The ability to use your iPhone as a wireless modem is finally on the way. AT&T is now in talks with Apple to develop "tethering" plans for the devices, a company spokesperson has confirmed. The subject first came up during an interview with AT&T Mobility's CEO at Thursday's Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco.
Talk of turning the iPhone into a tethered wireless modem has been floating around for months. The process would let you connect your phone to your computer, then access the Internet through AT&T's 3G network as part of your wireless data plan. A third-party utility called NetShare allowed such functionality for a short time this summer, but Apple removed the program from its App Store without comment at the end of July. (In a strange and never explained twist, the app reappeared a day later for a few hours before vanishing for good.)
The officially sanctioned tethering plans should become available "soon," a spokesperson says, though some reports indicate a 2009 targeted launch. Few other specifics have been revealed; however, it's worth noting that AT&T does currently offer tethering services on its BlackBerry devices. In those plans, tethering is offered for a $65/month data plan -- an additional $30 over the standard data plan for that device -- so one might suppose similar pricing could be created for the iPhone's tethering option.
AT&T also announced Thursday it was adding 20,000 new wireless hotspots into its network, all of which will be available free of charge to iPhone users. The new locations come courtesy of a planned acquisition of Wi-Fi provider Wayport and will include all U.S. McDonald's restaurants, as well as hotels operated by Four Seasons, Hilton, Holiday Inn, Marriott, Sheraton, and Wyndham. The additional hotspots bring AT&T's total to about 80,000, the company says. The added hotspots are expected to be in place by the end of the year.
And AT&T brass briefed the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco about other possible future uses for the iPhone.