AT&T to deliver iPhone tethering 'soon,' says CEO

It's working with Apple to connect laptops to the Web via the iPhone

An AT&T Inc. executive today said that the company is working with Apple Inc. to come up with a way for iPhone owners to use the device as an ad hoc cellular modem to connect their laptops to the Web while they're on the road.

In an interview with blogger Michael Arrington at the Web 2.0 Summit, AT&T Mobility President and CEO Ralph De La Vega said his company would have a sanctioned tethering solution "soon" for iPhone users.

AT&T already provides the service -- where a laptop accesses the Internet through the mobile network by "tethering" it to a cell phone's wireless data connection -- for BlackBerry users at $30 extra a month. It has not, however, officially allowed tethering from the iPhone.

An AT&T spokesman confirmed De La Vega's comments, but declined to provide any more information, including exactly when the service would be available and at what cost.

Although Apple has quashed at least one tethering application by yanking it from the App Store in August, iPhone owners who "jailbreak" their phones can install one of several unsanctioned tethering programs.

One of those programs, PDAnet, was ported to the iPhone by its developer, June Fabrics Technology Inc., and can be downloaded and installed on the iPhone using the open-source Cydia application installer. PDAnet turns the iPhone into the equivalent of a wireless router that then can be accessed from any Mac or Windows laptop.

Current AT&T terms of service for iPhone plans, however, specifically ban tethering. "Furthermore, unlimited plans (except for Data Connect and BlackBerry tethered) cannot be used for any applications that tether the device (through use of, including without limitation, connection kits, other phone/PDA-to-computer accessories, Bluetooth or any other wireless technology) to laptops, PCs, or other equipment for any purpose," AT&T's conditions state.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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