Nov 03 AT 6:15 PM Taylor Wimberly 73 Comments

Are some T-Mobile users about to lose their free tethering?

Are some T-Mobile users about to lose their free tethering? I’m bringing attention to the question because I’m still not entirely sure about the answer. According to some recent comments from a T-Mobile spokesperson, it’s looking more and more like that could be the case.

Back in the early days of Android you couldn’t tether your phone unless you hacked it. This was one of the main reasons I got into rooting my phones, but then Google finally added native tethering support to Android 2.2.

Many Nexus One owners who have service with T-Mobile have been taking advantage of free tethering ever since. You just go into your wireless settings and click a check box to turn it on. Thanks to today’s OTA update, the T-Mobile G2 also has that feature. This means that either phone can do free wireless tethering out of the box with no modifications or hacks.

T-Mobile was the only major carrier that didn’t have a tethering add-on plan, while most others charged $25-30 per month. It was always against T-Mobile’s terms and conditions to tether, but they never cracked down on people who were using it (and not abusing it).

The T-Mobile T&Cs specifically states, “Unless explicitly permitted by your Data Plan, other uses, including for example, using your Device as a modem or tethering your Device to a personal computer or other hardware, are not permitted.

Starting today, things could be changing. T-Mobile just announced their Tethering and Wi-Fi Sharing service plan, which they will be charging $14.99 per month.

When I asked T-Mobile how this affects current G2 and Nexus One owners, I received the following response from a company spokesperson.

T-Mobile does not currently support handset tethering and Wi-Fi sharing or offer a tethering rate plan. Beginning this holiday season, T-Mobile will offer a Tethering and Wi-Fi Sharing service plan that lets customers use their G2 as wireless modem for connecting laptops and other devices to the internet through the T-Mobile network.  Customers will be able to add the Tethering and Wi-Fi Sharing plan to their Web — Unlimited $30/monthly plan for an additional $14.99 per month.T-Mobile spokesperson

As you can see it was not the clear answer I was looking for so I exchanged a couple more emails trying to see if T-Mobile was going to crack down on people who are not explicitly paying for tethering.

After some back and forth, the T-Mobile spokesperson said, “They will need to sign up for the tethering plan when it becomes available if they would like to use the tethering service.”

So whether you like it or not, it does appear that T-Mobile will attempt to start charging for the free tethering that many have enjoyed on their Nexus One and G2 phones. I’m not sure how they will technically enforce the rule, but I guess we will find out soon.

Do I agree with T-Mobile’s policy? No, but all the other carriers do it the same way now. In a perfect world, the carrier would just give me my bucket of data I paid for and let me use it on whatever I want (without trying to charge me twice).

What do you think T-Mobile should do? Are you ok with paying $14.99 per month to tether your Android phone?

Taylor is the founder of Android and Me. He resides in Dallas and carries the Samsung Galaxy S 4 and HTC One as his daily devices. Ask him a question on Twitter or Google+ and he is likely to respond. | Ethics statement

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  • maruichan

    How would they prevent people from tethering though? I don’t think they can. So if your phone is running custom FM, it probably doesn’t change anything anyway. I guess if a person running stock doesn’t want to lose tether ,just don’t update your phone or ‘hack’ it?

    • http://Website joe

      talk about shooting yourself in the foot. the free tethering on my nexus one is its biggest selling point that impresses people about tmo. Without that, whats to like?

      • http://Website mihavitmalakai10

        getting the update first on the device instead of waiting for carriers to optimize it for there device.

        • http://Website Micah

          Yeah, but that’s not really a tmobile thing…that’s more of a nexus one thing. Anyways, that sucks. I just want my data un regulated and charged out the ass. We already pay to much for cell service in general…

    • Christopher Chavez

      That’s their stance on tethering but there’s no way to enforce it is what I got from the statement from T-Mobile….

    • steviebrasil

      I been a Tmoble customer for 8 years and I bought my G2 phone because of the teathuring option that is on the phone. They should have been more spcific about future charges for teathuring. If I would have known I would have kept my old phone. Times are hard right now and people are trying to save a buck with their high fees are allready to much and now they want to charge 14.99 dollars more. People will start going back to coffee shops and get internet access for free. If Tmoble would keep the free teathuring others probably would want to change phone companies. I know I’m thinking about it

  • http://Website Bigmerf

    Hell no, Im not ok.. Its my 5gb Let me use it the way I want!

