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8/5/2011
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AT&T iPhone Tethering Crackdown: Should Your Business Worry?

Wireless costs are about to go up for AT&T users that tether their iPhones without paying for the plan.

Back in March, AT&T begun notifying customers who tether their iPhones without paying for the appropriate plan that the wireless carrier knows what's going on. AT&T requested that those customers either pay as required or cease tethering.

An AT&T spokesperson said at the time, "We've just begun sending letters, emails, and text messages to a small number of smartphone customers who use their devices for tethering but aren't on our required tethering plan. Our goal here is fairness for all of our customers."

In order to tether an iPhone without a plan, it must be jailbroken and users have to install an unauthorized application. After taking these steps, people are free (so to speak) to use their iPhones as mobile modems to provide internet access to devices such as laptops.

AT&T offers customers this option, but at a cost. The customers have to pay $25 per month for a 2GB plan, and then an additional $20 for the tethering feature (which provides another 2GB of data per month). In the end, users pay $45 per month for 4GB of data, 2GB of it can be used from the phone itself, and 2GB used for tethering. This rate is actually cheaper than what some of AT&T's competitors charge.

The letter sent out in March gave unauthorized tethering customers three options. They could stop tethering and keep their current plan (including grandfathered unlimited plans); they could call AT&T or visit its stores and move to the required tethering plan; or they could do nothing and AT&T would add the tethering plan on their behalf--after the date noted in a cease and desist customer notification.

Customers began receiving the notices this week that they're about to be switched to the tethering plan, according to 9to5Mac.

Should your enterprise worry about this?

First, if your employees are using jailbroken iPhones, you've already lost control. There shouldn't be any jailbroken phones running in your business, as it represents a security risk and means employees are likely circumventing other controls you've put in place.

Second, you should be paying attention to the monthly bills to see how your employee phones are being used--this includes data charges. Massive data usage is a sign that perhaps something's not right.

If, however, you happen to be in a situation where employees have jailbroken their iPhones and are tethering, make 'em stop. Not only will they lose their unlimited data plan, their wireless bill is going to go up by $20 per month. Depending on how you manage employee smartphones, that could be $240 out of your pocket per employee per year.

If modem access is that important to your employees, your business should be willing to provide a legitimate solution so that they have the Internet service they need.

The moral of the story here is that enterprises need to be in control of their employee smartphones. If they aren't, issues such as this will come up and bite them in the rear.

Read our new report, State Of The IT Service Desk: Change Management Remains Key. Download the report now. (Free registration required.)

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