Verizon was widely lauded this morning when it announced that its new CDMA iPhone would provide built-in hotspot support. Hotspots allow users to connect to a phone and share that phone's data service to connect to the Internet. This feature, which is also known as "tethering" provides a way to share a single data connection among several devices including phones, laptops, and so forth.
AT&T, which introduced tethering after many delays, has been charging customers a premium on top of their normal data service to tether. Based on Verizon's other smart phone plans, the VZW tethering feature will sell for a $20 per month, as it is on Android phones, on top of its $30 per month unlimited data plan. There will be a 5GB monthly limit for mobile hot spot usage.
AT&T's tethering is limited to recent data-rationed plans and is not an option for customers who still use AT&T's original iPhone unlimited plan. As well, the iPad 3G's data plans do not offer a tethering option. What's more, you cannot tether your iPad to your iPhone's data with AT&T as the iPad's bluetooth tethering profile is disabled. You can, however, tether to your iPhone using a third party product called MyWi.
Over the last year or two, many iPhone users who needed tethering features, and who either could not initially purchase the plan or required WiFi tethering capabilities, turned to Intelliborn's MyWi hotspot software. MyWi, currently in its 4.0 release, lets users share a phone's connection in a variety of ways: over Wi-Fi, through Bluetooth, and via USB cable tethering. MyWi is available from the Cydia Store and requires jailbreaking your phone, a process that allows you to install applications outside of Apple's iOS App Store channels.
TUAW got on the phone today with Intelliborn's founder, Mario Ciabarra to hear what he had to say about the Verizon announcement. "I think that it's great to see Apple opening the door to using the full functionality of the phone," he told TUAW. "As we've seen in the past there are a lot of limitations and restrictions that Apple imposes on application publishers."
Ciabarra responded positively about the Verizon phone. "We don't see it as a negative," he told TUAW. "MyWi will continue to compete in this arena--even without seeing the specific features that are being offered on Verizon's app. MyWi offers additional functionality like battery saving, controlling the signal strength for your tethering, seeing who is connected to phone in real time, and more, that users will continue to enjoy."
"One of the exciting things that we're waiting to see," he continued, "is whether Apple will update the firmware for infrastructure mode versus ad hoc mode." Infrastructure mode allows users to connect to the phone's communications the way they would to a router, whereas ad hoc provides a computer-to-computer mode.
The iPhone 4's current firmware only supports computer-to-computer mode, which can cause problems for people trying to connect from, for example, the Play Station 3 and other devices that do not support ad hoc connections. "This is frustrating for users, and it would be great if we saw an update from Apple for the Broadcom firmware to support infrastructure mode. I'm hoping that Verizon's is not just peer to peer. The iPhone's chipset supports it. Many Android phones support it already and [the technology] is available out there."
Will Verizon also offer wired tethering as well as a Wi-Fi hotspot? "In today's tethering model, there's USB and Bluetooth as the norm. MyWi does both and adds Wi-Fi tethering. I think it's possible that Verizon is offering only Wi-Fi, but I'm guessing here. We know that the hardware on the iPhone supports all three. We'll have to wait and see."
TUAW asked Ciabarra what it might mean to AT&T now that Verizon will be offering free hotspot support. "It's competition," he replied. "Usually the reaction is AT&T's network will respond to the challenge."
As for the future of MyWi, Ciabarra adds, "We have a fantastic new feature that will be added to the MyWi family that we will be announcing in the very near future -- probably the next week -- that will make using MyWi even easier, that we're very excited about."