  • http://Website Carl

    If its simply T-Mobile letting you do it, no, its clearly double dipping. If that $15/mo added an additional 5Gb or some sort of extreme overage protection, yes, thats a fair price.

  • themetatron

    They couldn’t stop rooted devices from tethering before so I don’t see how they’ll be able to now.

  • http://Website Josh

    T-Mobile should stop worrying about trying to be like the other carriers and continue being the cool network they’ve been. I’m not gonna pay for my data twice.

  • Ramon

    I don’t like this move by T-Mobile at all. I heard that in Germany once they began number 1 they raise all the prices. I just hope T-Mobile scraps this ..but that future is far away.

  • http://Website Tyler

    I’d be perfectly fine with it if I wasn’t capped at 5gigs. The network is fast enough to stream HD Netflix movies on my TV. I want to keep that capability but I can’t if I’m capped at 5 gigs. I’d pay $15 more a month if they don’t cap it.

    • Taylor Wimberly

      I agree. It would be nice to pay for extra data. Sadly, the $15 tethering plan comes out of your 5 GB soft cap. After that they throttle down your speeds.

      • Justinhub2003

        The good thing is: when they cap you just go to settings then switch to 2g only for a few minutes and then revert back to 3g and BAM! throttling is stopped… this is confimed from @simms22 on tweeter as he uses his tmobile service as his only and primary source of internet for his laptop and constantly exceeds that limit and says that that trick as always worked..

        • http://Website Ltown

          Seriously?!?!?! I can’t believe its that easy! I have never gone over the 5gb cap but this is nice to know if I ever do. I might drop my cable internet if this is the case, but then again I want espn and espnnetworks, and even with HSPA+ in my city I only see about 5mbps where as my cable modem averages 15. Someday…

          • http://Website Ltown

            *I meant to say ESPN3

          • http://Website Jack

            And these are the people I am talking about, who decides to cut cost by only using the mobile network as their sole use of internet for their PCs and other devices and then wonder why its slow or why they might have to pay more. It costs money to run a network……

        • http://Website Frank

          This I can say is true Justinhub2003. I always exceed the cap by 2-3 GB every month. It switches to Edge and sits at 60kbps which is worse than dialup. Neat little trick I do with my Moto Cliq is keep the radio to 3G ONLY and it never skips a beat. SETTINGS>WIRELESS & NETWORKS>MOBILE NETWORKS>SELECT NETWORK>3G ONLY..done! (Wiping hands clean) ;D

  • http://Website rags711

    Personally, I think all the carriers are getting away with to much.were basically paying twice to do two different things on the same data.
    Hopefully there’s no way they can tell!

  • Justinhub2003

    on top of that will they stop wired tethering via apps like Easy Tether and PDAnet. I was tethering on my unrooted G2 the day I got it with those apps for free and without issue. Soooo im not sure how they plan on enforcing this…

  • http://Website mihavitmalakai10

    i dont see the point u are already paying for the data package. why charge $15 to use the data the way u want to. thats like cablevison charge me $30 bucks for unlimited internet per month and it comes with a wifi router as a deal. then they turn around and charge u $15 to use the wifi router to power other devices that are capable in my house. whats the difference, the data is still being use the same way. i dont see why they charging for the same internet use its stupid. why charge us twice, one to have the data and the other to use.

  • http://Website CM

    Dude – Don’t poke the sleeping giant. I doubt they will go after Nexus 1 users (all 20 of us) after they start charging. Unless you keep asking them if they will…

    • http://Website mihavitmalakai10

      i totally agree with this comment. shhhhhhhhhhhh be very very quiet. but i do want to know if they will but i rather keep it on a hush hush and never pay at all.

    • http://Website mapin

      Agreed !!! PLEASE STFU and stop poking T-Mobile about whether they will go after us Nexus One owners who are tethering. There aren’t many of us, so I can see them just letting it go figuring we’ll be upgrading our phones at some point soon anyway since the N1 is approaching 1 year old in January. However, if people keep poking and prodding they may just decide to go after us.

