Android tethering can sometimes be a controversial topic. Several carriers prohibit tethering in their terms of service, yet any Android user can easily get away with it by using a number of readily available, free applications.
The first carrier to come out against Android tethering was T-Mobile when they banned WiFi Tether for Root Users from their Android Market listing. T-Mobile’s terms of service state, “Your Data Plan is intended for Web browsing, messaging, and similar activities on your device and not on any other equipment. Unless explicitly permitted by your Data Plan, other uses, including for example, tethering your device to a personal computer or other hardware, are not permitted.”
Each carrier enters into a distribution agreement with Google in order to place the Android Market client on their devices, so they have the final say on which apps appear in the listings. If an application violates a carrier’s TOS, then it can be involuntary removed.
Google clearly wants Android users to share their internet connection however they see fit and has added native USB tethering and a WiFi hotspot support to Android 2.2. I’ve tested these new features on my T-Mobile Nexus One and they work quite well, so I now have a stock phone that goes against my carrier’s wishes.
Each carrier will be allowed to remove the native tethering options from their Android 2.2 firmwares and I suspect quite a few will. Both Sprint and Verizon currently charge $29.99 per month to add a tethering data-plan.
Even though carriers will try to put barriers between the customer and tethering, I’m not sure there is anything they can do to stop really it. Sprint was probably the first to realize this and that’s why they are slapping a monthly $10 Android tax to every customer who purchases the HTC EVO 4G. They know Android customers are data-hungry, so they are going to charge them for the additional strain on their wireless network.
Several people asked me if the EVO could do free tethering, so I filmed a quick demo. In just a few minutes, I was able to download PdaNet from the Sprint Android Market and easily tethered in a few clicks. I’m not going to write a how-to guide and encourage tethering, but anyone can find these tether apps by doing a quick Google search.
How many of you use tethering on a regular basis? Are you paying for it or using a free application? What do you think carriers should charge those customers who wish to tether? Has the time come to end the “unlimited” data plans and switch to a true tiered pricing structure?