Android 2.2 just around the corner that offers native tethering it will be Google that will (indirectly) force AT&T’s hand. I hope.