Tethering: Keeping data separate is nasty sleight of hand

Posted on by Mike Evans

I can think of no logical reason, other than the usual avarice, for cellular companies to differentiate between data used on the iPhone and tethered data used via the phone on an external device. As far as I can see, the majority of firms, including AT&T in the US, have grabbed the opportunity to squeeze a bit more profit out of the consumer. If you have a contract for a specified amount of data it should not matter to the network whether that data is used on the phone or on a tethered computer. It seems, though, that it does.

Today I received an unsatisfactory reply from Vodafone UK to my request for clarification on this very issue. Having cancelled my £15-per-month 3GB data plan, I added 1.5GB to my existing phone contract (which already included 1GB data) for £10 per month. I now pay £30 a month for a combined voice and 2.5 GB data service. But Vodafone now confirm that the two bands of data are distinctly separate. I can use the 1.5GB only for tethering and the 1GB only on the phone.

This is absolute nonsense, of course, and it's time the networks stopped being so bloody minded. As far as I am concerned, I'm paying for 2.5GB of monthly data and I should be able to use it on any device. Surely it doesn't matter to Vodafone how the data is used as long as the total comes within 2.5GB? Data is data after all.  What will happen, of course, is that any tethered data over 1.5GB will be charged extra, even though I could have up to 750MB of unused connection on my iPhone.  Why should I not be able to buy a simple phone and SMS service for a fixed monthly fee and then extend this with, say, 3GB of data which can be used on all devices.

I suspect that all networks are fearing mass cancellation of data-dongle contracts as more people realise that tethering (or Personal Hotspot in Applespeak) is a much more logical and more economical solution. Why have two contracts when one will do? Thus, in retaliation, they are treating the one contract as two separate data units in order to bump up the price and encourage users to go over their limit.

My task now is to look around for a supplier that provides a combined service. The first company to offer a sensible solution will get my business. And goodbye Vodafone if they are not going to come to their senses. 

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