Wireless carriers are blocking tethering apps

May 02, 2011 by Katie Gatto weblog

(PhysOrg.com) -- If you have an Android 2.2 OS smartphone, such as the HTC Nexus One, then you have tethering as part of the base experience. Other users could make tethering an option for themselves by downloading an app, or at least they could for a while, but sadly, that era is coming to an end.

End users love the idea of being able to use their wireless network and their cell phone as a wi-fi , without the extra costs of the tethering fees that carriers like to add to the bill if you want that feature. Blocking those tethering apps allows the carriers to charge a fee that with the help of these apps, end users can avoid. Since do not want to cut into their profit margins, then are beginning to block these apps and deny users access to create a wi-fi hotspot for free.

The carriers that are, thus far, blocking tethering apps include Verizon, and AT&T, which in combination represent a significant amount of the wireless market. The first app to be blocked was the Wireless Tether, which was in the Android Market. Since them, a variety of different apps with the same capability have also been blocked by the carriers.

The carriers, who might this reporter add charge users for unlimited data plans that they will not allow them to use however they see fit, are also beginning to go after the end users themselves. AT&T has begun to crack down on end users they have detected using tethering services without paying the extra fee.

On the whole, the morals of the situation seem a bit murky, and remind this reporter once again, that your carrier will do anything possible to suck every last dime out of your pocket.

Explore further: Time Warner Cable says outages largely resolved (Update)

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User comments : 7

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Cal_Sailor
not rated yet May 02, 2011
Damned greedy vampires! I fork over $2400/yr for ATT (multiple phones)and they still want to limit me. Their service sucks on top of it all. (So do the others)
Rant over
sigfpe
not rated yet May 02, 2011
It won't be long before tethering detection is well understood and workarounds are created.
insignificant_fish
not rated yet May 03, 2011
we are smarter then them.
CSharpner
not rated yet May 03, 2011
Just get an Android phone. You don't have to use the Google marketplace, nor even the Android app store to download apps. Android apps can be deployed anywhere, just like PC apps. The carriers can block anything they want from the Google market or the Amazon app store, but if the app is available for download on the web, they can't really block it. Even if they knew of every URL of every tethering app and blocked it, you can still download it to your PC and install it from there... the benefits of living outside the walled garden are plenty.

I can see the carriers modifying Android and building in their own walled garden though. Hopefully Google will (or already does) have rules preventing this in their license agreements with phone makers and carriers.

BTW, from my T-Mobile Android phone, I just searched Google Market for "tether" and got 41 hits. Doesn't look like T-Mobile's blocking the apps... YET. I've got 2 already installed and they work just fine on a NON rooted phone.
Msean1941
not rated yet May 03, 2011
I don't use tethering on my Thunderbolt, but I always assumed "blocking" by a carrier meant blocking the use of the app, not the downloading of the app. Are carriers able to detect which apps we use and then block them?
CSharpner
not rated yet May 03, 2011
I don't use tethering on my Thunderbolt, but I always assumed "blocking" by a carrier meant blocking the use of the app, not the downloading of the app. Are carriers able to detect which apps we use and then block them?

I don't believe that they can block apps from running unless they've deployed a modified version of Android (which is entirely possible, since Google lets them modify it). I don't think any of them have made this particular modification, but I could be wrong. One can always root the phone (iPhone too) to bypass any OS mods. Or, if you don't want to root it, then you can get a tethering app that the carrier doesn't know about yet, or download an open source app and compile it yourself to your own phone (not a viable task if you're not a programmer or not familiar with compiling source and deploying it.
Ricochet
not rated yet May 03, 2011
I don't believe Google would be willing to do any kind of remote removal of apps that support tethering. The ONLY reason they removed that one app a while ago was because it was proven to be nothing but a trojan and was causing havok amongst the Android population.