    • Noyabronok

      Oh come on, he’s just being a good investigative journalist and trying to get some information to share with everyone else. As long as everyone else doesn’t call it should be ok. Also, most people that use N1 or read this blog know enough to figure out how to avoid being charged extra for tethering so you guys shouldn’t sweat it.

  • SGB101

    They best not stop it in the UK, especially as my desire hd can act as an wireless hotspot, really cool feature.

    Even if they do find a way to stop it will just go back to like in the g1 days.

    Stick that in your pipe and smoke it t-mobile.

    They may just disconnect the 3g data once your cap is up, hence making you upgrade to the teather package that may give you an added 5gb on top.

    Then it will be me smoking t-mobiles pipe lol.

  • ayocuz

    I got a really good idea how they should enforce this. DON’T!!

    • http://Website mihavitmalakai10

      DON’T U DARE

  • http://Website J.

    Unless the check box in settings has a specific EULA acceptance clause, T-mo can get bent.
    They can’t tell, from a technical perspective, that I’m tethering, and the feature they are trying to charge for is baked into the operating system. Sure they disabled it and then re-enabled it, but they told me about the tethering fee after I accepted the download. So they’re in a world if legal hurt if they try to slap me with charges I never agreed to for using a feature they have me without preconditions.
    And I know that people are going to point out the T&C, but to that I say…then why did they give me the ability to violate it? Clearly, from a legal perspective, they had no desire to enforce this term since they actively participated in deseminating the means of violation.
    This is going to be very interesting to see how it plays out. I suspect that legal challenges may be forthcoming, and I don’t see a good result for T-Mob or the other carriers for that matter.

    • http://Website sgb101

      Your car can violate the speed limit, doesn’t mean you can tho.

      • http://Website J.

        an excellent analogy for the 5gb data cap, but it lacks verisimilitude to the issue at hand.
        A better car-based analogy would be this:
        If your state made it illegal to drive with more than one passenger in the car, and took out the back seat for all cars sold in the state, then delivered a free backseat to your house, then ticketed you when you installed it and dove with 4 people in the car.

        Because that’s way more like what’s happening here.

        Also, on a philosophical note…we should all want to encourage the carriers to move towards, nit away from, a “dumb pipe” model. There is no consumer benefit to the current subsidy/subscription model employed in the US cellular market. This every time you tether and get away with it, or root, or buy unsub and pay month to month, you’re striking a blow *for* the good guys. Remember, t-mob may ber the least restrictive of the big 4, but they are still the enemy. As my yet-to-be-rooted-permanently G2 can attest.

        • http://Website Jack

          I agree with you on one thing, which is the Cell market in the U.S. It seems as though every person who owns a phone (over generalized, I know) expects that phone to be free as long as they pay for the service with a contract, and thats what it has been based on for all time here. People feel they have this entitlement of getting any phone for free for no reason.

          Example: Phone is having an issue of some sort. Ok, manufacturers warranty covers a year. They say its a pos and expect the carrier to replace the device for free, not pay shipping, and send out a different device. To some extent that is done. But what people don’t realize is that the carrier didn’t make the phone, and if they didn’t like it, they should have returned it within the buyers remorse. If I purchase something from Best Buy, and after the return period ends, decide I don’t like it, I can’t take it back. I deal with it or sell it on ebay or craigslist.

          Now, if people were to buy their phone outright, for the Manufacturers retail price, and then add their own plan, that would be great…..hmm….didn’t someone in the US do that……oh!!! I have one of those phones too. I don’t get pissed off at Best Buy for the Fridge I bought from them, I get pissed off at the people who made that fridge. People can be so……well…you can fill in the blank.
          And for those who want to argue against what I am saying here, feel free. I am open for discussion.

  • http://Website Frank

    Gladly, I can edit a little piece of thing and do this for free on Verizon. Hopefully the same can be done for you Tmo users.

  • http://Voiceofandroid.Com KingKingskidd268

    People are still going to root their androids, but the 14 + dollars is a kick in the head. The over price of the plan just to have a android is just crazy. Tmobile is just trying to cash in on a growing trend.

