iPhone tetherers bypass Optus charge

Australian iPhone users have started downloading widely available configuration files to activate the device's tethering feature and bypass Optus' planned $10 monthly fee.

Australian iPhone users have started downloading widely available configuration files to activate the device's tethering feature and bypass Optus' planned $10 monthly fee.

Following Optus' announcement yesterday that it would charge iPhone customers $10 per month to use the device as a USB or Bluetooth connected modem, customers have turned to downloading and installing several configuration files that activate the feature without the telco's permission.

Optus said yesterday that customers would need to call its customer service line and pay the monthly fee to have the feature activated. But some technically adept users have already turned to the free alternative.

One configuration file called "Tether me" is available here or here for download. The "Tether me!" authors have made the file available not to bypass Optus' $10 fee but to activate the feature for users on carriers that are yet to confirm whether it will permit its use on their network.

The site offers preconfigured settings for users on 3 Mobile, Vodafone, Optus, Telstra and Virgin, along with US, UK and Saudi Arabia carriers. The authors, however, warn that while the file enables tethering, there is uncertainty whether carriers will be able to detect if the device is being used as a modem. "I assume not, however, I may be wrong. Keep an eye on your bill," they said.

According to Mark Newton, a well-known network engineer at an Australian ISP, it would be unlikely for Optus to be able to tell when an iPhone is being used as a modem compared to when the device is used to access the internet as it normally would.

"There's no way to distinguish traffic. That's why we're seeing these configuration files pop up for all these carriers around the world, which haven't announced whether they would be enabling tethering," Newton told ZDNet.com.au.

For Optus to stop this from working, he said it would more likely fall on Apple to provide a block, since it has control over the device's software.

Vodafone and Telstra have not yet issued official positions on whether they would charge extra for the iPhone's use as a tethered device. However, users on technology blog site Gizmodo have reported activating the feature on the two telcos' networks.

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