AT&T confirmed last week that it would support iOS 4.3s personal hotspot feature when the update drops on March 11. But unlike Verizon which allows users to connect up to 5 wi-fi devices to an iPhone 4 hotspot, an internal AT&T document obtained by Engadget suggests that AT&T will only allow 3 connected wi-fi devices at a time.
According to this here slide, which details a bit of insidery AT&T information about the impending release of iOS 4.3, Ma Bell’s iPhone 4 will have its Personal Hotspot restricted to use with just three devices. Just about every MiFi / mobile hotspot device we’ve ever seen — including Verizon’s iPhone 4 — has supported five WiFi devices, but unless AT&T pulls a 180 here, it’ll be limiting its iPhone to just three connections.
But before casting blame on AT&T exclusively, take a look at Apple’s iOS page where it describes the personal hotspot feature thusly:
On the road, in an airport, at the park — now you can bring Wi-Fi with you wherever you go. Download iOS 4.3 on your iPhone 4, and the next time you find yourself without access to Wi-Fi but in 3G territory, enable Personal Hotspot and share your cellular data connection with your Mac, PC, iPad, or other Wi-Fi-capable device. You can share your connection with up to five devices at once over Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and USB — with up to three of those connections using Wi-Fi.
So it would appear that the wi-fi ceiling of three devices is particular to iOS 4.3 and not AT&T twisting the knife on its subscribers.
At the same time, and even though AT&T’s network speed is noticeably faster than Verizon’s, 5 devices connected to the web via wi-fi courtesy of a lone iPhone 4′s 3G connection seems like more trouble than it’s worth. Can anyone think of a scenario where one would regularly want or need to connect 5 devices to a personal iPhone 4 hotspot?