Welcome to the 411, my column answering all your questions about cell phones and cell phone accessories. I receive plenty of questions about these subjects via e-mail, so I figured many of you might have the same questions, too. At times, I might solicit answers from readers if I'm stumped. Send your questions and comments to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you prefer to remain anonymous, let me know in the e-mail.
Question: I've heard about AT&T possibly allowing tethering for the iPhone in the future, and I was wondering if you could tell me what tethering actually is, and what's so great about it, especially since you can use Wi-Fi.--Bill, via e-mail.
Answer: Wi-Fi hot spots are more ubiquitous than ever before, but you still can't always get Wi-Fi everywhere, especially if you don't happen to live in a major metropolitan city. Even if you do, not all of them are open and free to use. An easy alternative is to use tethering, which is a way for you to use your cell phone to provide Internet access to another device, essentially using it as a modem. This is done either via Bluetooth or a USB cable.
Tethering in and of itself is a pretty old technology. I remember around nine or so years ago, I was able to use my Sony Ericsson T68i as a rather slow Bluetooth modem with my PowerBook G4, and that was without purchasing a special mobile broadband plan. These days, most carriers do require you to purchase an additional mobile broadband or tethering data plan, which may cost around $60 a month.
USB tethering is as simple as plugging in a USB cable from your cell phone to your laptop. However, not all computers have the appropriate software or drivers for that kind of connection. With Bluetooth, it's a little easier. … Read more