Data tethering is coming to the new Motorola Droid in 2010, a Verizon Wireless representative has confirmed.
This is great news for people who would like to use the Droid to connect their laptops to Verizon's 3G wireless EV-DO service. Tethering will not be available on the new Google Android phone when it hits stores on Friday. But Brenda Raney, a Verizon Wireless spokeswoman, said it is scheduled to be added next year.
The ability to tether or use a smartphone as a modem to access the Internet on a laptop is a differentiator for the Droid, which will be offered only on Verizon Wireless' network. The Droid's chief competitor, the Apple iPhone, is exclusively available on AT&T's network and does not offer data tethering, an issue that has frustrated many customers ever since the phone was introduced. AT&T executives have promised the feature is coming, but it hasn't come yet. Mark Siegel, a company spokesman, said the feature will eventually be offered on the iPhone, but wouldn't specify when.
That said, AT&T offers tethering on all its smartphones, except the iPhone, Siegel said. And that capability costs an extra $30 a month on top of the data service for the smartphone that customers already pay each month.
Verizon Wireless also offers tethering on most of its other smartphones. Verizon calls its service Mobile Broadband Connect. And it charges corporate smartphone customers who pay $44.99 per month for data service an additional $15 for tethering. For smartphone consumers, who pay $29.99 a month for their service, Verizon charges $30 a month to tether. And for customers who have feature phones with a voice service only, the company charges $49.99 to tether the device to a laptop.
All of Verizon's Mobile Broadband Connect plans are limited to 5GB of data per month. And customers are charged 5 cents per megabyte for overage.
The other two major U.S. wireless operators have either outlawed tethering altogether--or they will soon. T-Mobile USA doesn't allow tethering on its network, which caused Google earlier this year to remove a tethering application from the Android Market.
And Sprint Nextel, which did allow tethering for its smartphones, is now disabling it. The blog Pulse2 confirmed earlier this week that Sprint executive David Owens said that the carrier will no longer allow data tethering on its network starting in 2010.
The reason that wireless operators are wary about allowing subscribers to use their phones as wireless broadband modems is because they are afraid that the traffic generated from the millions of customers using these phones to connect their laptops to the Net will cripple their networks.
AT&T admits that its iPhone users, which get unlimited data usage for $30 a month, consume more data on the network than other smartphone users. And there are already signs that iPhone data use is putting strains on AT&T's network, as millions of iPhone and 3G wireless users complain of poor service, especially in metropolitan areas.
But banning tethering likely won't stop people from illegally turning their phones into modems. There are many crafty smartphone users who will likely jailbreak their phones to enable the functionality. And it's hard for the carriers to actually block the service.