  • http://Website alex

    If T-Mobile wanted to see if you were tethering they could bit they’d have to have a warrant for the data sniffing required to find out. Don’t worry guys. Hit up the nexus one xda general forums and there is a discussion about it

  • http://Website Another Frank

    Us as techies know what’s involved here. Especially with how our data packages are implemented and used. The “common” consumer will not know better and will accept the extra charges not knowing exactly what’s involved with this smoke & mirrors act Tmobile is pulling. Do the math..over 90+% of customers vs the small % of techies that know their stuff. Which is the bigger revenue maker? I don’t see how Tmo is able to figure how data is being pulled from their towers so I’ll continue to tether to my hearts content. I won’t be double paying for data I already pay for twice. As for the rest of the “common” consumers they probably will. Sad but true.

  • Rubbinz

    If they do decide to railroad users that have free tethering right now, BlackBerry 9700 and Nexus One, into a paid version, it would be grounds to cancel your contract without an ETF.

    Why is this? Because when I bought the 9700 free tethering was pushed as a sales incentive by in-store T-Mobile reps. Same for the N1, they even provided instructions on how to do it.

    This has happened a few times in the past with several carriers. Most recent Sprint when they increased their per SMS fee.

    I’m not going to go into the full details on how to do it, but sites like The Consumerist has done many posts on the subject.

    • Snafu77

      Yup. I broke my contract with Sprint due to their making a material breach of contract by changing fees. 25 cents was enough. I actually hope they try to charge me as a N1 user so I can get out of my contract without penalty since they are clearly attempting to modify the terms of the contract after the fact. I’m tempted to switch carriers again but even after breaking the contract I will probably stay with Tmo until the first tegra2 phone drops.

      • Rubbinz

        I wouldn’t leave either, I’d end the contract and go month to month. However, they can prevent this by simply not enforcing it upon BlackBerry and Nexus One users. If they just left us alone so long as we don’t abuse the data cap, there wouldn’t be a breach of contract on their part.

    • http://Website watbetch

      Something a rep told you isn’t grounds for a contract termination. Get real

      • Rubbinz

        Yes, it is very real. Already been there in court with AT&T a few years ago. If a corporate employee misrepresents the terms, conditions they need to hold up the terms they sold to you. Especially when T-Mobile’s own online and phone CSR reps support those same claims made in the corporate store.

        Like I said, been there and done that in court with AT&T already. And it most recently happened with Sprint. It does represent a “material breach of contract”.

  • http://Website R

    T-Mobile can only bill by having users sign into an app like the G1 and T-Mobile hotspots, legacy phones are not impacted like the Nexus One.

  • Ernest leitch

    I asked about this at the gdgt event in seattle. They said as long as n1 users don’t abuse the feature they shouldn’t have to worry. So no more bluray torrents over your phone.

    • http://Website J.

      That’s a far cry from an actual policy.

      • Noyabronok

        But is it good enough? Policy that lets you tether for free is great, but a company representative OK and no confirmed cases of lawsuits or crack-downs is good enough in my book.

        • http://Website J.

          Right up until they decide it isn’t OK anymore.

  • http://Dang... pokey

    I’ve had a Touch Pro 2 with Tmo running the stock winmo ROM. It had internet sharing via bluetooth and worked well. The rep 1 year ago said there was no problem there. I did it with my HD2 as well with custom ROMs.

    Now I have my HD2 running Android 2.2 and I’ve been using WiFi tethering. They haven’t hit me yet. I’m now concerned that I’ll have to go back to winmo for free tethering (via bluetooth) unless they are going to crack down on that too.

    I agree with everyone that wants to pay for their 5gb and use it whichever way they want. That’s acceptable to me, as I already function under that system. I’m not going to use Bittorrent on my laptop with my phone’s internet connection. I’d rather use cable or fiber.

    • pokey

      Here I am, almost a year later. I got mytouch 4g in Dec 2010. I tethered it without worry and never even rooted it. Never was contacted by Tmo.

      I got an HTC Sensation a few weeks ago and started tethering it. I got messaged today on my phone that i would need to buy the $15/month plan to continue it. I’m not sure how they knew. My Sensation is rooted, but i was using the native Android wifi hotspot app. I’ve hear rumors that they watch traffic loads, destinations, and other things to guess if you are tethering. Then they threaten you with language like this in their message: “Tethering & Wi-Fi Sharing access may be blocked unless you add a Phone Tethering &Wi-Fi Sharing plan available here.” They provide this URL:

  • http://Website Dave

    In Germany, I’m allowed to use tethering in my contract without paying extra @T-Mobile :s

  • http://Website Raptor

    Network mafia wants your money. Remember like they charged $2000 for 5 GB extra cap just a year ago? Who is going to stop them from price fixing, gouging and collusion? No court, judge, attorney, someone with some sort of power can stop them!

