Android 2.2 Froyo‘s tethering and WiFi hotspot functionality are both much-anticipated and welcome, but unsurprisingly Google is making it indecently straightforward for carriers to charge for the features or shut them off altogether. TechCrunch questioned Google’s Hiroshi Lockheimer, who leads the Android engineering team, and he confirmed that the platform can be modified in several small ways to toggle tethering support or make it a paid feature.
However, data traffic that passes through an Android device isn’t actually flagged or marked in any way as being consumed on-device or via a connected netbook, iPad or something else. Lockheimer said that carriers could probably spot use cases where customers were churning through more data than is likely for a smartphone alone, but whether they’ll do that will likely depend on how much stress the feature places on the network. What wasn’t made clear, though, is how carriers will handle SIM-free handsets i.e. those not supplied – and modified for whatever their stance on tethering is – by the carrier themselves, and whether they’ll simply get free tethering included in their regular on-device data plan or be blocked from it altogether.