Tethering to iPhone still coming, AT&T says; no date set

AT&T today reiterated its plans to offer tethering on the iPhone, but again gave no date when that might happen -- more than a year after the carrier first said tethering would be coming "soon."

Asked just when that would be, a spokesman said in an e-mail: "We plan to offer tethering on the iPhone but have not announced a date."

The issue of when tethering would come to the iPhone has been on the minds of users and bloggers who aren't afraid to post critical online comments. Industry luminary Harry McCracken posted a comment Friday noting that Nov. 6 marked the anniversary of when AT&T Mobility President Ralph De La Vega told an audience at the Web 2.0 Summit that tethering to iPhone was coming "soon."

He noted that de la Vega had also blogged about the coming tethering, "whipping up excitement for tethering," and then pointed out that AT&T found later it needed to upgrade networks to be ready to support iPhone tethering.

The anniversary of the delay comes as Verizon Wireless has begun a drumbeat in TV ads attacking AT&T for a smaller 3G network than Verizon's. AT&T on Nov. 3 filed a lawsuit attacking the ads as misleading .

Verizon also launched the Motorola Droid on Android 2.0 on Friday, noting that -- among other features -- users can use the Droid for tethering. That's one of several functions the Droid can do that the iPhone cannot.

Analyst Jack Gold, of J. Gold Associates, said today that the long delay in iPhone tethering and questions about AT&T's network generally should persuade AT&T to reconsider the whole issue. "If I were AT&T at this point, I'd delay the iPhone tethering as long as possible,"Gold said. "If they allow tethering to iPhones, the users are going to be downloading videos and adding network demands."

Gold and other analysts said the interest in tethering is probably "less than 5% of the iPhone base" and might not really be a major revenue potential for AT&T, even if it charges $30 a month, as it does for BlackBerry tethering.

Perhaps AT&T could offer a discounted deal with an AT&T broadband card for the laptops of iPhone owners just to renew customer loyalty after the long delay, Gold added.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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