With T-Mobile charging soon, how do smartphone tethering plans stack up?

With T-Mobile charging soon, how do smartphone tethering plans stack up?

Summary: T-Mobile has not charged for tethering before, but looks to soon be changing that tune. Check the numbers to see how their plan stacks up with the other major US wireless carriers.


T-Mobile USA has always kind of taken a "don't ask, don't tell" approach to tethering by never offering an option to purchase tethering, but by offering devices that supported it through apps or utilities. According to Boy Genius Report that is going to change on November 3rd when T-Mobile will add a tethering option for selected smartphones for $14.99 per month. This will just give you the official authorization to what you may already have been doing on your Google Nexus One, T-Mobile Touch Pro 2, Nokia N8, Nokia N900, or other smartphone in the past. It's not clear if they have the ability to turn this off on you if you are already using it, but there is a statement in the BGR document that those of you already doing it will receive a message you need to enable this service.

The T-Mobile Tethering/WiFi add-on service will not increase your data consumption allocation so you will still get unlimited data with a 5GB throttling limit. The price is much lower than all of the other major US carriers and honestly the $15 amount seems to be right in line with what I stated was reasonable in the past. However, I still think if you are paying for 5GB, 2GB, or whatever your limit is, why does it matter how you use it and why is there any charge at all? If you want to truly limit consumption, just have tiered pricing and let people get to that limit however they desire.

So now that T-Mobile is joining the ranks of sticking it to you for tethering, let's take a comparison look at all four major US carriers to see how tethering from a smartphone stacks up.

AT&T Sprint T-Mobile Verizon
Price/month $20/month $29.99 $14.99 $20/2GB, $30/5GB
Speed 3G 3G and 4G (3-6 Mbps) 3G and HSPA+ (3-6 Mbps) 3G
Limit 2GB Unlimited with EVO/EPIC 4G, otherwise 5GB Unlimited, throttle after 5GB 2GB and 5GB
Also make sure to look at the overage rates. AT&T charges you just $10/additional 1GB while Verizon charges you $0.05/MB ($50/1GB) if you go over.

A good point was made by my Twitter followers that the Palm Pre Plus and Pixi Plus on Verizon get FREE WiFi hotspot tethering included with their data plan. This is how it should be for ALL smartphones, IMHO.

So as you can see even though T-Mobile is going to start charging customers, they still have the lowest cost with unlimited data so are clearly the best deal with the fastest speeds. Sprint is great for those with heavy data needs while AT&T and Verizon are just fine for those not consuming more than 2GB of data.

4G (WiMAX) and HSPA+ speeds are currently showing about the same download speed in testing by people around the Internet. I have been seeing almost double the HSPA+ speeds with my Sprint EVO 4G in a 4G/HSPA+ area though so your download speeds may vary.

Topics: Mobility, Hardware, Smartphones, Wi-Fi

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  • Preprare to bend over.....

    After reading this article, I will not say that I am not a proud customer of T-mobile. I have enjoyed using my Nexus One's ability to serve as an active hotspot to connect my Macbook to. I enjoyed the feeling that for $35/month, I would be able to do a lot more with that data than what AT&T and Verizon charges. It was nice to know that I could tether at no additional cost.
    What T-Mobile is doing is purely out of corporate greed. They know they can screw their customers just as hard and there's not a damn thing we customers can do about.

    I say it is time to stand up to these telcos and demand they give us a better deal. If I am given a limit on how much data I can use, then I should use it anyway I want to. They should have no right to double dip for the same thing.
    I refuse to pay another $15/month for tethering. It's what made you unique compared to the other telcos. Now you're becoming the same scum that everyone else is.
  • Bummer, but now I can switch to another carrier

    Bummer. Since T-Mobile's prices will be closer to the other carriers, then it won't hurt to change. Most of them have better phones anyway.
  • I will not pay for tethering...

    My phone has a data plan, not being able to use that cell plan for tethering is unconscionable. I will not tether. <br><br>Other than raping their clients there is not any reason one can not use their cell data plan for tethering. <br><br>Maybe for a few hours a month is all I would tether so, I will not pay a monthly fee and sign a contract. When enough folks bow out of tethering vendors will lower their cost. Too many folks bend over paying for tethering that the cell vendors charge it.
  • Don't pay for tethering

    I'm a verizon customer, and I bought a tethering app from Android marketplace. I don't pay for tethering. I would have to pay if I used the mobile hot spot.