AT&T and Amazon Cap Kindle Whispernet

Mari Silbey —  July 25, 2012 — 8 Comments

According to a post over onĀ DSLReports, Amazon and AT&T are now locking down free Internet access on old Kindle models so that users can only visit Amazon.com, Wikipedia, and the Kindle store after they hit a fixed monthly cap. No more browsing the wider web, or hacking Kindle hardware to create a free-riding mobile hotspot off of Amazon’s Whispernet service.

I’ve always been fascinated by the Whispernet model where Amazon bundles free Internet service with its e-reading hardware. However, the primary purpose behind Whispernet has always been to give users anytime/anywhere access to books, not to the Internet at large. While unrestricted access would be nice, the bundling model unfortunately doesn’t scale if users can chew up 3G bandwidth at will.

DSLReports cites a further post on the MobileRead forums suggesting that some users are now getting Kindle warning alerts when they skate past 50 MB in a single month. It’s not clear yet if the warnings are only popping up outside the U.S. This comes from one user in Canada:

I was using the browser when it popped up a message to say that I’d hit my 50 MB monthly limit of 3G Web access on my Kindle 3G. When I clicked the ‘OK’ button (which was my only choice, really), I got a second message saying that I’d have 24 hours of grace to continue to use 3G for Web browsing, but that after that I could use 3G only for visiting Amazon.com, Wikipedia, and the Kindle Store. Otherwise I will be obligated to use Wi-Fi.

Personally, I can’t imagine relying on Kindle Whispernet for regular web browsing given the Kindle’s user interface, but clearly some people do. A free hotspot on the other hand is wildly appealing. Too bad that’s like asking for a free lunch. You know that eventually the bill will come due.

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8 responses to AT&T and Amazon Cap Kindle Whispernet

  1. I actually thought of covering this myself but was waiting until I could find time to hit the cap and snap some photos. Then again, I was under the impression I could only use the web browser on WiFi anyway. Hm. Also is it just AT&T? Are original Sprint Kindles unaffected? Maybe they never got the browser or their deal is structured differently with Amazon. Hm again.

    Kevin Tofel noted covering the same tidbit there are ways to hack the Kindle to use as a hotspot of sorts:

    http://gigaom.com/mobile/amazon-limits-monthly-kindle-browsing-over-3g-to-50-mb/

  2. …. And then Apple gives you a wireless data credit based upon the number books/magazines you buy on the new iPad mini…..

  3. I did use my 2nd gen kindle to go to m.gmail.com while in Greece when i couldn’t find free WiFi for my phone. It’s s painfully slow experience that usually ends with the kindle crashing, but gets the job done in dire times.

    Given the roaming rates, this is understandable, but given how much I spend with Amazon, and that I only go to Europe every 2-3 years, I don’t feel too guilty.

    Remember that 2nd gen Kindle does not have a webkit browser, so functionally is akin to browsing on a flip phone or something worse than a Palm Treo if you remember those.

  4. The whispernet model IS interesting, and could be bundled into the cost of buying things other than eBooks of course, though how it would scale to say audio books (bigger), MP3s (again bigger) and video (much bigger) would be interesting. Of course this brute force cap approach wouldn’t work, so they’d just have to limit your web browsing on 3G or something right from the get-go. Not sure that flies in a market where the web browsing is the main point of the thing…

  5. This change is most likely in direct response to people who’ve hacked the kindle to enable tethering on it.

    Some guy claimed he used 42 GB of data in one month.

  6. I thought the user agreement gave amazon the right to cancel your kindle account if you tried to tether the kindle or use it as a hot spot.

    The early kindles didn’t have wifi capability and cost over $400, so people didn’t want to brick them by abusing whispernet.

    Maybe amazon should sell extra bandwidth and market the kindle as a mifi device in addition to an e reader.

  7. Eh, all I really want is glowing light like the new Nook…

  8. Re alerts happening only to people outside the U.S.

    Seems so, and Amazon’s website area for Kindle owners who live outside the U.S. is the only place with this new limitation in place. Even then it says that limits MAY be involved.

    If anyone would like to see quite a bit more detail on how it works and a prime reason this happened, besides sky-high roaming charges in other countries, I have an article on it at kindleworld.blogspot.com/2012/07/kindle-news-misleading-info-re-max.html

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