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Tuesday, January 11, 2011, 09:40 am PT (12:40 pm ET)

AT&T won't 'speculate' on plans to match Verizon's iPhone Wi-Fi tethering

With Verizon announcing plans to offer its iPhone 4 customers the option to tether several devices to the handset's 3G connection over Wi-Fi, rival AT&T is remaining mum on whether it plans to match that offer for its own iPhone customers.

As part of its iPhone announcement Tuesday, Verizon said that each iPhone 4 for its network will come bundled with a free 3G Mobile Hotspot app for tethering the handset's data connection over Wi-Fi to up to 5 devices, such as notebooks, iPads, iPods and other mobile devices.

Upon closer inspection following the announcement, it appears that the Hotspot app is actually a native component built into the yet-to-be-released iOS version 4.2.5, which was running on the CDMA iPhone 4 handsets present at Verizon's presentation Tuesday.

Verizon is likely to charge a standard monthly fee for the actual tethering service, though pricing details were note made available as part of Tuesday's announcements.

Nevertheless, the offer promises more flexibility than AT&T's existing tethering option for iPhone customers, which offers tethering only via Bluetooth or USB for $20 per month. That means AT&T iPhone users can't have their iPad (and most other devices outside of Macs and PCs) piggyback on their handset's data connection.

When asked by AppleInsider whether it has any plans to turn around and match Verizon's WiFi tethering, AT&T wouldn't confirm or deny a move in either direction.

"As you can appreciate, I am not going to speculate on what we might or might not do in the future," said AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel. "For iPhone users who want the fastest speeds, the ability to talk and use apps at the same
time, and unsurpassed global coverage, the only choice is AT&T."

iOS 4.2.5 Hot Spot

Apple's CDMA iPhone runs iOS 4.2.5 with a built in Hotspot setting | Source: ArsTechnica


Recently, AT&T has been unwilling to be upstaged by its largest rival. For instance, it took the carrier only a matter of hours last January to match a $30 reduction on its iPhone unlimited voice plan after Verizon announced the cut for its own mobile customers.

The big question for AT&T this time around is whether its already overburdened 3G network has the capacity to keep pace Verizon when it comes to unlocking larger pockets of bandwidth for its customers.