    They rob consumers and hardware manufacturers too. Just notice such discrepancy in the numbers: you got two year contract, you will be paying $2300-3500 depending on network while the cellphone manufacturers get around $500: the factor of 5 difference !!!

    And now go to Yahoo finance (look at T, S, VZ) and look at all these telcos CEOs and their board companions multi-million dollar compensations for last year. Even Microsoft Stevy Balmer is a baby in comparison with his hundreds of thousands

    They’re calling limited data unlimited, charge us twice for the traffic by discriminating how that data is used. After network upgrade did they increased this cap? No they decreased it from 10 to 5 and starting now charging for that. True mafia. The network monopoly.

    OK, If I purchase that 5 GB limited unlimited of data/mo why the hell does it matter how I use that data so long as I stay within this crappy limit designed to be broken by default (otherwise why Comcast has 250GB since the time speeds were 4-6gbps) ?

    Give people 50 GB soft limit and leave them alone, Al Capones! The large business customers will buy your extra devices & services anyway.

  • http://Website some internet dude

    simple, if your rooted they cant distinguish if your data is going to your mobile or laptop. If your stock then expect a text saying sorry we are cutting you off, but for a small fee you can have it back. What is the lesson here, everyone please root your phones, and take back control.

    • http://Website Earthrazer

      After I got my Vibrant, I called to ask about some weird data spikes showing when I was at work. I was told there was absolutely no way to tell what applications were using data by tech support…and I pushed my way up the chain to ask.

      Interpret that however you want ;)

  • Justin

    im ok with that. I mean if thats the only way I still think it’s affordable. It’s better than a separate data plan like the tab.. (if it is separate)

  • http://Website Jack

    What some people do not realize is that when someone learns they have tethering, they get “smart” and think of replacing their home internet, then putting stresses on the network and tower in their location, making it so other users are having issues also. Now, tethering, in my opinion, is something you might want to do on an occasional basis, not on a regular basis. So, to prevent those people who are more inclined to torrent through out the night while using tethering, Tmobile is introducing these plans for those who are actually intending on using this feature correctly. Also, with the extra charge, they are then able to make profit and expand their network even more. Tmobile is a business and not charity.

    Plus, since they are coming out with different data plans, then they can say do a $15 data plan, add tethering on for the occasional use at $15, and still be at the same price your paying now.
    I may not like the idea of having to pay extra for the option, even if I know it was already there for my N1 and G2, but it is mainly for the masses. That “1%” of reported people who would be effected by this are basically going to have to pay, because the other populous of the customer base are going to be stupid about it and replace their cable internet.

    As to the technical capabilities of the company on monitoring tethering, I couldn’t tell you how they would do it. But, I do know there is a difference in data usage between someone who is watching a youtube video on their phone, streaming pandora and doing their FB, compared to someone who is tethering and downloading all their music library and what not from torrents. You can monitor this usage on your

    As for the data threshold, I don’t agree with it, but it is setup to bring down those users who are just massively killing the network with their current tethering and data usage. My personal usage is no where near 5gb at this point, and I tether now at times, use the network and my wifi. Every month I am at about 20% of my threshold. No concerns. Use wifi, there are tons of them around.

    Disclaimer: In no way is this information provided from Tmobile, nor does Tmobile support my opinion on the subject.

    • http://Website J.

      All kinds of wrong way around on this one, sir.

      I think what you’re looking for is “Occasional tethering users pay nothing since they already bought their damn data. Heavy traffic users get the choice of being throttled down or paying the $14.95 tethering fee (and receive an additional 5gb) as a way to discourage people from canceling their home internet.”

      Because what you’re saying makes as much sense as a soup sandwich.

  • http://Website Sam Bowden

    There should be a class action lawsuit against carriers doing this

  • http://Website Eason Chow

    Over here in Hong Kong, you can tether for free, and locking phones to carriers is illegal here too.

