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10 Months and Counting: AT&T’s Network Still Can’t Handle Tethering



So, how many of you are iPhone users here in the US? Raise your hands. How does it feel to be a second class citizen in the world due to your contract with AT&T? Do you enjoy it? Let’s but this another way. How do you feel being beholden to a company that loves to take your money each month for using a network that can’t live up to what it purports to offer?

To my mind it’s like going to see the circus and finding out that elephants are cardboard cutouts. I’m ranting a bit here spurred on by Engadget’s reminder that AT&T still is claiming its network doesn’t live up to its billing and they are uncomfortable providing a tethering solution.

Keep in mind that AT&T wasn’t listed last year when Apple rolled out the iPhone 3GS and said networks would offer tethering. It was a big joke last year, but apparently not enough of one to make AT&T fix their problems, or send Apple to other carriers. In fact, it has become such a running joke, that not only has it ceased to be funny when comedians bring it up, but it has moved into the realm of cliché. But also keep in mind that AT&T said tethering would be coming soon. Tethering for the iPhone is available in other countries and on other networks on the globe, just not here in the good old USA.

So, here’s another question. If it is a given, as stated by AT&T that the network can’t handle the traffic caused by all those iPhones in the US, what’s going to happen here in a few days when those 3G iPads ship and folks start activating those unlimited plans (and AT&T says it is truly unlimited not a 5GB cap), and begin streaming video over Netflix and other services? We’re already seeing reports that the iPad WiFi units are generating more traffic on some sites than Android devices, which until recently was on a real rise.

Here’s the quote Engadget got from AT&T on this:

“We understand that there is great interest in tethering but cannot provide any details at this time. We know that iPhone users love their devices and mobile broadband, and that they’re likely to embrace tethering just as they have other features and apps – by using it a lot. iPhone tethering has the potential to exponentially increase traffic, and we need to ensure that we’re able to deliver excellent performance for the feature – over and above the increases in data traffic we’re already seeing – before we will offer the feature.

I know I’m a sucker for falling for this, but I’m obviously not alone. But I’ve also found other solutions. I think it is one of the most amazing tech and corporate stories we’ve seen in quite some time. Think about it, a corporation can grab so many customers and make so much money with a product that doesn’t deliver what it promises. If AT&T didn’t have Steve Jobs to cover for them, they’d be crucified in the market. Years from now this will be a case study on how to bamboozle your customers.

I don’t think P.T. Barnum would try to get away with this, but then AT&T (and Apple) are proving that the great showman was correct in his reading of the American consumer.



  1. dstrauss

    04/29/2010 at 7:30 am

    I don’t think this is a Barnum moment…because we have no other alternative if we want the iPhone in our pocket. Yes, we could vote with our feet and dollars, but if you want that Apple ecosystem, and millions do, you have to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that AT&T heaps upon us. WE also have to face some sobering facts: (1) Verizon and any other US carrier who dares obtain teh iPhone will suffer the same fate of an overloaded broadband network, because (2) we iPhone users are pigs about data. We are the torrent users of the wireless unit, and I for one don’t want to change (although I have finally dabbled more with WiFi on my iPhone lately to at least speed up data access). Therein lies the real solution – build out more hotspot infrastructure and relieve the drain on the cell towers. I think that is what AT&T is praying (wrongly) will happen with the iPad 3g – instead, it is likely to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. (How’s that for a rant full of cliches?)

  2. Andrew Beery

    04/29/2010 at 8:37 am

    Boy I couldn’t agree with Wagner more. I just bought an iPad (wifi only) to go with my iPhone 3GS and HP TX2 Tablet and I would love to use the phone to provide remote access to the Internet for both these tablets when I’m on the road. I hate the thought of having to Jailbreak my phone to gain access to functionality that should already be available! It was the same thing when SlingBox released their app and ATT limited it in the US – finally they gave in on that one – didn’t kill their network either… hopefully ATT will allow tethering in near future – especially if Apple opens iPhone to other carriers.

  3. Cary

    04/29/2010 at 9:38 am

    I have the iPhone 3G and the contract will be up in June. I’m hoping that the Sprint EVO will be out by then and getting favorable reviews. I live in a 4g area, so having a Smartphone and MiFi in one device is looking pretty sweet. If the new iPhone doesn’t have some of the same features then I will probably make the jump. I live in a Google Apps world anyway.

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