The recent iPhone 4 update (iOS 4.3) update has angered Web ‘n’ Walk Plus customers now forced to pay for using the new Personal Hotspot feature.
T-Mobile has three mobile data subscription packs. The basic Web ‘n’ Walk subscription does not allow usage as a modem (such as a mobile broadband dongle or a phone connected to a laptop via USB) or VoIP. Web ‘n’ Walk plus adds the ability to use as a modem, while Web ‘n’ Walk max adds VoIP.
In other words, two of the data packages allow customers to share their data connection with other devices, using Bluetooth, USB or Wi-Fi. The terms and conditions do not not state any exclusions for any specific phones.
Consequently, subscribers with the Web ‘n’ Walk plus and max services have been able to use the tethering feature on the iPhone at no extra charge. This ended abruptly with the iOS 4.3 update that replaced the tethering option on the iPhone 4 with the new ‘Personal Hotspot’ feature. This allows you to not only share your iPhone 4 data connection via USB and Bluetooth, but also Wi-Fi.
With the update came a change of the APN (Access Point Name) settings, which now means users are made to pay extra for data using this feature. This can be paid for on a daily (£2 for 250MB) or weekly (£7 for 500MB) basis. T-Mobile also offers 1GB of tethered data for £5.10.
By contrast, Orange isn’t allowing tethering at all unless on a business tariff. Three has continued to offer tethering at no extra cost, which offers even more exceptional value on the tariffs that have done away with usage limits completely.
Understandably, affected customers are rather upset by this change, which they see as having been made without any warning or notification.
What Mobile forum member jonstatt was angered so much that he contacted T-Mobile customer support to complain, only to be told that he would have to purchase a booster, and that he should ‘consider himself lucky’ for having enjoyed free tethering for so long.
T-Mobile also justified not issuing any notice of the change by stating that it didn’t know the customer had an iPhone. To add insult to injury, T-Mobile even suggested changing to an Android phone that has no extra charges.
Until Apple introduced tethering, sharing a mobile data connection didn’t attract any extra cost. Put simply, none of the networks had even come up with the idea until Apple did.
The majority of mobile phones shared its data connection with laptops and computers via USB or Bluetooth. This was extended to Wi-Fi with the introduction of an app for Nokia Series 60 smartphones, and on Android devices after the introduction of Android OS 2.2. Another way is to purchase a separate portable hotspot, such as Three’s MiFi, to share a data connection with multiple devices, all at no extra cost.
Apple’s decision to allow operators to ask for more money when sharing a connection, plus the willingness to do so by the networks, has been somewhat controversial. It means inflated bills for iPhone users who pay for something that is free to everyone else.
Update (March 23rd): We’ve since received a statement from a T-Mobile spokesperson:
A small number of our customers have raised concerns that they are being asked to pay extra to use their iPhone for tethering since upgrading to iOS version 4.3, which includes a Personal Hotspot function.
All T-Mobile customers who subscribe to Web‘n’Walk Plus or Web‘n’Walk Max can use their phone for tethering without any increase to their monthly bills. The only customers who will experience changes to their experience are a small number who have been using their basic internet on their phone access for tethering. Our terms and conditions have always stated that customers wishing to tether need to purchase boosters, so this latest change is in no way an amend to our contractual agreements. To provide fair access to our network and ensure a better experience for all of our customers, we are now enforcing these terms and conditions, making sure all customers get a fair deal and pay for what they’re using. The new iOS 4.3 makes it easier for us to monitor which customers aren’t acting within our terms and conditions.
It has also been brought to our attention that some Web‘n’Walk Max customers may have been asked to pay extra for tethering since updating to iOS version 4.3. This is a systems error and one that we are working to fix immediately. Any customers who believe they may have incurred additional charges as a result of this should contact our Customer Services team and a refund will be arranged. We apologise for any confusion this may have caused.
So, there you have it. If you’ve been asked to pay on Web ‘n’ Walk plus or max, give T-Mobile a call and ask them to fix it for your account!
Update: (25th March): It seems that there’s another complication now. Upon calling T-Mobile, jonstatt has been told that the Web ‘n’ Walk plus service on his account was free (as part of the tariff) and so not the same as a paid-for Web ‘n’ Walk plus add-on.
Confused? We were. Before we even got a chance to ask T-Mobile for further clarification, another forum member posted the following:
There are 2 different Web’n’Walk Plus features that were available.
The first one was a chargeable W’n’W Plus (normally £12.50 or £7.50/£5 on top of a standard internet booster). This is the one referred to in T-Mobiles response and does allow tethering.
The second one was a free W’n’W Plus and was the one that T-Mobile added on to the accounts of anyone that purchased either an Android or Windows Mobile handset directly from themselves. This had a different Fair Use policy in the fact that tethering was excluded, however until now in most cases this was not enforced.
The iOS 4.3 update has enabled T-Mobile to enforce this policy by having different APN settings added to the tethering options within the device. Customers who do not have the correct level of access under their Fair Use Policy would therefore be re-directed to a landing page asking for the additional payment.
I don’t know what has happened in jonstatts individual case so unable to comment on his personal situation, however I hope this may help to clear up any confusion in general.
So that’s two products with the exact same name. One with tethering. One without.
Suffice to say, we’re asking T-Mobile to explain what’s going on and why they would offer two different sets of conditions.