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back to article End of the tether: Google plays nice with carriers

Applications that allowed users to tether Android devices to PCs – without buying a suitable plan from their carrier – have started disappearing from searches of the Android Marketplace. Droid-Life noticed on May 4th that the Wireless Tether app no longer appeared in searches conducted from phones, and while it would appear in …

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Anonymous Coward

Any ideas on how this plays out in the UK?

I believe that all the carriers (Orange, O2, etc) restrict tethering unless you bolt on a tethering bundle which provides a separate data allowance (at least that's how it is with the iPhone's hotspot feature and Orange). I understand that Three is the only carrier not making a distinction between data used natively by the handset and data used via a tether.

My mate has an Android device and is amused by the iPhone restrictions ("data is data, no need for a tethering bundle" he says). Is Android equally becoming more controlled in this respect in the UK too?

I guess it comes down to the apps that are allowed to run - the iPhone is able to effectively restrict thethering to the official built-in capability under the control of the carriers, while a jailbroken device (or an Android device) can presumably install any tether app they can find and follow the "data is data" route without paying for an extra tethering feature?

It's hard to feel sorry for the carriers when they bleat about all those users straining their infrastructure with their video and internet services. The emerging smartphone frameworks, and the control they afford over their users, might as well be a flock of golden geese.

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Happy

O2 (via Tesco) is ok for tethering it seems

I checked the Ts&Cs for my Tesco monthly SIM only contract on their website. It only says that I mustn't use VOIP or streaming services. (I assume VOIP because that is competition for voice traffic and streaming because that eats data at a high rate.)

So, I asked Tesco-mobile customer support and they told me that I can tether all I like since I have a 500MB data cap and they will charge me if I go over that. (I don't see how that argument doesn't apply to data streaming services as well, unless it's the instantaneous rate that is a problem for them.)

When my phone was upgraded OTA to Android 2.2, the WiFi hotspot appeared and I've been using it to link to my Advent Vega rooted with Modaco. All is fine :)

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Go

HTC Desire, Orange, Not restricted

I have used tethering over 3G and it works a treat. No special bundle required. I actually cancelled the data bundle for my previous phone because Orange offered 500MB with the new one.

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WTF?

Am I stupid...

or was this not precisely the point of Android 2.2?

I was under the belief that 2.2 did this "invisibly". e.g. Wi-fi access point with 3G bridging/routing, DHCP, NAT etc...

Confused of Tunbridge Wells.

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M H
WTF?

Am I stupid too...

I agree... when my phone was updated to 2.3 it came with a WiFi Hotspot app and when connecting to my laptop via USB it asks if I want to tether via USB. 2.2 tethered via USB easily enough too. I've never tried with bluetooth - is that what they're trying to block?

Regardless... data is data. Telcos should not charge extra for "tethered data". Scum bags.

Confused of somewhere in Asia.

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Am I stupid 3...

Just triple checked in case it was a dream, but yes, my Desire Z also has a wifi hotspot app and offers to share the connection when I plug in the USB lead, and I didn't install them.

It's odd that it is only recently tethering has become an issue, I had a long line of Nokia's which all tethered, Nokia Suite has an icon for it. It came in very useful when the builders went through the phone line.

I guess we can thank the iphone for making what was a standard feature for years a new "pay for" option.

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Anonymous Coward

title

"It's odd that it is only recently tethering has become an issue."

It's not odd really. It's just the mobile equivalent of P2P - there isn't enough bandwidth and rather than improve the networks, ways to slow down the use of the remaining bandwidth is needed - hense T&Cs asking for more money - why not profit from screwing over your customers.

/me doesn't like modern business.

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Flame

This is not "sideloading"

Loading such an application onto an Android device is just installing and nothing more.

It is no different from loading Angry Birds or Google Sky Maps. If you want an accountant somewhere telling you what you're allowed to run on the phone you are paying for, Steve Jobs has something for you. Android is for the strange people who think "If my money is spent on something, *I* will decide what is done with it".

Those subsidised smartphones are not paid for by the phone company you know.

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FAIL

Waste of time

This sort of thing is a waste of time. The least ineffective thing they can do is block ports that are least likely to be used on a phone, but they cannot really do anything about specifically blocking tethering, either via Android 2.2+ wifi relay feature or via a USB port forwarded proxy a-la Proxoid. At a stretch, they could do some deep packet inspection at a CPU cost no doubt greater than the cost of the bandwidth they will save, and filter HTTP traffic based on the browser ID headers, but that is trivially easy to forge. There isn't really a way to tell whether the data usage came from an app running on a phone or an app proxied by the phone.

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Grenade

How do they detect tethering?

In the states, some of the network operators have sent threatening letters to their subscribers who "are tethering", but I have yet to work out how they do it. I had assumed they'd either been looking at browser ID strings, presuming that desktop browsers wouldn't be running on a phone, or just been assuming that if you use a lot of data you *must* be tethering.

