Smartone-Vodafone & iPhone Personal Hotspot

After Steve Jobs’ announcement at the “iPad 2 Event” that the Personal Hotspot feature will be available in iOS 4.3, people have been wondering if their mobile carriers will allow the feature to work, and how will these carriers charge for the usage of this feature on their network.

Like these users I wonder about it for my current mobile carrier, Smartone-Vodafone (SMV) in Hong Kong. So right after the iPad 2 Event I posted a question on Smartone-Vodafone’s Facebook Page asking them to comment on the feature’s use on their network and the charges if any. All SMV has to say is “We do not have any information regarding Personal Hotspot at this time, please stay tuned”.

Fortunately Apple made iOS 4.3 available a day early (March 10th) since my bill-cut-off date is the 11th. I installed it right away and tried the Personal Hotspot feature, only testing the speed of the connections of devices connected to the Personal Hotspot host. Because I have yet to confirm with SMV the charges relating to Personal Hotspot use. I waited all weekend and Monday for my March 13th bill to be available online, and it was finally available a few hours ago.

As I have expected, SMV is able to distinguish the Personal Hotspot traffic from other data use, just like regular Tethering via USB, but unlike regular Tethering over Bluetooth. Apple probably provided the carriers a mean to identify Personal Hotspot traffic, since carrier partners are given the ability to turn on and off Personal Hotspot for individual subscribers on their network. The Personal Hotspot connection I tried was via WiFi, I’m sure the results will be the same through Bluetooth and USB.

Also as expected, my Personal Hotspot usage was “FREE”. I have SMV’s HKD389 iPhone Plan with unlimited data, which also comes with a handset rebate, giving me a monthly bill of HKD259 (USD33.24).

In the past month (30 days) SMV’s bandwidth had dropped dramatically. On average it had fallen more than half as compared to previous measurements. I’m sure SMV is monitoring Personal Hotspot usage to see if it further congest their network. Fortunately, I currently also have access to the CSL 1010 3G network, and it is indeed much faster than SMV’s 3G network at all locations: Wanchai, Central and Admiralty, I’ve tested. In most cases it is faster by 50% – 100%.

8 Comments

  1. “Wireless (Bluetooth) Tethering is never detectable by the carriers, it is only when you tether via USB that the carrier will know about the traffic.”

    Just want to let you know that this is untrue on Smartone-Vodafone. I did a test and tethering via bluetooth was detected as a “web connection” and I was charged as my $238 plan does not include tethering.

    1. Were you using Personal Hotspot on your iPhone or were you using Tethering? Although they have the same end results these are two separate thing.

      Usage of Personal Hotspot does indeed marked as “Web Connection” by Smartone-Vodafone as I pointed out in my article.

      1. Where do you find tethering? I don’t find a separate “Tethering” option in my settings anymore. I’m using 4.3.1 and all references to tethering have been changed to “Personal Hotspot”.

      2. Yes, with iOS 4.3.1 the built in “Tethering” option is no longer there. It has been replaced by the “Personal Hotspot” feature.

        Since the carriers have the ability to turn on and off “Personal Hotspot” feature for individual iPhones, it is assumed that Apple had provided the carriers a mean to distinguish these traffic.

        Then again, many who have used MyWi in recent months; prior to the availability of Personal Hotspot, have received SMS from their carriers warning them of such use and continue usage will incur charges.

  2. When I used to be on SMV, I used to user wireless tethering with my Android every so often. It seems with Android SMV couldn’t pick up the tethering distinction, as I never saw a “web connection” description on my bill. Further I was on the HK$250 a month plan, which specifically excluded tethering.

    I’m now with 3HK, after several problems with SMV. So far the connection speed has been a bit better. 3HK does also have its own blackspots, but not as bad as I was experiencing with SMV. Also their plan is cheaper, at HK$210 a month and they offer decent, uncrippled, data daily roaming rates.

    1. Wireless (Bluetooth) Tethering is never detectable by the carriers, it is only when you tether via USB that the carrier will know about the traffic.

      The iOS Personal Hotspot is something different from the regular tethering, plus Apple has made it so that mobile carriers can turn the feature on and off. Since this on and off toggle can be done per individual bases, I assume it will not be something the carrier set in the mobileconfig file.

      1. Hi, I’ve checked and with Android it creates a personal hotspot, something that I think Apple have just launched with iOS 4.3. I’ve been using the personal hotspot set up with Android for a while. It seems though that the Apple one may be slightly different, in that mobile carriers have the ability to work out if you are using a personal hotspot or not…

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