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Can you tether on Windows Phone 7?
In short, no – not on release day.
There has actually been a lot of confusion on the topic. There were reports from Microsoft stating that Windows Phone 7 tethering would be left to the carriers to implement, but Microsoft later contacted tech blog Engadget to clarify that tethering is not supported at this time. Some speculate that the feature was on the list of things to finish before the final release of the mobile operating system, but was bumped from the list when there wasn’t enough time to add the feature to the OS (operating system) before its release to the phone manufacturers. Since both the Apple iOS and Google Android OS have support for tethering, it would seem natural that it really is just a matter of time before the feature is added to the Windows Phone 7 OS, in the form of an update for existing users.
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What is tethering?
Tethering is the act of leveraging your phone's data connection on another device, like a laptop. The feature is also popularly called a “mobile hotspot”. While in the past a physical connection was generally made between the phone and tethered device, in recent years, it has become more popular to utilize the phone's Wi-Fi connection to broadcast a hotspot – acting like a mobile wireless router. While this feature is supported on many popular smartphones, it is generally accompanied by an extra monthly fee, upwards of $30.
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What are my tethering options?
As stated earlier, while tethering may not be supported in November when Windows Phone 7 is released in the US, it may be available in a few months when you are ready to upgrade your phone. It is also very possible that the carrier or manufacturer of the phone could create an app that allows for tethering. This is all logical speculation though. If tethering is an absolute necessity for you, from day one, then you may want to hold out on buying a Windows Phone 7 handset until the feature is made available.
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In addition to tethering, there are other ways to get your devices connected on the go. Carriers like Verizon offer standalone mobile hotspot devices and data only contracts for such devices. Most carriers have some options to get your laptop connected on the go.
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Less conventional options
When the iPhone was first released, it didn’t offer any tethering options. Yet there was a dedicated community that introduced modified software to unlock the phone and enable the feature. This is often referred to as “jailbreaking” – and it is actually legal to do, according to a recent court ruling. I am not advocating that you do this to your new shiny phone, but for those who can’t wait for a feature, and are fairly competent at following tutorials, it is a viable option. Why I bring this up in an article about tethering in Windows Phone 7 is because, if the pattern continues as it has with every major phone release, there will be an easy way to unlock your phone, and a community of programmers adding functionality to the phone. Further, what this means to everyone else who isn’t going to unlock their phone is, as silly as it may sound, the official updates for these phones generally echo some of the changes introduced earlier by the dedicated fans of the unlocked phone community. All smartphones with a Wi-Fi connection are capable of broadcasting their data connection, but they may not have the software to do it. So even though you buy a smartphone that doesn’t have the option on day one, doesn’t mean that a few months down the road it won’t receive an update that enables the feature. One way or another Windows Phone 7 tethering is sure to become a reality.