I live and breathe rugged and mobile devices but the past few days one little mobile phone has been keeping me unusually busy on blogs and forums! Yes the little Apple iPhone has stirred up a few more hornets nests and here we talk about the tethered Internet option that is causing all sorts of debate online.

For those not in the know, “tethered Internet” is a new service that the iPhone can use to allow you to use it to link your laptop to the Internet, typically through the 3G connection of the phone.

On Thursday, here in the UK, we learnt that O2 will be enabling the tethered option but were quickly brought back down to earth when they released not only the pricing model they will be implementing but also the no less draconian attack on anyone who now uses their iPhone tethered without subscribing to one of the costly services.

Summary of O2 subscriptions

Basically, you have to pay. There’s no pay as you go option for using your iPhone tethered, it’s all monthly based subscriptions and you can’t get out of it whether a personal or business customer. The model can be seen on the O2 website.

Had a look? Did you fall off your chair too?! I personally feel that the pricing model is pretty poor, especially considering you’re doing essentially the same thing on the laptop as you are with the iPhone most of the time.

It’s clearly O2 not understanding the iPhone community and thinking they can jump on the iPhone bandwagon and charge a ridiculous price, that can be argued, should be free or at least already paid for via the Bolt on. What’s even more cheeky is that they do their up-most to get you using the WiFi network anyway so half the time you’ll be using “The cloud” instead of the more costly 3G and I think most laptops come with a WiFi connection these days!

For me it regretfully means that this is totally outpriced for me. I’m not paying £9.99 or £14.99 per month for occasional use, it’s extortionate and almost as much as my BT broadband!! I would have been much happier if they did what T-Mobile do and offered a £1 per day or £2 per 5 days charge or something more on demand like this.

For the time being that BT mobile dongle looks very appealing!

The strong arm of O2

I’m confused because I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong, but now O2 have made a statement about dealing with users who aren’t paying, I wonder now if the iPhone is the answer to all my needs any longer.

The statement can be viewed here O2 statement on tethering.

Can they detect what you’re doing
Yes they can, depending on what you are doing but the question also raises can they manage the detection, how many people will they actually be able to detect and will they really do anything if detected.

In terms of web traffic its simple to detect the browser headers and determine whether you’re browsing from a mobile or full windows/mac browser. Its how websites determine whether to serve you with the full or mobile version of its pages. I would imagine its easy to marry this up to your account and to then detect you.

As for Email, I’m not so sure. You will still have a mobile version of the email client but I don’t know if this is so detectable. What is for sure is that the ports are all the same so some kind of packet inspection would be required which I would have thought would be costly to implement and costly on the efficiency of the service. They could well be creating more effort by doing all of this than letting people get away with it.

What will give you away however is bandwidth. There is supposedly a 10GB limit on the iPhone bolt on anyway so if you break this regularly or by a lot then I think you’ll be putting yourself in the firing line if O2 start shooting.

Also don’t forget that, the tethering application itself could easily send back some data indicating your account/ phone number that could be looked up on your account. I’m not sure as I haven’t seen the code on this but in theory it could do?

My opinion, well ethically I feel comfortable to keep doing what I do, if I get on the wrong side of O2 then I am not abusing anything bandwidth-wise and am sure I will get a warning rap on the knuckles before they start talking bans. I for one am not abusing the system and think it would be totally unreasonable. I am happy to move contacts and use the phone jailbroken anyway if I have to!

Unlocking the tethered option on the iPhone

Rather than repeat this there is a post, enabling tethering on iPhone if you want to enable the tethered option on the iPhone. Remember you need v3.0 of the OS to do this and try it at your own peril. I’m not going to say anything more.

Alternatives

Is there any way round all this? Well try at your own peril but I have been doing something that O2 said was OK anyway and in fact I have had no issues with at all.

Using your O2 SIM in another phone
I have a HTC Windows Mobile phone that stays in my laptop bag. Totally naively I have been taking the SIM out of the iPhone, popping it into my HTC phone and then using the Windows mobile Internet sharing application to “Tether” my laptop. I have done this occasionally, on and off for the past 12 months with no problem at all. I very rarely browse the internet but I have done and I mainly use this to complete documents and email them whilst on the train and to update my blog in periods of business down travel. My bandwidth usage is pretty low.

Conclusion

So there we have it, O2 have clamped down and by doing so, the iPhone has simply brought a way for you to spend more money rather than a great new service that arguably you already pay hard-earned cash for. I for One will have a little dabble and will continue to do what I’m doing but I think the morale of the story here is that as long as you aren’t stupid and abuse your bandwidth, you will probably be OK (But don’t quote me on that!!!).

The Rugged and Mobile blog.

About The Author

Dave's one of the founders of Raptor, his rants are memorable, his thoughts are stimulating and his heart is set on helping, entertaining and making things like mobile, Android, ruggedness, 3D printing and IOT simple.

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