I was discussing this with a mate down the pub (a very reliable source of information, as I'm sure you all know) and he suggested based on previous telecoms experience that it might be due to "hops" - the operator would expect one "hop" to your device, and if there are more than that for some reason your phone is probably acting as a router/NAT and thus tethering. Apparently this is what they used to detect people sharing the first broadband connections - when consumer routers became popular many broadband connections' T's and C's said only one machine was licensed to use the connection.

A bit like today with mobile data in fact. I suspect that shows the way things are likely to go in future...

"Suck on this" because the operators will have to.

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Suspicions...

The suspicious side of me thinks there is some hidden agenda on the part of both government AND marketing forces.

Marketers want to block it so they can make product distinctions and scrape up extra cash here and there. Ultimately, other than losing money on the programming restrictions side of things, I bet they are barely making money that makes it worth pissing off the end users. The service fees should cover the tethering aspect. If we can do it via bluetooth, then why not allow USB tethers?

For the Google and other companies doing wifi hotspot mapping, this is great for ThEM because the mobile units will likely always poll or interrogate or be polled or be interrogated by any hotspot in detection range. The CONSTANT or nearly constant daily and hourly refresh must be producing a staggeringly detailed map of where all the wireless devices in use actually sit or visit. Whether this is for producing after-market or new products or the like, I don't know. Maybe it will help the telco industry create a massive, collaborative mesh net that makes communications more efficient. Even if people turn off their phones at night or randomly during the day, probably something can be exploited into a service type.

I think, however, the biggest benefactors of the almost compulsory wireless hotspot vs USB tethering will be intelligence agencies that may not be directly attributable as known backers. They could be using various contradictory rights groups, technical bodies, and manufacturers of dubious persuasion to muddy the waters or to make it irritating and inefficient to persist with USB. I prefer USB since I assume that signals between devices are signals used by ME only and on my own devices, and that nearby users won't likely own or use the relevant spectrum-sniffing devices against the public in general. But, if everyone is wirelessly tethering via hotspot their cameras, phones, printers, and more, then it is just a matter of time before anyone (intel agency or criminal or script kiddy) with the purchase money can snoop and sniff anyone who is not smart enough to sufficiently encrypt and use IDS and use advanced and properly tuned firewall tools. Logging would be very nice if one wants to start outting IPs and domains and spinless/overly-compliant ISPs who facilitate or don't curtail snoops.

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Badgers

So it begins

The carriers are just making a grasp to prevent slipping into the abyss of commodity service. Can it be long now? Soon wireless internet will make the same slide as wired internet that terminates in an endpoint and from there you connect whatever you damn well please. They may take our :80, :25 and :142 as we give them the :79 but they'll never take OUR FREEDOM!

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Was it not Google...

Who insisted on this FCC regulation?

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Go

It gets even more ridiculous...

...because the iPhone and certainly O2 seem to equate sharing a 'phone's WiFi connection with "tethering". So if I wanted to share my phone's WiFi connection (goodness knows why you'd want to but still) I would need to purchase a tethering plan from O2. Can you spell "fuck that"?

I'm so glad I've just ordered my HTC Sensation and will therefore be free of Jobsworld.

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Go

But surely

Only Voda offer the HTC Sensation at the moment as an exclusive from release on 19 May so if you've ordered already you'll be stuck with a software load borked by Voda.

I'm looking forward to replacing my flaky HTC Hero with a HTC Sensation but I'm holding out for the Voda exclusive to end so I can buy the handset outright sim-free. If you know somewhere offering sim-free already let me know - I'm in!

P

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FAIL

WTF

Are you on about?

You can't "share the WiFi connection" of a phone: What it does is create a local WiFi hotspot so that other devices can connect and share your 3G connection, which is pretty much the definition of tethering.

It's not really surprising then that O2 equate "Tethering" with, erm, "Tethering"

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Headmaster

@AC 5/5/11 "WTF"

Yes you can - I've done it with a jailbroken iPhone. The rest of your post is therefore garbage because it's talking about normal tethering which I wasn't.

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Happy

giffgaff

My android phone is on giffgaff and there is a very clear no tethering clause in the very easy to read terms. I accept this as a limitation of servce and abide by it. If I need data for the laptop I will purchase a mobile data dongle - and ask the boss ot pay for it :-)

The reason I am happy with this limitation is that the service is (for me) truly unlimited. For 10ukp per month I have yet to use up my minultes allowance and know I dont have to worry about data or text charges. Knowing at least one of my mobiles is "fixed fee" is very nice.

Jacqui

p.s. I believe the GG limitation is due to thier resale of the O2 service. I very much doubt they would have added thsi limit themselves as they do NOT offer any option to enable tethering or use a GG sim in a dongle.

