AT&T Mobility chief Ralph de la Vega confirmed on Thursday that iPhone 3G users will be able to use their phones as wireless modems at some point next year.
De la Vega made the comments during a conversation with TechCrunch's Michael Arrington at the Web 2.0 Summit on Thursday. "Tethering" an iPhone to a laptop, and using the iPhone's mobile data connection to get online, is a service that iPhone users have wanted for some time but that AT&T was reluctant to provide, perhaps because it feared that a huge influx of traffic could overwhelm its network.
It's not clear when AT&T will roll out the tethering service; some point in 2009 appears to be the only stated time frame.
Last month, Steve Jobs supposedly sent an e-mail to a Gizmodo reader saying Apple and AT&T were working on a tethering plan for the iPhone. But for a brief period this year, a company called NullRiver software sold an application called NetShare that let iPhone users tether their laptops to their phones. Apple pulled the application from the App Store, despite the fact that other carriers selling the iPhone around the world permit tethering and the developer's claim that NetShare did not violate any terms and conditions of the developer program.
Will NetShare be allowed back on the App Store, if tethering is declared legal? Or is Apple planning to develop that software itself, after rejecting the developer's application, as it appears to be doing with a podcast download feature that looks to be coming to the iPhone 2.2 software? We'll have to wait and see.