TechCrunch reports that the Android 2.2 mobile operating system update brings a couple terrific features to capable phones: The release will add USB tethering, in which a phone acts like a 3G modem for a laptop over USB, and Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot, which lets a phone share a 3G connection to nearby devices over Wi-Fi.
Of course, providing these options in the OS isn't the same as carriers enabling them. Verizon allows hotspot use from the Palm Pro models (Pre and Pixi), dropping the price for the feature to $0 recently. And Verizon and Sprint allow tethering at various costs for phones.
But AT&T doesn't allow tethering or mobile hotspots, presumably because the network can't support the additional usage at any price. AT&T's network buildout is at a fever pitch this year, and one expects the iPad deployment will push the needle into the red even more.