If you own an Apple iPhone 3GS, iPad etc, the latest update of the iOS operating system version 4.3 comes with a personal hotspot for Internet connectivity. This has killed the market for personal hotspot gadgets, currently costing around $200 from Vodafone, Huawei and so on.
A personal hotspot enables you to connect a computer or tablet to the Internet via a cable, WiFi or BlueTooth. The device used to have its own SIM, thus requiring you to buy a second plan, but the advantage is that you can share up to five devices at a time.
The iOS 4.3 update enables up to any combination of 3 x WiFi, 3 x BlueTooth and 1 x USB cable connections up to a maximum of five devices at any given time. It replaces the Tethering option, so you can enable it via Settings > General > Network > Set Up Personal Hotspot.
I’m with Optus on a 3GS $29 Max Cap (200 MB data included), which used to have a $10/m surcharge for tethering and when I tried to set up the hotspot I was told to call Optus. From other reports, the date of signing for your original plan determines whether the personal hotspot will cost you or not. I don’t need the hotspot at the moment, so I didn’t call Optus to check. Apparently, iPhone 4 plans include tethering/personal hotspot, so there is no additional fee.
Telstra, Virgin Mobile, Vodafone (and Telecom NZ) don’t charge to enable tethering or personal hotspot, although you will need a data pack, or else the excess data charge could be a nasty surprise.
Non-3G iPad models will benefit from this feature (on an iPhone), since there won’t be the need to shell out the extra amount for a 3G version, plus a data microSIM such as a Telstra pre-paid for $30/3GB per month.
Casual users may find it worthwhile to try this new feature.