AT&T confirms iPhone 4 Personal Hotspot support March 11

Prices the Wi-Fi tethering at $20 per month extra, will debut same day as iOS 4.3

AT&T today confirmed that it will support the new Personal Hotspot feature of Apple's iOS 4.3 on iPhone 4s when the update ships released March 11.

"AT&T plans to support the iOS 4.3 mobile hotspot feature when it's released March 11," an AT&T spokesman said today. "To utilize this feature, customers will need to subscribe to the DataPro 4GB/$45 tethering data plan."

The move matches that of rival Verizon, which lets its iPhone 4 owners use their smartphone to create a personal Wi-Fi hotspot. Up to five other devices, including tablets and notebooks, can use the iPhone's hotspot to connect to the Internet.

A month ago, AT&T said it would offer Wi-Fi tethering for the iPhone, but would not set a timetable for supporting the service baked into iOS 4.3.

On Wednesday, Apple said it will launch iOS 4.3 March 11, and highlighted Personal Hotspot -- its label for Wi-Fi tethering -- as one of the major additions to the mobile operating system. The update will be offered to owners of iPhone 4s running on all networks other than Verizon.

AT&T's Personal Hotspot support is available as a $45 per month bundle with the Data Pro plan, and adds another 2GB of data to the 2GB allowance of the latter, for a combined total of 4GB per month. Data usage above the 4GB allotment runs $10 per gigabyte.

The AT&T spokesman declined to specify how many devices will be able to simultaneously connect to an iPhone 4's hotspot, or whether its plan would match the five devices maximum of Verizon.

Currently, AT&T's iPhone tethering relies on a wireless Bluetooth link between the smartphone and a single tethered device, or requires that the user plug the iPhone into a laptop's USB port. AT&T launched tethering for the iPhone in mid-2010 after almost a year of promising the service to Apple smartphone owners.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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