AT&T CEO Ralph De la Vega has confirmed after months of speculation and rumors that the carrier and Apple will officially offer the capability to use the iPhone 3G as a modem.
Speaking at the Web 2.0 internet summit this morning, the CEO confirmed that it would be available soon, but did not give a specific timeframe.
Tethering has been a contentious issue for both Apple and AT&T ever since the launch of the iPhone 3G, since the device highlights the lack of infrastructure necessary to serve up enough bandwidth to owners of the devices, who use heavy amounts of data thanks to the data access included in the service plans at the expense of network stability and quality, with many reporting poor speeds and service quality.
Many areas outside of AT&T flagship markets are now and have been using a tiered access system depending on account type to determine priority between users as a sort of QoS implementation to ensure that users with iPhones and contracts are given priority access to 3G service over other postpaid and prepaid users, with varying degrees of success.
Unnofficial avenues exist for 3G tethering with JuneFabrics offering its venerable PDAnet application via Cydia for jailbroken iPhone 3Gs as well as iModem, but most that want the ability to tether want an officially supported method for doing so, or simply do not want to deal with the idea of jailbreaking, no matter the simplicity of the operation.
Another issue is Apple’s long-standing, if tacit prohibition of 3G tethering solutions on the App Store, with NetShare by developer Nullriver becoming a very well-known application due in part to its cycle of availability/unavailability which PhoneNews.com covered earlier this year.
This still does not address the most important question: If AT&T and Apple do indeed offer an officially supported solution to tether to a laptop or MID-type device, will the carrier be able to handle it, or will AT&T learn T-Mobile’s hard-learned lesson and watch as the network is brought to the point of near catastrophic failure as thousands, maybe tens of thousands take advantage of the service across the country when the service is officially announced and launched?