T-Mobile quietly removes tethering for its unlimited data plans

T-Mobile quietly removes tethering for its unlimited data plans

Summary: T-Mobile's Full Monty plans with unlimited data no longer allow new customers to tether their phones to other devices for internet sharing, suggesting that mobile networks are struggling to cope with the demand for data.

TOPICS: Telcos, Mobility

T-Mobile UK has quietly removed the option for customers on its only unlimited data plan to tether to other devices, which could be a sign that operators are struggling to find a cost-effective way to deal with the impending mobile data crunch.

Previously, the Full Monty plans (the cheapest of which is £36 per month) let customers hook up their laptops, tablets or any other Wi-Fi enabled device to their phones. This allowed them to share the phone's data connection with other devices, avoiding the need for a separate contract.

However, on the 8 August the option for tethering was silently removed for new subscribers. While the plans still include unlimited data, this is restricted to use only by the handset. 

This is frustrating for anyone considering The Full Monty plan for its tetherability. But more than that, it's a sign of what we already know to be true: with the explosion of data consumption on mobile devices far outstripping provision of additional capacity, the unlimited data contract as we know it will come to an end

The only way to avoid this would be if the operators work out a way to handle the extra traffic (and therefore, increased costs to them) in a way that proves cost-efficient as part of an unlimited package.

I got in contact with T-Mobile to ask why it had chosen to remove the tethering option. What I got back was the brief and uninformative statement below, which fuels my suspicions that operators don't really want to talk about the data crunch.

"The Full Monty has been designed for using the internet on your smartphone. It includes an unlimited data allowance for using our internet service on your phone at a fantastic price," a T-Mobile spokeswoman said. "From 8th August, tethering is not permitted for new customers under the terms and conditions of the Full Monty."

It was a reader who alerted me to the change in terms. When he first enquired about the package, it included tethering; but a week later it did not. Being a curious individual, he called customer services and was told that the removal of tethering was because the network had been "getting hammered". Enough said.

T-Mobile's spokeswoman did helpfully point out that there are still contracts that offer the option to tether. As far as I'm aware, though, none of these include unlimited data. She also confirmed that people already on the Fully Monty plans prior to 8 August could still tether.

In the UK, there are now only two mobile providers with unlimited ('all-you-can-eat') data plans allowing customers to tether, and that's Three — the smallest of the UK's major players — and Virgin Media.

Topics: Telcos, Mobility

Ben Woods

About Ben Woods

With several years' experience covering everything in the world of telecoms and mobility, Ben's your man if it involves a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or any other piece of tech small enough to carry around with you.

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  • I used to hate...

    I used to hate red-light cameras, but after watching people speeding through red-lights at intersections that don't have cameras, now days more and more I wish they all had them.

    Similarly, I used to hate the idea of cellphone data caps, but after experiencing slow as heck 3G download speeds on Sprint and reading about guys munching through 30 gigs of data in one month, I more and more think that a 2-3Gb 1st tier data cap is the way to go to preserve bandwidth for the rest of us. At the very least it would get people to switch on WiFi when they're in a location that offers free WiFi.
  • @dsf3g

    You can still "munch" thorough quite a bit of data with a Cell Phone, regardless of tethering or not. Hopefully those that are REALLY munching are moved to LTE where they can go faster. I am usually happy with a couple of MB of data speed and would like that to include tethering.

    Maybe that's the trick, unfortunately, cell providers want to charge a bunch, even if you are sorta nibbling (couple MB or 3.5 G speeds).
  • hey T-Mobile

    Why don't you upgrade you're network that might help out some and start telling people when you change stuff around.
    Jason Santana
  • We Still Have Tethering

    As a matter of fact, I found that tethering has been quietly ADDED to my T-Mobile, $35 a month, "Unlimited" 5gigabyte "high speed" service. As well as to the "Unlimited" 10gigabyte and "Unlimited" 2gigabyte service.

    What seems to have changed (at least here in the USA) is that they've added something named "Unlimited Nationwide 4G" with no overages or throttling for $30 a month, but specifically say that tethering is not allowed on that plan.