According to a recent report, AT&T’s prepaid subsidiary Cricket may be prepping to launch a cheap mobile hotspot plan as an add-on for its wireless plans costing upwards of $50. FierceWireless claims to have accessed a now-defunct web-page on Cricket’s official website which is said to have carried information on the yet-to-be-launched service. The plan is said to cost $10 per month, which will be charged over and above the main service plan. While many carriers offer tethering services for extra charges, Cricket has thus far stayed away from offering any mobile hotspot service to its customers. The company charges $25 per month for unlimited talk and text without any data allowance, and $50 per month for 10 GB of data on AT&T’s LTE network. Earlier this week, Sprint’s prepaid subsidiary Boost announced its wireless hotspot plans for $25 per month, which would allow up to 10 devices to be connected to the carrier’s LTE network via the recently launched Netgear Fuse Wi-Fi router. Virgin Mobile offers a hotspot plan costing $3 per day for 500 MB of data, and as for Cricket’s parent AT&T, the carrier also offers mobile hotspot plans to its postpaid customers.
Mobile hotspot is also known as tethering or soft Wi-Fi and refers to the use of a phone’s (or computer’s) Wi-Fi adapter, which allows the device to be used as a de-facto Wi-Fi router to share internet wirelessly. Although most modern smartphones come with hardware support for tethering, the practice does need direct support from carriers for users to successfully be able to connect to the web using the feature. The service is often offered for free by carriers elsewhere in the world as part of net neutrality regulations which prohibit carriers from deciding how subscribers can use their allotted data. FierceWireless speculates that Cricket’s apparent change in strategy may well be the result of the FCC recently laying out new guidelines for service providers in the US, which prohibit carriers from financially-motivated blocking of internet traffic or throttling of data speeds. It bears mentioning that Cricket Wireless’ parent company AT&T is facing charges of unfair business practices from the FCC for allegedly throttling data speeds of customers with unlimited data plans. Although the carrier continues to protest its innocence, if found guilty, AT&T could be fined $100 million by the regulator.