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AT&T vs. Unsanctioned Tethering.

March 18, 2011

On Thursday a Reddit user posted a screenshot of an email from AT&T regarding the use of tethering on the iPhone. Numbers of MyWi users have spoken out that they have received such notice from AT&T through SMS followed by email.

One of the SMS reads:

“AT&T Free Msg: Did you know tethering your Smartphone to a computer requires a tethering plan? Pls call 888-860-6789 for details or visit”

Photo Illustration by Very G.


The email from AT&T clearly pin-point user for using unsanctioned tethering method on their network:

Dear [Customer],

We’ve noticed your service plan may need updating.

Many AT&T customers use their smartphones as a broadband connection for other devices, like laptops, netbooks or other smartphones– a practice commonly known as tethering. Tethering can be an efficient way for our customers to enjoy the benefits of AT&T’s mobile broadband network and use more than one device to stay in touch with important people and information. To take advantage of this feature, we require that in addition to a data plan, you also have a tethering plan.

Our records show that you use this capability, but are not subscribed to our tethering plan.

If you would like to continue tethering, please log into
your account online at Cell Phones and Cell Phone Plans – Wireless from AT&T, or call us
at 1-888-860-6789 Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. – 9 p.m. CST
or Saturday, 8 a.m. – 7 p.m. CST, by March 27, 2011
to sign up for DataPro 4GB for Smartphone Tethering.


The story was submitted to Hacker New and numerous other sites. There are many theories on how AT&T identifies users using the unsanctioned tethering method. It is still unclear if AT&T is targeting MyWi users only. Some speculate that AT&T is targeting users who clearly use incredible amount of data on their grandfathered unlimited data plan. Based on comments in forums, some users got the message even though they do not use tethering.

AT&T currently offers a specific tethering plan to smartphone users:

DataPro 4GB for Smartphone Tethering

  • $45 per month (this gives you 4GB in total, combining both your smartphone data plan for $25 and the tethering feature, $20)
  • $10 per each additional GB thereafter, added automatically as needed
  • Mobile Hotspot capabilities are included for compatible Smartphones

The story has since been picked up and re-reported by numerous sites:

One can only wonder if AT&T really analyzes the data use or primarily goes after those who use unbelievable amount of data on their smartphone plan.

Have Nexus One and Palme Pre 2 users been notified by AT&T? Those two phones do not require any jailbreaking or rooting to use the tethering feature without signing up for the tethering plan on AT&T.

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