    Yes, it is a perfect world here. :)

    • http://[email protected] Phone Guy LA

      Its a shame that they don’t let you lock phones to carriers. It just hurts the consumer in Hong Kong. Here in the US, you have two choices: Pay for the phone subsidized and locked, or paying full price, and they unlock it immediately (takes a day or two). Hmm, tough choice. I think its better in the US where we actually have choice.

      Look at the I-Phone. Its dirt cheap in the US with a contract, but it costs about $1200 USD for that same phone unlocked in Australia. And our plans are soooo much cheaper and better. I will always take choice over a government telling me what I have to do.

  • http://Website d.s.cha

    Can’t you people be happy with the amount money you make already. Oh,there’s something we can charge for, quick grab that how fucking greedy can you be mr.CEO. get a life . You’ve got a big piece of the communications world by the balls but you have to keep squeezing,I just don’t get it but I don’t have to do I , who cares what everyone else does.not everyone is hacking or trying to rip you off. Cut the bullshit.

  • Justin

    I still don’t see the plan change.. But so does anyone know if we won’t be able to use it 100% once it becomes available? I know my g2 has that software update with the wireless hotspot enabled right now..

  • http://Website DayDay

    Yep… i got it. Let me know if you guys find a work around… so we can continue to enjoy the UNLIMITED package we Pay for.

    The goal would be for the rom builders to make this whole teathering thing go back to the way it was last week…. But Ok, if they want me to pay $15 i will but atleast lets try to lift the limit.

  • http://Website Gary

    Yes i know im late. However you are all forgetting that whole purpose of a company is to profit and profit they will. Tm just doesnt say at their board meeting WELL GUYS WE MADE $5BILL IN THE LAST QUARTER WE R GOING TO CONTINUE MAKING $5 BILL. They r going keep lookung for ways to exceed their last quarter profit. So its up to us to keep deciphering through their policies how we r going to hack and cheat them. Remember they just want to make more profit and we just want to pay less. Its a constant struggle, lets all hate these corporation together in harmony.

  • http://Website Lou

    I just want to tether my I Pad when I am out of a wifi area Not about to pay ATT for for data plan. I only need it about once a month or so. I have 3G slide. Haven’t down loaded 2.2 because I don’t have a windows computer.

  • Tim

    This is a breach of contract on their part. Nobody pays $30.00 a month to surf the net on a cell phone. Tethering might make it worth that but when you add on the $14.99 in becomes $45.00 a month. More than the $28.00 a month dsl and slower. Oh and with data caps. No it’s not unlimited. They throttle you over 5 gigs so you can’t watch too many netflix movies. Go with somebody else.

  • Omar

    It is officially over, today I tried tethering my laptop using my MyTouch 4g, and I opened up my browser on my laptop and was prompted to a promotional tmobile website. It is for you to acquire the plan. So that is how they are going to monitor if you are tethering. You’ll probably going to have to log in or something as you would when you use any type of public wifi/hotspots. Aslo my I have my phone running the stock software.

  • Joe

    they just blocked my teethering so goodbye t- mobile contract… going back to another carrier with a simpler phone and no internet… it was already expensive as it was to start charging 15 bucks for it. I guess the at&t merge had to do with all this…. as always … get greedy , you wont get my money. If it happens to you get out of the contract.

  • mz

    So your all telling me that tje g2x phone and unlimited plan i just got 3 of plus a limited plan, Im paying almost $300. a month for cant be used to tether? I have only had it a week.. not even long enough to learn all the features! Nooooo

  • Omar

    For some strange reason I can tether again. Did this restriction go away? I checked my bill summary and nothing appeared. I think we won this fight!

  • Stephanie

    T-mobile would be dumb to crack down. I’m sure they lost a couple customers by stopping it. I do have a g2x and nothing stopped for me though… I guess it only stopped for some people…. Guys, t-mobile won’t be enforcing this anytime soon, they would lose too many customers if they did…. Please keep us updated on anything new going on though!!!

  • rick

    Tmobile cut off my easy feather.Tried odds and it doesn’t work,were screwed now.

  • roll

    I can still teather with my debloated custom stock rom on a rooted Galaxy S2.

  • alhambra

    tmoible cares now they called after the text survey lowered my plan and then was charged the same sgian like the call nevet happend