AT&T starts offering portable hotspot feature 13 February: Joining other carriers, AT&T will let you turn your smartphone into a cellular router, sharing a mobile broadband connection with "multiple" devices. While this is likely to be added to the iPhone because Verizon Wireless is launching its version of that device with portable hotspot, the only phone mentioned at launch is the HTC Inspire 4G.
AT&T is folding this into the tethering plan it already offers, but with a twist. AT&T requires its higher-volume data plan, which includes 2 GB for $25/mo ($10/additional GB), to use tethering or its hotspot offering. Tethering and mobile hotspot adds $20 per month, but now brings another 2 GB of usage, for a total pooled 4 GB per month.
Before this added bandwidth, there was a general irritation that AT&T was charging $20/mo for no additional benefit except flipping a switch. Since service is already metered (for anyone signing up or changing a smartphone plan since June 2010), this was egregious profit taking.
The revision at least creates an association between usage and the added service, and puts the cost more in line with MiFi service plans from Virgin Mobile and Verizon Wireless.