One of the key features of iOS 4.3 (coming this week to your iPhone and fairly soon to the iPad 2) is the ability to use your existing phone connection as a Wi-Fi hotspot for other devices. But will you have to pay extra for the privilege? We checked in with the three main carriers in Australia, and the answer appears to be “no”.
Using iOS 4.3, you can have up to three Wi-Fi devices connected to your hotspot-equipped phone at once, provided your carrier already supports tethering (via USB or Bluetooth). Obviously, that makes the prospect of buying a 3G-equipped iPad less appealing -- why pay for a second connection if you can just use your iPhone's relatively generous data connection instead?
One possible reason: in the US, tethering the iPhone generally attracts an additional charge as well. However, in Australia, that's no longer the case. Optus controversially charged for tethering when the iPhone first hit Australia, but dumped that arrangement after a bollocking by customers.
We got in touch with Optus, Telstra and Vodafone to ask if they would continue supporting tethering for free when iOS 4.3 appeared. Both Optus and Telstra confirmed that there would be no change to current arrangements, meaning your iPhone will become a much more flexible tethering device once you update it. We didn't hear back from Vodafone, either because it's knee-deep in network upgrades or because it's waiting for Apple to allow it to say anything. However, frankly we'd be surprised if Vodafone chose to go against the grain and change its policy given its current reputational issues. If we hear anything more definite, we'll update and let you know.