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RE: Giffgaff

"I believe the GG limitation is due to thier resale of the O2 service. I very much doubt they would have added thsi limit themselves as they do NOT offer any option to enable tethering or use a GG sim in a dongle."

I'm on GG myself, and I also have no problem with the tethering restriction.

However, AFAIK the reason for "no tethering" has been because they do not charge for data. Granted, this is changing, but on bundles they allow unlimitted data for phone use. This is not unlimitted but limitted, as with most providers. It means that, from my phone, I can use as much data as I wish and not be charged.

It is much easier to consume a large amount of data from a real computer than from a phone. Granted, you could use, say, a bittorrent app on your phone and download a lot, but restrictive storage and other limitations makes things difficult.

I don't think this is an unreasonable condition.

PS I beleive they are currently looking into tethering goodybags.

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Giffgaff

Aren't just reseller of O2 services, they are wholly owned by O2. Basically, Giffgaff are an experiment by O2 in alternative marketing and support methods.

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Anonymous Coward

Agreed

I take the GG term to be that they do offer real unlimited data, but don't piss about by trying to run your home network on it (which is what happened to the unlimited minutes clause).

Personally, I have tethered my laptop for a few emergency away-from-home reasons, but I kept it short and to web/email only, so I doubt they're going to tell me off for that.

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Happy

Get a Nexus S

My nexus S on the one plan from three seems to have a truly unlimited data plan and most of the time seems to give somewhere between 3 and 6Mbps when tethered over wifi.

Last month I downloaded the whole of Portal 2 (took around 4 hours) as I was on site and last months bill shows the download with a charge next to it of 0p. Not sure what would happen if I did that every month but thats an unusual data month for me.

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Anonymous Coward

Bin Laden is still alive, and he's terrorising the US phone industry

In the settings menu on my HTC Desire, under wireless settings, there is an option for Portable Wi-Fi hotspot. I don't pay extra for tethering and it works just fine (Vodafone) The same was the case on my old Nokia N97 (Joikuspot installed as standard) and the N95 worked fine with Joikuspot installed by me.

Sounds like this is just an issue for people in the states...but then their plans have always been a case of bend over and bite down on this stick, so no surprise there.

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FAIL

Plain stupid

Why not simply charge for data and not offer things you can't provide? Surely a MB of data is a MB of data to the telco regardless of whether it was transferred to/from a mobile phone or a router on a massive corporate LAN. Drop the "unlimited" mobile data plans, and suddenly there's no need at all for these silly wars on software applications.

I can see another sales point of view for blocking "tethering" though - tethering will reduce the need to sign up for a USB stick based mobile internet plan. But because I have a sane ISP that treats me as a customer, I'll continue using my simple little Samsung B2710 connected by USB to my laptop when I need internet access out and about.

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Thumb Down

indeed

Technically yes, in marketting terms no. If they can charge you for it then they will. Its the same reason the cinemas dont want you bringing food or drink in.

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Eh?

Well, Wireless Tether is the first result that comes up when I search for it via MarketPlace. Perhaps this is a US-only thing. Or a minor blip in service.

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Depends

It depends. If you go to the Market website you can see it but might not be able to install it. The Android Market checks your SIM against a list of operators so it knows what to ban. However it's a pretty half-arsed protection method - one workaround is to remove your SIM, reboot your phone and download the app over wifi from the Market...

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Grenade

Open means never having to have to say I can't

On my LG Optimus 2X under 2.2 I happily used the built in tethering / portable hotspot option, it's still there under the newly installed 2.3 - I guess these options are removed for our cousins in the "Land of the Free"? Just flash a custom ROM then!

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My Google Nexus One allows tethering

With Orange in the UK, I haven't tried another SIM, but I'm pretty sure it would also work. It's running the latest system update for the phone (2.3.4, updated this week).

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Panic! Less than 100 tethering apps available!

https://market.android.com/search?q=tether&so=1&c=apps

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Desire HD tethers out of the box

I'm on 500Mb a month with Vodafone in the UK though, with £5 to reset the monthly allowance if I go over it. Happens occasionally - like last Christmas when I used the phone as a LastFM Christmas tunes jukebox and then updated a shed load of apps over 3G.

I'm with Tim - just charge us what data costs and stop pretending you can offer it for free.

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Alert

CC’s open access regulations

States that “licensees" - and here endeth the argument. Verizon is not removing the Apps, Google is.

This is in much the same way that the BBC blocks Mobiles from accessing iPlayer and not the service providers, so the service providers can continue to sell 'unlimited' data tariffs knowing that the limit is imposed elsewhere. Why the BBC think it is in their remit is another matter entirely.

Its just good business.

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Why?

I pay for data. If I use that data for texts, web or to push pictures of fully kittens to my PC; so what?

Charge me for the data I use and leave it at that. Simple!

And "simple" is the problem - the market needs the confusion so consumers end up over-paying.

Net neutrality - they're heard of it and want nothing to do with it.

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