Yesterday Apple announced the iPhone 3GS which is an upgrade with several new features including video recording, MMS, and tethering. The only problem is that if you're on AT&T you won't be getting MMS and tethering until either later this summer for MMS and an unknown date in the future for tethering.
A bigger mystery is why MMS is being delayed for rollout? Nearly all phones on AT&T's network already supports this feature and yet it can't seem to offer that option to iPhone users who are already paying more for their service yet get less features than other phone users.
Looking back to the iPhone launch the reason for delaying the MMS launch can probably be attributed to its data network. AT&T recently went on the offensive against Slingbox saying that its software would clog up its 3G network. Also those who attended the South by Southwest (SXSW) Festival this year their 3G data trickled to a halt after the network became over saturated with users wanting to use their 3G devices.
According to Boy Genius Report, the reason why AT&T won't directly support MMS "is because AT&T has to manually remove all the 'Opt Out MMS codes' on each account." Has AT&T never heard of a batch process?
What point does this lead too? AT&T keeps its 3G alive by barely meeting bandwidth requirements, a Neowin comment by Shunik Jan "[s]adly their 3G is still behind. Yesterday in a 5-bar area I only got dialup speeds of no more than 30KB/s". Is the real reason that AT&T isn't offering MMS because they are afraid that their network can not handle the added strain? MMS, unlike SMS, travels over the data network and with AT&T having several million iPhone users using 3G for MMS, which is already stretched, could 3G be brought down by MMS happy iPhone users? But according to a quote from Ars Techinca by AT&T " 'We absolutely will offer MMS on iPhone 3G S in the late summer, once we complete some system upgrades that will ensure our customers have the best experience with MMS,' Bloom told Ars. 'These upgrades are unrelated to our 3G network,' he added."
AT&T doesn't stop by not offering MMS right away but it also won't be allowing tethering until some point in the future. In the vaguest statement offered by AT&T they said with regards to tethering "[AT&T] will be offering tethering on the device -- it just doesn't have any announcements to make at this time". The real reason may reside in that AT&T wants to see how much it could charge for the service before making any statements about offering the service.
Knowing that AT&T will be charging for tethering doesn't come as a surprise but if your looking to upgrade your iPhone expect to be screwed over again by AT&T. If you're an existing customer and are looking to upgrade your current phone to an iPhone 3GS, be prepared to pay anywhere from $399-$699.99 depending on your contract and upgrade eligibility.
Because of carrier exclusivity agreements it's the end user who gets harmed because they do not have the option of using a phone of their choosing on the network they prefer. All operators are guilty of exclusivity agreements, AT&T with the iPhone, Verizon with the Blackberry Storm, Sprint with the Pre and T-Mobile with the G1. Hopefully one day soon these contracts will be outlawed in favor of consumer choice, but until then, everyone must play the cards that have been dealt.